Winslow’s Newest Boutique Brings Ethical Fashion to Bainbridge Island
SHiFT offers clothing and accessories for women and men that are ethically made, sustainably sourced, and affordably priced.
“I’ve thought about owning a boutique for a long time,” says Rebecca Hall, SHiFT’s founder and owner. “But when I started to consider it more seriously, I realized that my values had grown up alongside me. I wanted to carry products that I loved, but that were also produced ethically--not at the expense of garment workers or the environment.”
"I wanted to carry products that I loved, but that were also produced ethically--not at the expense of garment workers or the environment.”
Hall had an awakening about the social impact of the garment industry a decade ago when she saw the 2005 documentary China Blue. The film tells the stories of teenage sweatshop laborers toiling in a Chinese blue jeans factory. While the film opened her eyes to the garment workers’ plight, Hall admits that it didn’t change how she shopped.
“Socially conscious brands existed, but they didn’t appeal to my sense of style,” says Hall.
Fast forward ten years, and ethical shoppers face a different challenge. “It’s much easier to find interesting designs from brands that claim to make a positive impact,” Hall adds. “But figuring out how reliable those claims are is another story.” Hall has done the hard work to identify products and brands whose ethical claims she feels confident in supporting.
That raises another challenge: not all conscious shoppers share the same definition of “ethical.” Says Hall, “Some people are passionate about ending child labor. Others may care more about eliminating pesticide pollution or diverting waste from landfills. Someone else might prefer only to buy products made in the U.S.A.”
Hall’s solution is to offer a smorgasbord of brands that appeal to many different definitions of ethical. “Every item we sell has a story. Whether it’s stylish dresses made from upcycled t-shirts by women in Honduras; trendy bags and wallets fashioned in Seattle from used bicycle inner tubes; Fair Trade woolens knitted in Nepal; or super-soft organic Pima cotton casual wear, each product we carry makes a positive impact.”
"Each product we carry makes a positive impact.”
SHiFT’s hang tags help tell those stories. In addition to price and size information, the tag on each garment has a list titled “Why we stock this” with checkboxes that highlight the product’s social or environmental benefits. Those benefits include: Fair Trade, Recycled, Made in USA, Organic, Local, and “Other,” where Hall will write in other benefits.
By opening a store that inspires others to shift the way they shop, Hall is making a major shift of her own. Just two years ago, Hall was managing a small team of writers for a global construction company. Her latest career shift takes her full circle, back to 1988. “When I first went to college, I planned to major in clothing and textiles and become a fashion designer. Instead, I majored in psychology.” Her lengthy detour also included graduate degrees in architecture and creative writing, and careers in architecture, construction, and technical writing along the way.
For the build-out of her new store, Hall worked with local design-build duo Leo and Lishu Rodriguez of El Dot Designs, who incorporated refurbished doors and sustainable lumber in the design.