Lauren Gray is the Operations Coordinator at Relovv, a new way to buy and sell clothes where users swipe on items matched to their size, style, and budget. She recently graduated from Pitzer College and is passionate about creating opportunities for people of all sizes to dress fashionably and sustainably. Lauren leads Relovv CURVE, which is a community within Relovv’s app for plus size/curvy women.
Where did you grow up and attend school?
I grew up in the bay area, in Oakland, surrounded by people who care about the earth and sustainability. I always had a hard time finding clothing that was in my size. I really loved fashion when I was growing up, and I heavily relied on stores like Forever 21 to find trendy clothing that I could fit into. I was conflicted between my love for sustainability and my desire to dress well.
I left the bay area to attend Pitzer College, one of the Claremont Colleges. During my junior year, I came across an intriguing internship for a small start-up called Unitiques. This was Relovv in its beginning state – what Alex Shadrow had started while at Boston University. At that time, Alex was working on rebranding Unitiques to Relovv. I applied for the internship, and I have been working with Alex at Relovv ever since. Working at Relovv has rounded out my love for sustainability and fashion.It is so motivating to work on something that I am so passionate about and to work with such an incredible team!
What do you love most about fashion, and why is it such an integral part of your life?
For me, fashion is a statement to the world of my confidence and love for my body. When I walk into a room, I get looked at if I am wearing something that is not socially accept for bigger women to wear like crop tops or tight fitting clothing. Society teaches plus sized women that we need to hide our bodies and change our bodies. But I don’t want to change my body, and I don’t dwell on what society wants me to do. I decide to dress however I please because it makes me feel great. I was not always confident about my body; I have been working hard on this for my entire life… and it has not been easy. Loving yourself is a full-time job. With every person I interact with, I make it my goal to give off the message that anyone can dress how they please, and they should never feel obligated to hide their bodies.
How else do you integrate sustainability into your life?
Alex has opened my eyes to many more ways to be sustainable. The biggest way we can integrate sustainability into our lives is to think about and scrutinize the bigger systems in place such as consumer culture and the big corporations that try to run our country.
I try to promote messages of sustainability to all those I interact with. We have to teach others that it is okay to make mistakes, and trying is better than not. Sustainability is not a performance act. We have to inspire people to make smart and sustainable decisions even when no one is watching or when it is not convenient.
What changes would you like to see in the fashion industry?
Aside from a shift to consumers choosing pre-owned fashion, I would like to see retail companies upcycle (i.e. creating pieces from recycled materials) pre-loved clothing. New products that are being created waste an abundance of water, energy, and fabric. We need to be wearing clothing that has already been made. We need to move toward reusing fashion and buying second hand.
I would also like the sustainable fashion industry specifically to become more inclusive of every size, gender, and person. Plus size women are being included in fast fashion, but we want more than fast fashion! We want well-made sustainable options too! If we could buy from brands that promote sustainable fashion, like Reformation or Madewell, we totally would. I love Relovv because it picks up the slack where those brands fall short.
What is your favorite outfit or clothing item?
I am obsessed with belted looks – pants or jumpsuits – because I love things that hug my waist. Every other day I am wearing something that is belted. I just got these pants from Relovv that have a belt that looks like it was only made for the pants. They have a super cool monotone look, and I am obsessed with them right now.
What is the largest challenge you’ve faced during your career?
I graduated from Pitzer in May. Since then, I have felt a lack of validation in my work life. In college and school, I always received reinforcement that my work was good and that I was doing well. But, in a start-up company, I don’t have that same constant validation- it was really hard for me to get used to that. School doesn’t prepare you for this. I needed to learn to how to be confident even when I am not receiving external validation.
What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?
Ask more questions. I was always scared that everyone else knew answers that I didn’t know so I would shy away from asking basic questions. If you don’t understand something, you need to ask. I would understand a lot more now, if had asked more questions earlier on.
What do you hope is the future of Relovv and Relovv Curve?
I hope that Relovv Curve teaches women to embrace themselves. There are standards in the beauty industry and in the plus size community that exclude a lot of women. I would like to see a lot more women on Relovv who are bigger than size 20. Also, I would love to style women who feel like they can’t find clothing because they are bigger than a 3x, which is where a lot of companies stop creating clothing. Lastly, I am excited to see our styling program grow. We style people on a weekly basis and teach them how to shop more sustainably. I am the most excited about this part of Relovv.
What does it mean for you to be powerful, and when do you feel the most powerful?
During work, I feel most powerful when I am in a Relovv admin team meeting. I love going over our new features and the numbers from our growth. I feel like I have the power with Relovv to create something much bigger than myself. Aside from my work, I try to dress well everyday because a good outfit always makes me feel powerful. When I interact with other women and show them that plus size women can dress sustainably and fashionably, I feel powerful.