My name is Julie Parker. I am the designer and a co-owner at Blue Okra. Years ago, I studied design at the Fashion Institute (FIDM) in Los Angeles and worked in the garment industry as an assistant designer, a pattern maker and eventually had my own signature line. I really loved it, but I reached a point – with 3 kids and our 4th on the way – that I gave up my career in favor of preserving my sanity.
I have never regretted that decision, but when my husband and I – recently empty nested – had an opportunity to move back to the San Francisco Bay area, I was excited to jump back into the industry. This time around though, it would be different.
When I worked in the industry before, I was completely fashion and product focused. I never considered the people who made the garments at the factory or the impact that fast fashion and waste would have on our environment.
Things are different now because I have grown a little, thought about life and matured. I have come to believe that we are all interconnected – people – the universe – God. I believe that the best practices for life include actively respecting the universe and loving everyone, and the choices that we make really matter.
Simple ideas. Very difficult to actually live out.
I had been endeavoring for a long time and in many small ways to be intentional about reducing my negative impact on our environment. Similarly, I have also become interested in fair labor issues.
When it comes to the impact I have on laborers I will never meet but who I essentially employ by purchasing goods, I try to consider how I would treat the person who made this thing if she were right in front of me, if I knew her name, if he were my cousin. Would it be ok for me to buy this thing not knowing that the people who made it are earning a living wage, if they have decent working conditions?
These thoughts have led me to simplify my life, and some changes are much harder to implement than others. I’m still figuring it out, but I do know that even small changes by an individual or a small company can have a big impact on people and the earth. For those specific people who made that item, my choice can make all the difference.
Blue Okra was born at the intersection of my passion to design and my philosophy of life. It is thrilling to be designing again, and this time, my choices are more meaningful. They are based on what I believe.