Cleo!!! What an absolute thrill to finally sit down and get to know the woman behind @thirtylaundry. The very definition of thirty, flirty and thriving!
As of the beginning of this month, I am a freelance (how terrifying) editor, copy writer, social media manager and content creator. I’m a whole 33 years old going on 80 - I’m basically a granny in a thirty something’s clothing-, I have two fur baby cats and a partner named Dustin who I share a little flat with. We both love being at home and treasure it as our safe space, so I put a lot of effort into home styling and sourcing just the right pieces. I listen to a lot of true crime podcasts, I find peace and joy in cooking and baking and I’ve never met a carb or a book I didn’t like. When the weather is warm I’m in the ocean as often as possible: the sea makes me feel earthed, cleansed and connected to the world around me.
Thirty Laundry is an extension of me that I share with others. Everything I share about is a part of my daily life and something I’m passionate about: style, body acceptance, art and aesthetics, sustainability and equality.
First off, I have to say the biggest thank you for that divine compliment and this opportunity: I can’t tell you what it means to me to know that people appreciate what I have to say and how I say it-keeping things authentic is the biggest goal for me in what I share.
Inspiration comes to me through the incredible community of women that I have around me and women that I follow and admire. Art and literature play a massive part in inspiring me as well-luckily both of those are at my fingertips online and via Insta when I can’t make it out to see art in the real world: you would be really surprised at how many aesthetic /art /décor accounts there are on Instagram and Pinterest to lift an artist out of a creative block. Being out in nature, preferably by the ocean, is something else that keeps me flowing in terms of creativity-nature is such a part of who we are that we have to be connected to it to create! I will say that during the pandemic I have found it extremely challenging, at times, to create fresh and engaging content when I’m housebound, low on funds (I’m sure loads of people can relate to that) or saturated with Instagram content from spending ages on social media…but the Muse always finds her way back into my mind.
Keeping things authentic comes quite naturally to me, I don’t have much of a filter to start with! There is the temptation to keep your lip buttoned about certain issues somethings, or finesse the way you say things so that you are still soft and gentle enough for brands to see you as someone worthy of working with…but even though it’s tempting, integrity is too important in a world were fakery is so easy. I think the issues that are important to me are the same ones that are important to the women around me so I never run out of fresh stuff to post or chat with them about.
Be ready for anything! And be ready to work your ass off promoting your products. The economy isn’t always kind to small businesses and to be honest it was a struggle for my business partner and I when we had Riot House (clothing and accessories) and ultimately, after two years we did close because it’s expensive starting something on your own. Closing was obviously a low point but seeing people in our products and seeing how happy they were to be wearing them was a high point for sure! I would say try to keep as much of what you sell locally produced as possible (which cuts down on import costs and boosts the SA economy) and look out for niches or gaps in the market that you can fill while still staying true to yourself- you’ll always do well if you’re selling something that you know people want or need.
My current business, Vitamin C Creative, is lower risk in terms of not holding stock or selling a product that costs me money to purchase. But working for yourself or freelancing are scary as hell. The buck stops with me, everything is my responsibility in terms of the amount of work I take on and the quality of the work I put out. It’s not the stability that I’m used to or usually crave, but that’s something I just have to accept if I want the freedom of taking on work that really makes me happy on my own terms. You have to be ready to evolve through loads of different things to find what really works for you instead of what people say should work for you.
Well my journey started in a place that I think is familiar for a lot of women: being sick to death of feeling judged, punished, unhappy and not accepted even by myself when I looked in the mirror. To feel these things all because I didn’t look like the commonly accepted standard of beauty. I was lucky enough to find amazing women already living the Body Positivity/ Inclusivity/ Neutrality movement and to follow them on social media…to hear women who looked like me telling me that I was FINE exactly as I was, was absolutely mind blowing. And it took me a long time to accept and truly believe it. Even now there are days when it’s a struggle to not want to fit into the mold, but what good would it do? Denying what I am to become something I’m not just to make some strangers who pass me by on the street think something different about me? NOPE. Women especially are programmed from a very young age to believe that there is an ideal in terms of looks and body type, I’m here to bust that myth wide open. What it means to me is a chance to really be properly at ease and present to enjoy my life! Eating an ice cream in public without worrying about my rolls showing, frolicking by the ocean in a two piece with bits of me jiggling and not a care in the world about it. It’s different things for every woman but the goal is the same: acceptance and happiness in one’s self.
- On that note, you’ve also addressed other important and relevant issues within our community and I believe you attended the women’s march in 2019 against gender-based violence. Can you tell us about your experience at the march and how it’s affected you?
That march was something I’ve never experienced before and it was truly profound. All of these women around me there for one single purpose, to say ENOUGH. There was so much anger and so much passion in the air, it was absolutely electric and overwhelming. It’s like Uyinene’s death sparked this massive fire and it still hasn’t gone out, it won’t go out until it’s safe once again to be a woman in this country. That march showed me the power of women standing together, and that we truly can if we need to which is heartening. But we’re going to have to do a lot more of that for the leadership of South Africa to truly hear and actually DO something about the femicide crisis and the rape and murder of innocent children. Another year has gone by, another Women’s Month is here and we are still begging and pleading and screaming and shouting for the same things…that scares and saddens me. Every day I live with knowing it could be me next…and I’m not even the most at risk demographic, so what must it be like for other women? It’s ugly and dark and I desperately hope that we don’t have to live (and die, that is the real issue here) like this much longer.
On a lighter note, you always look INCREDIBLE! Your outfits are so beautifully styled, you always go out of your way to find unique, sustainable pieces and I’m sure many women within the community look to you for fashion inspo. Do you see yourself as someone other women can look to for inspiration and advice?
In years past I would have shied away from answering yes to a question like this…but yes -I really hope I am. Part of the beauty of social media is that you’re so connected to the people in your community and it’s so easy to reach out with a question if you want to. A big part of what I do and hope to keep doing is to create a space for dialogue about a number of different topics, style and sustainability among them. I love a good chat about clothes! And a chat about choosing clothing that is good for the people who make it, good for the earth and good for your conscience. I count myself incredibly fortunate to have worked with really beautiful local and ethical brands and I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to wear their garments. I’m also realistic though about the ability of the average South African to afford the slow and ethical fashion in our current economy, especially since COVID has wrecked it even further…it’s just not something everyone (the vast majority at the moment) can always afford to do and there is absolutely no shame in that. Even if this is the case it’s something we should be talking to each other about-finding the best possible solutions by learning from each other. Talking about thrifting, upcycling, using what we have.
If we’re talking about style and my personal style, I have to give credit where credit is due. I take inspiration (not blueprints) from some beautifully styled creators on Instagram and incorporate it into what I already love. Women like Sarah Shabacon (@sarahshabacon) and Kaitlyn True (@trufolk) are absolute goddesses to me. I want to be the plus size version of women like this that I never had to look up to myself: earthy, eclectic, neutral and unafraid.
- For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve always been a supporter of the slow fashion movement and ethical practices. In your own words, can you tell us why it’s important to not only shop locally but to also shop ethically as well?
When we shop locally we are putting back into the pockets and lives of South African artisans and our own economy, rather than sending our money off to the States and the UK. Shopping local also usually means shopping relatively small and I can tell you from personal experience that when you’re a small business owner and you see an order drop into your inbox you do any actual dance of joy! There is heart and personality in small local businesses that you just don’t get when you shop from huge brands.
Shopping ethically has gone from an option to a responsibility in my mind- this is obviously dependent on the funds that you have available to pour into your closet. We cannot continue to consume and expel the amount of clothing waste that we have been-the earth and the industry can’t take it. We were never taught to think past the price of an item and how that affects us personally and taught instead to just consume and dump whatever we no longer wish to keep. So now we have to make up for those mistakes by buying less, buying quality (whenever possible) thinking carefully about our purchases and taking good care of them to make sure that they last.
And last but certainly not least, which Matisidiso product is your absolute favourite at the moment and why?
Oh this is so easy; The Baobab wool slider. It’s a winter shoe, it’s a summer shoe, it’s a soft and comfy shoe and it is so easy to style since it’s such a simple design. I’m thoroughly obsessed with mine.
Thank you so much for all of your time, Cleo!! We can’t wait to see what the future holds for you and will be following along your journey!! All the love from our team!