Rate Cute: Sustainability in Fashion

By: Camila C. | March 26, 2021

Charlotte Bolton, the founder of Rate Cute, talks about sustainability in fashion, repurposing clothing, and advice to create a repurpose-clothing brand. ​

Check out the interview below...

Podcast: "The Orenda" hosted by Ezzah Rafique

What inspired you to start your shop?


I’ve always been a creative person & I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to work for myself, so starting my shop was literally just a way for me to try and kick start my self-employment whilst I was working - I never initially had a solid idea of what my brand would be or what I would sell in particular, I just knew I want to make and sell whatever I could, and obviously from that, it has developed into what it is now - an eco-conscious fashion & lifestyle brand!


What is the best part about the platform and community you created?

It’s given me faith and hope in the world! I feel so lucky to have a little community growing around my brand that cares about sustainability, the environment, and mindful shopping. Of course, it’s also important to remember that it can be a bit of an echo chamber, but it’s very reassuring knowing that there are people out there who care about the same things you do and want to make a change. It’s also great because we learn so much from each other, and I get to know so many lovely people.


What is your ultimate goal?

Well my ultimate goal would be to abolish fast fashion, billionaires and make sustainability accessible for everyone right?! Ok so I know that’s probably never going to happen, but imagine? For now, it’s to keep campaigning for garment workers to be paid properly, to raise more awareness about the fashion industry, and hopefully encourage people to shop more mindfully. We need to focus our energy on the CEOs and the brands themselves, and not shame people who shop fast fashion out of necessity. 

How will you continue to grow your platform?


By keeping the conversation around sustainable and ethical fashion going, growing my little community, and continuing to do what makes me happy.

Was there ever a time you wanted to give up on your shop/how did you overcome this?

All. The. Time. I have my inner saboteur always there telling me I’m not good enough and that I should give up, but then I think - what would I be doing if I wasn’t doing this? I’d be stuck in a job I absolutely despise, miserable as hell. Taking a social media break always helps me reset, I’ve noticed that my self-worth really declines when I spend more time on socials, as I start to compare myself to other people. I have to remind myself of how far I have actually come and that everyone has their own timeline.

What are some projects you have coming up?

I’ve actually been planning some collections I want to release this year - hopefully some fun collaborations with other brands/illustrators. I think collaboration is so important! & I have a lot of upcycling planned.

What is the process that goes into repurposing clothing?

If I am selling on preloved/vintage, I check all items before selling in case they need any extra care - I wash everything, repair/sew any holes, replace buttons or make buttons more secure, etc. When upcycling clothing, I try to plan an idea out of what I intend to make, however, I like to be quite spontaneous with what I have. I have so many secondhand clothes, fabrics, trimming, embellishments that I have hoarded over the years - I like to have fun with it and see what I can make with what I’ve got. I save all fabrics scraps because this can also be reused for something. I really try to minimize waste as much as possible and make a post of everything I have.


What is some advice you would give to another creative who wants to use fashion as a creative outlet?


I would have a good think about your current values and what’s important to you - I think when this is portrayed through your work or business, it makes you a lot more passionate about what you’re doing. Also, pinpoint what you enjoy doing the most and focus on making things that you like doing, rather than sticking to trends. More importantly, consider how your business will impact the environment - because the fashion and textile industry is so detrimental to the planet, I think all small brand owners should really consider sustainability as an important value to their brand. We want to be making the change, not adding to the problem.

What is some advice you’d give to another creative who wants to advocate for sustainability?

 Do your research. Follow activists/sustainable fashion influencers on Instagram (I personally adore Aja Barber, Venetia LaManna & Tickover). Follow campaigns such as Clean Clothes Campaign, PayUp Fashion, Labour Behind the Label - & try to keep up to date with current affairs and what’s going on. Don’t be afraid to use your voice, keep people informed & also engage in conversations and ask questions. Recognize your privilege & remember that sustainable fashion isn’t accessible for everyone.


What is the hardest part about being a shop owner in the midst of a pandemic?


I’ve really been struggling with my motivation! I struggle anyway, to be honest, but being stuck inside 24/7 on my own becomes really difficult. I also really love doing markets and fairs, so not being able to do any for over a year has been awful! It’s always such a good opportunity to meet new people, meet other makers & also grow your business. I really wanted to organize my own events last year as well and I was so gutted that I couldn’t - end of this year maybe? Fingers crossed!


How has your shop shaped you into who you are today? 

I believe that it’s made me a more mindful, conscious person - I think carefully about everything I do in life now, as I really want to have a positive impact on people and the planet. I am also so much more confident than I used to be, thanks to pushing myself & doing things that have always completely been out of my comfort zone - I opened a pop-up shop, I talk on my Instagram stories, I’ve started a YouTube channel!? Charlotte 5 years ago could never.


What is your favorite type of clothing to repurpose? 


I honestly don’t know if I have a preference clothing-wise, but I enjoy adding frills and ruffles to just about anything!