Courtney Sanders, Co-Founder
We're all fans of well made clothes, and especially of Well Made Clothes (LOL)! We love Courtney and the team behind this amazing site that educates and enables us to make better choices about what we put on our bods. No surprise that her approach to life, as well as business, is thoughtful and inspiring. Thanks so much Courtney!
What do you do?
I'm the co-founder of Well Made Clothes, a website which provides information about, and the ability to shop, responsible fashion. By 'co-founder' I mean I do everything from moderating the panels we host, to writing some of the content to the site, to the budgeting side of things, to going on coffee and snack runs. Start-up life!
Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?
I'm pretty into the quote "well-behaved women rarely make history". I honestly believe that you have to have strong opinions and beliefs and be brazen in sharing those opinions and beliefs with the world if you want to do anything meaningful. If that means being a misbehaving women by society's standards (which I'm pretty sure it does considering how narrow those standards still are for us) so be it!
What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?
Good question! I think I've probably progressed more gradually through my career, getting better at my skill-set, and understanding exactly what I wanted to represent and do, over time. But if I had to pick 3 milestones I would say:
1. Getting a drive radio show hosting gig: it gave me the confidence to voice my opinions and be prepared for both the positive and negative response that are bound to come your way afterwards.
2. Getting published by my first international publication: it was a gig review for NME lol. As silly as it sounds, New Zealanders really do seek approval from the rest of the world before they can believe that their work is any good, and that's exactly what it took for me, too.
3. Winning the Innovations in Journalism Grant from the Walkley Foundation and Google: we won a grant at the end of 2015 which gave us the mentorship and the money to be able to launch Well Made Clothes. It simply wouldn't have happened without this.
Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?
Of course! Yeah it was always this way actually because regardless of what my actual job was at any given time I was always working with female friends and women I admired on little side projects. Which has been invaluable especially because now they're all doing incredible stuff in their careers and we get to work with each other again in a much more professional ways.
What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?
Reading: The Power by Naomi Alderman. I'm part of a feminist book club and this is the book we're reading this month. It's speculative fiction which envisages a future where women gain the power to electrocute people at puberty, and men become extremely scared of them as a result – it flips the entire societal power dynamic. So far, so good! I'm dying to get my hands on the Kathy Acker biography by Chris Krauss which I think comes out this month, too.
Watching: I feel tapped out of TV shows at the moment and have reverted to watching re-runs of Peep Show and The Good Wife which, you know, are incredible (imo), but they're not new. I went to see Dunkirk recently and I actually thought that was fantastic. Somebody obviously needs to throw me a bone with my viewing habits – send help!
Listening to: Aldous Harding's new album on repeat: she's a New Zealand musician who released her first album through 4AD and is set to do big things (I hope!). She has the voice of an angel and the stage presence of something scarily indefinable, and I highly recommend you look up her recent Later With Jools Holland performance. Always listening to Call Your Girlfriend (will be fan-girling all over Ann Friedman at Make Nice) and the Slate Culture, Double X, and Political Podcasts, too.
What places are important to you?
We've got a holiday house in Wanaka, in Central Otago in New Zealand, and I love going back there: it's crisp, beautiful, and feels like a proper holiday (there's nothing much to do except read and go on walks and that's the best, right?). Also: bed. The next person to tell me they love getting out of bed nice and early on Saturday mornings and making the most of the day can take a hike: staying in bed for a very long time at the weekend IS making the most of the day.
What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?
That you're never going to be doing the thing you want to be doing in your twenties. That your twenties are for making mistakes and figuring things out, and that everything after that is for refining. In my twenties I was desperate to 'have it all' but I didn't realise that I wasn't qualified to be properly doing the things I wanted to do (duh! But young people have to be told this I think and I wish I'd been told this sooner.)
What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?
Haha oh god: there are so many things that need to change to make the fashion industry supply chain more responsible, but I guess I would like to see people take a bigger interest in how their clothing is made – if we all started taking more interest, and shopping accordingly, this would have a massive impact on the way fashion brands behave.
How can we find our more about your work?
Who would you most like to answer these questions next?
Impossibly hard! Next!
Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?
The Alexander McQueen exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London a few years ago. Seeing genius work in the flesh is really something else and I don't think I'd experienced it until then.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
Growing Well Made Clothes! There are heaps of little sub-projects that are part of that but that's the overall, probably never-ending goal, and we love it!
What is your dream project?
Well Made Clothes is my dream project and I feel really lucky to be working on it every day. But if I had to pick something else I would say that I would love to work on a book which unpacks the complex relationship between women's clothes and our place in society. I know there are a bunch of excellent books which cover parts of this already but I really do feel like women's clothing, and the way in which women's clothing affects women – everything from female worker's rights in the garment manufacturing process, to how we're judged for what we wear to work – needs to be really thoroughly extrapolated and better understood because I think at the moment it's often written off as frivolous and it's absolutely not. Here's a great little piece by Caitlin Moran which I think unpacks it really nicely.
What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?
I'm obsessed with Harry Potter. I don't know if that's surprising considering pretty much everyone in the world of a certain age is obsessed with Harry Potter but Harry Potter is not 'fashion-y' so it's an anecdote you probably didn't know about me. I re-watch Order of the Phoenix (the best of the film adaptations imo) at least once a month.
What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?
I don't get interviewed that often so I can't think of anything!