Carlie Madlinger from Stay Stylish asked me a few questions! Read it here or below:
Growing up in downtown Manhattan, Ruby Sinclair, the mastermind behind vintage fabric womenswear brand, girl of the earth, had been exposed to fashion at a young age. With antique dealer parents, Ruby grew up exploring antique shops and it was there that she cultivated relationships with vintage suppliers and developed a talent (and love) for shopping.
As she got older and her knowledge of the industry expanded, Sinclair has made sure to make girl of the earth unique to other brands, as she states when a customer chooses to buy a piece from her curated few-of-a-kind collection, “you’re not shopping, you’re recycling.”
While girl of the earth garments can be found on fashion-forward women around the world, Sinclair had put in a lot of dedication and hard work to make it the brand that it is today, one that not only has made a positive impact on its loyal customers but the earth too.
Sinclair explained that she had always been style-focused, with gut instincts for trends and considered a “fashion” person amongst her friends, but when it was time for her to further her education, she chose not to major in fashion at university, “I didn’t want to box myself in.”
Instead, she chose to study entrepreneurship at London College of Fashion stating that, “it always felt like my professors at LCF were discouraging me from starting my own company, often listing how difficult it would be, how many people fail, how much money one needs to launch… I have always been a super determined person so I didn’t let this bother me, but I look back and wonder how much university prepares entrepreneurs.” In the end, Sinclair realized, “design prevailed in my life!”
Adding on to her coursework at LFC, she chose to take summer classes to focus on design at the Sorbonne in Paris and FIT in NYC as well as a fashion design internship at Jaeger in London, in which she revealed, “I’ve learned so much more by throwing myself into things.”
In January 2019, Sinclair did just that and launched girl of the earth, which was named by her dad after a conversation where she had told him how much she loved the 60’s brand name “Boy of London,” adding, “Of course it also made a lot of sense considering everything we make is kind to the earth.”
Sinclair’s commitment to making pieces out of up-cycled vintage textiles that have zero-impact on the environment came to light while she wrote her undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations on the environmental impact of fashion, “It’s a horrible, wasteful industry. To me, the worst part about it is the lack of fulfillment. As a society we used to shop in a whole different way, buying costly high-quality pieces every once in a while and wearing them over and over again. It was a much more fulfilling way to wear clothing.”
“That’s not to say I don’t get that annoying urge to buy without thinking, but when I do I just go to a thrift shop. It’s a small thing I can do to prevent climate change. In my mind, making airplanes more sustainable or creating better systems for food waste are not something in my control, but the way I consume fashion is.”
The native New Yorker chose to focus on creating womenswear for girl of the earth made out of vintage remnants from 1930-1999 for a number of reasons, “One is of course that this is an extremely environmentally friendly way to create clothing. In a world of new, hip ‘sustainable’ brands pushing ‘organic cotton’ and other fabrics that are only minimally better than the norm, I was drawn to the idea of up-cycling with truly zero environmental impact. I’m very untrustworthy of anything that is marketed as “green”, so it felt right to have zero doubt about my fabrics being 100% sustainable.”
“Additionally, I’ve had a lifelong issue with wearing the same thing as others. When I was a kid I would get mad with friends for ‘copying’ me, or buying the same thing as me. Of course today I wouldn’t mind, but still have the same strong desire for individuality. Making pieces of vintage fabric remnants means we can cut/sew maximum 10 identical units, and sometimes as little as 1! I call girl of the earth pieces “few-of-a-kind™”, and always say “avoid matching strangers.”
With this in mind, Sinclair’s approach to girl of the earth is to make pieces that she loves. “Although I have so much respect for designers who can create with others in mind, I’m a much more selfish designer, haha! I design for myself (whatever I wish I had in my closet at the moment), and hope others love it, too.”
Specifically, Sinclair called her personal style “undone, never super polished,” and has found that the 60’s and 70’s are decades that stay most true to her inherent style. Similarly, she described her brand’s style as effortless, “although there may be statement pieces, I never understood the look of trying-hard.”
To continue to pay homage to her favorite era’s, Sinclair uses fabrics that embody that time periods style, “I never pass up anything silk, drape-y, or sheer, and love crazy prints with art nouveau ladies, psychedelic patterns, or kitsch.”
In regards to production, Sinclair explained that when girl of the earth has a lot of new pieces, she will categorize it into a seasonal collection, however, she typically comes up with a new style and will launch it on its own. Depending on the customers response and popularity, she will then proceed to cut and sew more garments in that style but implement additional vintage fabrics to the design.
When Sinclair decided to relaunch girl of the earth in June 2019, the brand received well-deserved recognition and succeeded at an exponential rate.
However, back in March 2020, Sinclair was feeling very discouraged about gaining traction for girl of the earth, and began considering possibly getting a ‘real’ job and continuing the business on the side. “The world was falling apart, my seamstress was too busy sewing gowns for hospitals to work for me, and people were NOT concerned with buying any clothing except sweatpants. My mom and I were quarantined together in my childhood home in downtown NYC. As you may know NYC was the first city in the US to go into lockdown and require masks. I decided to sew a couple for myself and my mom, using some scraps of 1970s fabric in my grandmother’s sewing box (I saved these after she died, hoping to use them for a project). I did some Instagram stories on the homemade masks, and immediately got hundreds of DMs asking to purchase.”
“As horrible as COVID has been for the world, it completely changed my business. Since making masks, so many people have found my brand, including customers, retailers, influencers, etc. I started the company with just $500, and all revenue since has been reinvested. I often wonder what I’d be doing right now if COVID didn’t happen.”
Business for girl of the earth has continued to boom and with that, Sinclair has chosen to seek out other opportunities and currently works at GANNI as a freelance copywriter for fun and as a break from working for herself.
From having Danielle Bernstein of WeWoreWhat as a loyal customer to selling select garments at Showfields and having her brand featured on The Zoe Report and The Strategist (among others), Sinclair’s creative approach to business and design has made her vintage womenswear pieces few-of-a-kind art that fashionable fans can treasure (and wear) forever.
CM: Which Girl of the Earth piece is your favorite?
RS: Probably the amsterdam shorts. They have the best fit!
CM: If you could wear only one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
RS: If I could only wear one outfit for the rest of my life, it would be a girl of the earth halter top, girl of the earth amsterdam shorts, and boots (probably lace-ups or my grandmother’s suede knee boots). I always feel the most confident when I wear this combination.
CM: Do you have any style icons?
RS: All my saved inspo photos are completely random girls from the 1970s, so not really! But my design idol is Ossie Clark.
CM: How has New York influenced your design aesthetic? Why do you feel New Yorkers should wear your designs? Has Copenhagen influenced your approach to design?
RS: I’m an NYC native and people always say to me they can tell, haha! I don’t know what it is, but there’s definitely a little edginess to girls who grew up in NYC. If I wear a mini skirt, I’ll always make it a bit rougher by adding lace-up boots, or if I wear a lace blouse, I’ll add leather pants. Then, living in Copenhagen has probably grounded me more to that. Girls there have a stylish yet practical approach to fashion (probably since we’re always biking there!) — so outfits that look like a lot of effort aren’t considered stylish. As I said before, I’m always looking for that effortless vibe!
CM: What has been your greatest accomplishment and lesson you have learned through your brand? Has there been anything in the industry that you have had to overcome?
RS: It was an amazing feeling when I got in Man Repeller, Who What Wear, NY Mag, and the Zoe Report! I think there’s a lot of “Emperor’s New Clothes” in the industry, where people praise a brand solely because they don’t want to seem like they’re falling behind trends personally. Then it becomes a bit of a catch 22 for small brands without recognition.
CM: Do you have any advice for aspiring fashion designers?
RS: My best advice for aspiring designers/entrepreneurs is don’t listen to anyone but yourself— people love to tell you their opinions, but to create your true vision you have to be authentically you (and work damn hard). Then it will all fall into place!
CM: You have already accomplished so much and have created a beautiful brand, what’s next for you and your brand? What else do you hope to achieve in the next 5 years?
RS: That’s so sweet! I still think of myself as a one-woman circus. Over the next 5 years I hope to get into some boutiques around the world to offer all girls of the earth a place to try on, as well as sell to loads of new customers who truly love their girl of the earth pieces ❤