Quinay Baker, Founder of Q&A Studio

When I think about fashion, the first places that come to mind are Tokyo, New York and Paris. These are the staple fashion hubs of the world, but they certainly are not the only ones. Fashion lovers are everywhere, especially here in Atlanta. Quinay Baker, founder and CEO of Q&A Studio, saw the gap in resources of the Southern fashion market and decided to do something about it. She opened Q&A Fabric Studio, right here in Atlanta, GA. Last week, altKEY had the wonderful opportunity to talk to her about her experience in the fashion market, especially when it comes to sustainability.

Victoria: What inspired you to start Q&A Fabric Studio?

Quinay: ‘When I lived in New York, we had a garment district with fabric notions, leather stores, spandex stores... but Atlanta doesn’t have that. You’ve got so many people moving here, and we’re not able to maintain an industry for fashion designers. That’s what I came down here to do”

Victoria: “yeah, especially since I know a lot of people describe Atlanta as like the New York of the South, so you'd like really nailed that in”

Having studied and lived in NYC for years, Quinay worked with multiple designers and fabric stores around the area. Due to this, she saw exactly what the ATL fashion industry was lacking: a creative space for designers to come together and expand their knowledge and resources. She took it upon herself to create such a space, and Q&A Fabric Studio was born. Her studio offers different types of fabrics, tracing patterns and beginner to advanced sewing classes to the Atlanta population. It's no surprise that her interest in fashion was always consistent.

Quinay: “I was always into the arts, I used to sketch and draw all the time. My parents wanted me to go into nursing or something like that, but I just kept falling back into the arts. I just love clothing and drawing, so I applied to FIT and, yeah, it was amazing.”

Like many of us have experienced, choosing a career path can be daunting. For Quinay, it's clear that her love for the arts was something worth pursuing. Despite the pressure she may have had from her parents to pursue a more traditional career choice, she still chose her passion and created something to be proud of. Though her passion for fashion came first, it wasn’t long until she discovered the world of sustainability.

Quinay recalls that she was first exposed to sustainable fashion while visiting a fabric expo in Los Angeles. This expo was in part dedicated to sustainability in the fashion industry. She remembers hearing that the fashion industry is number two in terms of creating waste, which has to change. From there, she began getting more involved in practicing sustainability. As she puts it, “If you have any ambition towards the fashion industry, you have to get into sustainability.”

On the note of sustainability, her favorite brands or designers are,

“Eileen Fisher. She does a lot to maintain ethical and socially conscious practices”.

She also mentions Chanel as a timeless staple. Quinay describes how quintessential of New York this brand is, and that the person behind it is also extremely inspirational.

Before saying goodbye, Quinay left us with some inspiring words for those hoping to enter the fashion business:

“Take your time. It can be tedious and frustrating, but it will work out.”

Quinay mentions how learning the ins-and-outs of sewing or figuring out what aspect of the fashion industry you are drawn to can be challenging, but worth it if you want to make inroads in this industry.

Q&A Fabric Studio is truly pioneering the fashion scene in Atlanta by creating the perfect place for designers and fashion-lovers to find ethically-sourced resources and expand their knowledge of fabrics and sewing. Quinay offers a wide variety of patterns, fabrics, and classes. In fact, hosting lessons is a crucial part of Q&A Fabric Studio. Quinay aims to share the knowledge she has acquired from years in the industry to those who are interested, while fostering a community of passionate and creative individuals. If you are interested in learning more about the studio or want to book a class, follow this link: https://www.qafabricstudio.com/

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If you love fashion like me, I am sure you have dreamed of attending a fashion show. I imagine the glamour of models walking down the runway, lights flashing, showcasing never seen before items. However, one of the silver linings of the virtual world we are living in today is that fashion shows can now be accessible to anyone. While an online fashion show may be different, that does not take away from the glamour and intrigue that you may find in an in-person fashion show. altKEY is hosting our very own virtual fashion show, The KEY: Concrete Jungle.

That’s right, we are having a sustainable fashion show, and you are invited.

Mark your calendars for April 10th at 6:00pm EST for our virtual fashion show, The KEY. Independent designers and up-cyclers from all over the country have submitted their unique, sustainably designed pieces to be showcased virtually. The theme of the show is Concrete Jungle, which includes sub-themes such as into the rainforest, painted canopy, cement wilderness, oasis, penthouse, down 2 earth, and farmhouse chic. Designers have created unique, eco-friendly pieces to fit these themes beautifully.

  • Into the rainforest is homage to the truly wild side of the city. From lush walking trails to mountain hikes, if you go to the right place a city seems to disappear behind the trees.

  • The next subtheme, painted canopy, celebrates street art. From beautiful graffiti to live performances, city sidewalks are filled with various forms of artistic expression. Streetwear is one of the forms.

  • Cement wilderness focuses on the business side of the city. The strict hustle and bustle of the office workers is illustrated by color-blocked business casual.

  • Oasis, unlike the rainforest, is the feeling of stumbling into a patch of green in the middle of skyscrapers. Like Piedmont or Central Park, these few acres offer a welcome relief which is shown by nude loungewear allowing you to take a quick break before taking on your day.

  • Penthouse is a celebration of the arts. Many concrete jungles house exhibits, concerts, and live performances which illuminate the skyline with culture.

  • Down 2 earth is solely a celebration of the weekend. Allowing the weight of work and school to drop away, and being able to run wild with your friends, explore new restaurants, and spend quality time with each other.

  • Lastly, farmhouse chic celebrates hard workers that keep concrete jungles in their feet. From harvesting crops to bottling wine, the concrete jungle wouldn’t exist without the countryside.

Not only will this fashion show be a display of clothing, we are also having distinguished speakers share their knowledge about fashion and the sustainable fashion industry. The night starts off with Mary Ping, the founder of the conceptual label “Slow and Steady Wins the Race”. She is an acclaimed American fashion designer based in New York City and will be our keynote speaker.

Next, we have our first panel speakers for Green Fashion, a panel dedicated to discussing the circular business model and the future of the sustainable fashion industry. These speakers include Sarah Krasley, the CEO of Shimmy; Michelle Jaffe, the founder of JolieKai; Karen Glass, a conceptual fashion artist; Daniel Shim, the co-founder of ONDO; and Daniel Green, the Chair of Fashion Marketing and Management at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Finally, our second speaker panel is called Sustainable Vogue, where panelists will give their insider tips on how to start a sustainable fashion brand from the ground up. These speakers include Karen Glass, a conceptual fashion artist; Quinay Baker, CEO of Q&A Fabric Studio; and rising fashion influencer Erica Sun.

This virtual fashion show will be a once-in-a lifetime experience to take a glimpse into the world of fashion right from your own home. Don’t miss it.

For more information, check out: https://www.altkeyofficial.com/the-key

RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-key-concrete-jungle-tickets-144037232239

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Do you think that one of your classes at Emory will inspire your career path?

For Michelle Jaffe, her environmental studies at Emory sparked her passion for environmental policy. Jaffe started her own boutique focused on sustainable fashion, and it all started right here at Emory! Trying to find cute, comfortable and affordable clothing that reflects our values can be tough. Michelle’s solution was to found Jolie Kai: a fashion boutique with European influence, offering a sustainable alternative to fast fashion. AltKEY was lucky enough to have the chance to talk with Michelle and learn more about her experience in the sustainable fashion industry.

What inspired you to start Jolie Kai and enter the sustainable fashion market?

“if we want to make better choices, if we want other people to make better choices, we really need to provide better options.”

Michelle really highlighted the market gap for sustainable clothing. She was working as a buyer for her family’s clothing company, but struggled to find options that met the sustainable standards she was looking for. She took the matter into her own hands, taking inspiration from Europe’s sustainable fashion movement and her mother’s work in the clothing industry.

According to Michelle, her interest in sustainability started when she took a environmental studies class at Emory to fulfill a general education requirement. It’s funny how our liberal arts experience at Emory can really shape our future!

What is the meaning behind the name Jolie Kai?

I like to think of the subtext meaning behind the name as a beautiful sea, because we wanted it to represent a resource that we valued.”

The inspiration behind the brand is perfectly embodied by its name. Jolie is “a combination of family names, and also means pretty in French”, and Kai means ocean in Hawaiian. While living in Hawaii for her graduate studies, Michelle found herself thinking more about sustainability and the importance of preserving our natural resources.

Are there any people or brands that served as inspiration or that you admire?

“I’ve focused on smaller brands, partly because their focus is on sustainability -- its not just an afterthought for PR.”

Michelle mentioned the street-wear brand Komodo Fashion as an important small brand that inspired her work. Komodo’s founder, Joe Komodo, has consistently pushed the environmental movement forward, while also staying true to his fashion vision. By taking one look at Jolie Kai’s mission statement, it’s clear Michelle has the same aspirations and values as Joe Komodo.

What advice do you have for aspiring designers and sustainable fashion activists?

“Research as much as you can about the fashion industry, and what sustainable fashion means. There is a lot of information out there, sometimes conflicting information, and its important to be informed as a designer or activist”

If you are just getting into sustainable fashion, you have probably felt exactly what Michelle is describing: being bombarded by contradictory information. This is challenging, and sometimes discouraging, but extremely important to make sure what you buy aligns with your values.

According to you, what is sustainable fashion? How do you put it into practice?

“Number one tip is to look at the four principles [resource use, toxicity of input, end of life, and human rights]”

Michelle explained that first, it is important to look at where the resources come from, how they are harvested and how much goes into getting them. This includes things like water use and packaging.

Second, Michelle taught that it is crucial to take into account if the raw material (or the extraction of said raw material) is harmful to the environment or people. This often includes dyes and finishers used in the treatment processes of many fabrics.

Third, Michelle encourages us to ask: what will happen with clothing after they are no longer being used? Are they destined to sit in a landfill for decades, or are they biodegradable?

Last and certainly not least, we must remember the people involved in bringing clothing to our closets. As Michelle puts it, we really have to “look at the people in the industry, to ensure that they are valued and treated with basic human rights”.

As an Emory alum, what do you feel that Emory can do better to support the sustainable fashion movement? What is Emory doing right?

“I love to see collaboration, especially among different departments”

As Michelle pointed out, Emory does a fantastic job at providing an interdisciplinary education. It teaches us to combine our passions and view things from many different lenses -- just as Michelle did to create Jolie Kai. She combined the knowledge she gained from her mother’s work as a clothing store owner with her passion for environmental policy.

Jolie Kai is a brand that truly values the quality and sustainability of clothing. This goal is seen all throughout their company, from the brands they collaborate with to the meaning behind the brand’s name. As consumers, it can be tough to find sustainable brands. We need people like Michelle to step out of their comfort zones and do something about the market gap present. This is why altKEY encourages people to think outside the box to make sustainability fashionable and accessible. This movement can be daunting, but some parting words from Michelle gives me hope for a greener future and highlights the importance of our daily choices:

“I do think the industry is moving in the right direction, and it kind of has to. We are reaching a critical point, and it is being led by the consumer...The more we share these issues around the fashion industry, the more people will demand change and companies will have to follow to meet that demand.”

Editor: Becca Cohen

Link for Jolie Kai: https://joliekai.com/

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