Since January, I have had the amazing opportunity to intern at No Kill Magazine, writing articles for the site. Under Katya Moorman’s mentorship and leadership, I have learned about sustainable and ethical fashion. I have found an even bigger passion on this topic and want to share some of Katya’s insight in this area because I know she has a lot of experience and passion for sustainability.
Katya has been heavily involved in the NYC fashion industry since 2008. She started writing about and sharing an edgier side of NYC nightlife and street fashion at the start of the fashion blogger and influencer revolution. Things have since changed a bit and she now thinks with an all sustainable mindset to get the planet to a better place and make her readers and the rest of the world aware of the harmful and long term affects of the fashion industry.
Katya kindly agreed to meet with me (via Zoom of course) and allowed me the opportunity to share her thoughts on the present and future of fashion with you all!
TAYLER: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Is No Kill all you do?
KATYA: It’s a lot of what I do. But in addition, I teach in the graduate Communication Design program at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and I do some freelance work in photography and creative direction for companies in the fashion/sustainability space.
TAYLER: What is your experience in sustainability and fashion?
KATYA: I have always, always loved fashion. Ever since I was a little kid, I remember picking out my outfits. I was, and am, very specific in terms of what I wear. I remember at 3 years old wanting to wear my gumball pants which were these polka dot pants that to me looked like gumballs. And I went to Catholic school which meant uniforms, 11 years of uniforms! Every year in high school I would have these raging fights with my mom about not wanting to go to Catholic school. Finally, my junior year she gave in because I was a dancer and there was a special high school that had a dance program in it. I auditioned and got accepted and just kind of wore her down. So literally for the first 30 days of school I planned out my outfits before school even started and it was very much thrifted pieces and sewn together pieces.
Then when I was older I went clubbing a lot in New York City and I really appreciated the creativity of the nightlife people. They were so free in their self-expression – it felt like a great defiance of social norms.
My friend Madison Moore, who has written a book called Fabulous: The rise of the beautiful eccentric said: “Fabulousness is an embrace of yourself through style when the world around you is saying you don’t deserve to be here.” I really felt that and I wanted to celebrate and share their style with the world.
At the time there were a few street style blogs, the Sartorialist, being the big one. They were good in their own way but they all focused on models-off-duty or the “beautiful people” (aka wealthy) of New York. Well it’s easy to look great if you have a personal stylist and/or are genetically gifted. I wanted to share the style of the nightlife and wanted to build/make a site highlighting NYC street style and nightlife. I called it StyleDefined NYC.
It began with me and a camera. I didn’t have any photography background at this point, but every day I would take a photo and put it up – and write something about it and that’s how it started. I started to get a following and it built up.
I started getting invited to events and was put on these PR lists and from there, I was invited to small fashion shows and thought: “If I’m getting invited to these fashion shows, I should write about the shows.” I had a small group of contributors/interns and they would go to these shows and write content for StyleDefined NYC.
Those years were really great because I had left New York for a while and came back with this need to be out in the city again and experience the nightlife and be out in that world. I just loved the freedom and being able to experience big crowds and nightlife. This was all pre-Instagram when people were excited to get their picture taken because they took the time to style themselves and look a certain way and liked the acknowledgement.
And so, I became known in my world. I never had to wait in line at clubs or pay. I would just go in with my camera and they were excited to see me –or more accurately– StyleDefined NYC! This went from 2008 until 2014 when I ended up getting an offer to sell the site and I decided to take it. Within a year later the site was defunct because he made it so generic that it lost what made it special but I had sort of grown out of if it anyways.
After that a friend had a start-up that was a fashion incubator for young sustainable designers and she asked me if I would do PR and social media for them. It was there that I learned about sustainable fashion and just how damaging to the environment and to workers “regular” fashion is –because when we say “fast fashion” we think of Forever 21 and H&M but even brands like Banana Republic or J Crew or mall stores like Nordstroms have the same issues. Learning about this, especially seeing the movie The True Cost changed my relationship with fashion forever.
TAYLER: Interesting. How has it changed?
KATYA: Well for one thing, I am a much more careful shopper. I can’t just buy something because I like it. I want to know if the workers are being exploited, if the dyes that are being used are polluting drinking water somewhere else. I also think about what I think I’ll do with something at the end of its useful life. We can’t just bag it all up and take it to a thrift store anymore. They already have too much.
TAYLER: Can you tell me about the background of No Kill and why you wanted to start your online publication?
KATYA: I saw the True Cost in 2015 and that was a life changer. From there, I started learning, just like you’re learning now about sustainability and the problems with the fashion industry. I realized how horrible it was and wanted to make a website again because I missed having that creative outlet. I came up with the name, Honey and Hemp. Originally, it was going to be clothing and food and I was going to have someone else do the food part. I had that for 3 or 4 months and just wasn’t feeling it. I am not Honey and Hemp. It was too hippie for me. I was just in this marketing mindset and wasn’t staying true to myself with this site. When I sold Style Defined NYC, I saw opportunities that I had missed by not having a plan and so I went into Honey and Hemp with a plan, but it wasn’t something that I connected with.
Donna Karan has this Urban Zen center in Manhattan and a friend of mine, Mimi Prober, who’s a sustainable designer was on a panel one night and invited me to come and Kelly Cutrone, who does her PR was also there. You might know Kelly as a judge on America’s Next Top Model or her reality show Kell On Earth. But she is actually an amazing PR person and her company, People’s Revolution, was major at the height of the fashion show era –which I think of as the early 2000s.
That night I asked if I could talk to her about this idea that I was having. She liked the basic premise but agreed the name sucked. I realized I wanted a more punk name and I wanted all those people that I photographed in the nightlife as kind of my target audience.
So many “sustainable fashion” sites are beige and green and mommy oriented. There’s nothing wrong with that but it isn’t me or the people I know in NYC. I realized I still loved the club kids but my mission now was to seduce them into sustainability and better choices.
After I shared that with her she was like, “You need a new name. How about No Kill? No that’s terrible!”
And I was like, “No! That’s it!”
She wisely suggested we continue thinking of other names and not go with the first one so we made a list but ultimately No Kill was it. It felt very “meant to be”. On the spot I registered the domain. Some people have told me that the name is very violent and aggressive, but I look at No Kill like a band name. They have names that don’t make sense but once you know it, you know that that’s what that band is. And it’s perfect. Don’t kill people or the planet. Why is that such a big ask for the fashion industry?
TAYLER: What are your recommendations for someone who wants to learn more about sustainable and ethical fashion?
KATYA: First and foremost, everyone has to watch the True Cost from 2015. It explains things so simply. Things haven’t changed much since then. I think looking at the Fashion Revolution website too and getting involved with them is another great thing for people. Remake too. Remake has ambassadors for people passionate about sustainability and fashion. Also, a couple books are Fashionopolis by Dana Thomas and Loved Clothes Last by Orsola De Castro. Those are both great.
Images from Fashion Revolution.
To put in plainly, as well, if you go to Target and see hundreds of shirts in different colors, realize somewhere there is a factory that is making millions of them for all of these different Targets when nobody said they needed a new tee shirt at all. So, they force it on people and if they don’t buy it, it ends up in landfills or elsewhere. It’s crazy if you actually think about that production system. It’s illogical the amount that the fashion industry creates. It’s forcing people to have a materialistic mindset and it’s not efficient. They make all these items and find people to buy them instead of thinking of “what do people need?” and focusing on that. It’s in reverse.
And obviously, read No Kill!
TAYLER: Where do you see the fashion industry in the United States in 5 years or where do you hope it will be?
KATYA: That is such a good question. I would love it if in 5 years some manufacturing came back to the states. Around the 80s or 90s, 80% of the clothes were still being made here and I think that’s a big difference in terms of workers’ rights and employment here. It’s not realistic for everything to come back to the states but a good majority of it. Shipping rates have sky rocketed so I think it only makes sense for some of it to come back here and remain local.
I want there to be a whole shift in fashion where there is an emphasis on making and remaking items yourself and when you buy something, you are keeping it for longer. I know a lot of brands are starting “take back” clothes programs and some may work, or some may not. I think brands have to stop putting out so much product where it’s so cheap and people have to start expecting to pay more for things. If we don’t want slavery in this country, how can we feel fine about slavery in other countries. Plus, there’s so much great second hand out there at so many price points. You have ThredUP, Poshmark, Depop and The RealReal.
I would love there to be more emphasis on upcycling stores and mending clothing. We need to rethink our mindset with consumption and buying things because our planet can’t sustain the amount of stuff we buy, not even just fashion. As individuals we need to take personal responsibility but ultimately, we need to let corporations know that they need to be more responsible and that we’re looking at them to be more responsible. You can’t make a bunch of people change if everything stays the same.
TAYLER: How do you manage your team as well as you do and get content out on a consistent basis?
KATYA: Our Milanote Board has helped so much. Having a central, organized place where everyone can access it is extremely important. Being clear about expectations is another thing. That’s why we have a Brand Style board and a Writing Style board so if people don’t do things the way we want, I can always refer them back to the board. We have our mission up front and documentaries for people to watch because it’s important that our contributors are coming from the same mindset.
We have our editorial calendar too that decides the type of content and where that’s going to go on our site. Keeping a running list of article ideas on our board is a great way to see if someone is interested in writing a post as well. Once everything is laid out, it helps keep everything going.
TAYLER: Where do you pull inspiration from? I feel like living in New York alone will draw a lot of inspiration.
KATYA: New York can definitely be inspiring. Although, since COVID, I go out so much less. I stay very much in my bubble of my apartment in Brooklyn and going to school and the park. But I get inspiration from Vogue a lot to stay up on the fashion news and I love looking at new and old photography. I love Italian Vogue. Instagram accounts too and going through a rabbit hole on there, intentionally or not.
TAYLER: What is your best piece of advice for someone who maybe wants to start a publication or work in fashion?
KATYA: Find something that feels authentic to you. If you’re trying something –like I tried to do with Honey and Hemp,–because it seems like it would be a good idea and you like it a little bit, it won’t last. You have to love it to continue to be engaged.
My second piece of advice would be to just start and see what happens. You’re not going to know or find out what’s authentic to you by sitting back and wondering.
My third and most important piece of advice is to start your own platform, whether that be a blog or a beautifully curated Instagram feed. If you want a job in fashion, one thing that everyone wants is to know that you’re a self-starter. To show that you’re doing this yourself is huge. It also shows a little bit of who you are and your personality. Just start making your own thing, whatever “your own thing” is. Start doing something and it can lead to something else. You never know what it could lead to. It already puts you ahead of other people. It shows that you’re motivated and willing to put in the work.
It was a pleasure to get to talk with Katya and share her knowledge. If you are interested in learning more about the sustainable fashion field, be sure to check out No Kill for any of the awesome articles there!