WOMAN WEDNESDAY with AMANDA MCCARTY from CLOTHESHORSE
Amanda McCarty is the amazing woman behind the Clotheshorse Podcast that you have no doubt heard me raving about. Not only has she created in my opinion one of the most important podcasts of our time, but she has also built a community and movement of people who are dedicated to change the way we think about fashion, sustainability and consumerism, through education and inspired action.
Amanda does deep research on the environmental, social and economic impacts of the fashion industry, as well as human rights issues, capitalism, and consumerism. In other words, she does the hard work, then sums up her findings into interesting, entertaining and easy-to-understand audio on the Clotheshorse podcast, and also through her very inspiring and epic Instagram captions. She also co-created a brand new blog called @clotheshorseworld written by the clotheshorse community with loads of interesting articles about fashion, craft, sustainability and lots more.
Amanda is not just a passionate activist though, she also has a super inspiring story and has overcome so many challenges in her life, but I'll leave it there and let her tell you the rest!
Here's our chat with her:
1. Where’d you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, in a series of very small, working-class towns. Right now I live in Lancaster County, PA, which is famous for its huge Amish population. Most of my neighbours are Amish...even my landlord is Amish! Horse-drawn buggies pass my house all day long. It is very quiet and dark at night, which I really appreciate as a long-time city dweller! We moved here after I lost my job during the pandemic. I just needed to see some nature and animals on a regular basis. It has been amazing for my mental health! Previously I have lived in Philadelphia, NYC, Chicago, Portland, and Los Angeles. I definitely consider Portland my “home,” as I spent the largest part of my adult life there! And it’s where most of my friends and family live.
The view from our backyard!
2. What is your definition of strength?
Survival without sacrificing joy, hope, and empathy. It would be an understatement to say that I have survived some shit, including cancer at an early age, a really rough/abusive childhood, and the death of my partner just a few months before our daughter was born. Actually, my partner’s death was a major turning point for me. Previously I was just so broken, in so much pain from everything that had happened in my earlier life, that I felt almost incapable of enjoying any aspect of my daily existence. My capacity for happiness and joy was just gone. And I had to sort of “turn off” my empathy for others in order to have the strength to make it through each day. There seemed to be no hope on the horizon for me. Just a bleak, painful existence with occasional fun times (and lots of drugs and alcohol). I was so lonely.
When my partner died very suddenly, my life completely shattered. I had to quit my job and move back home with my mom 1000 miles away. I was left with nothing: no friends and no dreams. That first year was incredibly horrible. I cried almost every night. My daughter gave me hope that I could get through it. That I must get through it. And somewhere right before I hit the other side of my grief, I realized that I was changing. I could find joy in connecting with other people. There was this whole world that I hadn’t seen yet. I think we tend to think of survival as the goal when it comes to making it through trauma and tragedy. We assume that merely continuing to carry on as if nothing happened is what we should want, that if we just muster enough strength we can reach that point and call it a day. But passing that point, seeing the potential of your new life, appreciating the gift of being alive...that’s real strength. Using your experiences to help others, that’s like superhuman strength!
3. What is something that’s important to you now that never used to be?
I know this is going to sound strange, but I, Amanda Lee McCarty, am finally important to myself! I have always put the feelings and wants of others ahead of my own (that’s what I thought we were supposed to do), but over time, I could see that it was exhausting and I often put myself in dangerous (or at the very least draining) situations in order to protect and help others. I started some pretty intense therapy before the pandemic put a stop to it. Here in the U.S. therapy is very expensive and quite a privilege. I am trying to continue that work on my own to the best of my ability. The hardest habit to change has been my tendency to silence my own feelings in order to make others feel better. Being honest about my feelings is not easy and I expect it will take years of work and practice!
Dustin at the world-famous okonomiyaki restaurant in Osaka,
4. How would you describe your style?
Kawaii prairie witch: lots of pastels, florals, prairie dresses, big hats, kawaii jewelry, practical shoes, pink eye shadow Just generally things that make me feel happy. After a career in fashion, surrounded by very judgmental co-workers, it feels so liberating to wear whatever I want every day. Despite rarely leaving the house, I wake up every day and get fully dressed and groomed. It helps me feel focused and confident!
5. Favorite food to cook at home?
This one is so hard for me because I’ve been cooking at home nonstop for about a year now. But I guess my favorite thing to make at home is okonomiyaki, a Japanese savoury pancake. It’s super easy to vegetarian-ize and you can kind of add anything you want to it! I’ve had some weird ones in Japan, like tomato sauce + shrimp + cheese...and they have all been good! We once waited in line for an hour to have a famous okonomiyaki in Osaka. It was amazing, but I think I have gotten really good at making them at home! It’s important to have a good spatula for flipping them. And don’t skimp on the Kewpie mayo!
6. What are 3 books on your bookshelf?
I have tons and tons of books. Here are the three that I am reading right now:
-For Better Or Cursed by Kate M. Williams: The second book in a series about a coven of babysitting teenage witches with amazing style and taste in music.
-Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart: A classic read for anyone passionate about saving our planet. Braungart challenges the notion that humans will “inevitably” damage the earth, arguing that we can alter our species’ course by redesigning the way we live.
-Girls Against God by Jenny Hval: a sort of radical feminist horror story and a gift from my other half, Dustin.
Just some of my gazillions of books. I am a speed-reader--on a flight from NYC to LA, I can usually read four books.
7. What’s something you want to accomplish in the next year?
I know I am not alone in saying this, but the last year has completely upended my life. Previously I had a very successful career in fashion, I travelled constantly from work, and ultimately a big part of my identity stemmed from that career. But I was so unhappy. I hated my job, I felt sickened by all of the waste and lies of the fashion industry. Yet I needed that paycheck. I grew up in poverty, so I have never had a safety net to fall back on. Losing my job to the pandemic was both a relief and a nightmare. Working on Clotheshorse is the first time I have actually been able to work on something that makes me feel proud. I feel like my work is truly opening eyes and changing the shopping patterns of so many people. Ideally, I could turn Clotheshorse into a job that pays me a living wage. That would be a dream come true! To work on something I love AND be able to see a doctor?! Magical! That’s my goal for this year.
8. Tell us something people would find surprising about you.
Despite a career in fashion, I actually hate shopping. Furthermore, I have never been interested in luxury brands, I don’t think anyone needs a $3000 purse, and I think most runway shows are a snore. These are sentiments I could never share with my coworkers, so it feels wild to say that out loud here! I have always believed that the most stylish people ignore designers, major magazines, and trend reports. The best style comes from being yourself and wearing what you find interesting and comfortable. I also hate big logos/labels on clothing. I don’t want to be branded by someone else! But I might wear a shirt that just said “Amanda” in huge letters (Bookman font, of course). 9. Favorite movie?
Endless Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2004. It’s romantic, it’s surreal, it’s...really thought provoking! Are we destined to know some people no matter what?
10. How do you want people to remember you?
I hope all the people who know me remember me as someone funny and loving, inspiring and weird, obsessed with animals and learning.
Dustin and I at the Yayoi Kusama Museum in Tokyo.