Local Atlanta brick and mortar boutique COCO + MISCHA has moved into a new spot at Ponce City Market, creating a space for community, art, and sustainable goods. C+M is more than just your average slow fashion maven, but a place for inclusivity and diversity flourish. Ahead of its re-re-re-opening party, we caught up with Shelly and Melissa, the masterful leaders behind C+M to learn more about speaking up for sustainable shopping in the South, working with local artists, and making a slow fashion dream a reality.
SGC: Tell us who you are and what you do!
C+M: In 2015 I was disenchanted with how hard it was to shop for handmade goods locally. There were great stores like Youngblood, but it was a category that was ripe with opportunity. My sister (Coco) and I decided to open a pop-up shop with a mix of handmade artists that we were excited about for the holidays. We had good success, and decided to forge ahead with a plan to do it full-time. Coco got pregnant with triplets, so she is a partner in namesake only. And the inventory has changed through the years as my passion for sustainable fashion has become such an integral part of what we do.
SGC: C+M is a locally-run vintage boutique specializing in women's apparel, handcrafted gifts & accessories - What does it mean to you to be able to sell these products and where do you get inspiration for selling this inventory?
C+M: Selling these things that I love so much, brands that I believe in and makers that I adore, means the world to me. It’s a privilege and a dream come true! The inspiration comes from a lot of places. There’s the drive to do something good by promoting fashion with ethical & sustainable production. It’s hard to not be inspired by people trying to drive positive change in an industry that is wrought with a race to the bottom. Then there’s the people who make the things we sell which are often artists trying to make a living doing what they love. I’m inspired by their hustle and thrilled to be able to support them in any way. And then there’s just good design powered by the force of the internet and social media. We are unabashedly inspired by pretty things- interiors, personal style, good packaging, reinvention, photography, history, a well curated feed, you name it.
SGC: C+M promotes slow, sustainable fashion. What does that mean to you as a #shopsmall retailer?
C+M: The power of shopping small was never so apparent to us as when we opened our doors and desperately hoped that people would choose us over the convenience of the internet and big box stores. We realized that our strength was the story we told, the experience we created, and the connections we built. Our authenticity matters more than a face-less brand. When I pledged to personally shop only sustainable fashion, it would have felt like a lie to continue to support fast fashion via my store that spends much more on clothes annually than I personally do. We’re all spending our limited dollars every day, so we might as well pass them along to companies and brands that we trust to continue the cycle in a positive way.
SGC: Atlanta has a booming sustainable and slow fashion scene. And C+M is one of our favorite stores promoting those causes. How do you feel Atlanta has impacted the sustainable and slow fashion scene?
C+M: I feel like Atlanta slow fashion disciples are the example of hard-earned converts. We aren’t in a city like Los Angeles where it’s so prevalent or Seattle where a progressive agenda is pervasive. So many of the people in Atlanta had to do the hard work and discover it all without a ton of local resources that promote the agenda of slow fashion. That being said, we have the opportunity to make an impact as a capital for slow fashion in the South (Nashville is giving us a run for our money!), and perhaps more important (and a leg up on Nashville), we can make a strong case for diversity and inclusion as being an important part of slow fashion.
SGC: What are your favorite retailers that share your similar sustainable fashion practices locally?
C+M: Megan Huntz is helping put Atlanta on the map, and we are so grateful for that! Youngblood and Scout & Arrow, while not stores that sells fashion, hosts pop-ups with brands like State (who has a store in Athens now!), and their jewelry and giftables are all focused on handmade. At Ponce City Market, there are some great stores that have sustainability initiatives, but Amour Vert and Citizens Supply are two of our favorites. Top Stitch is also here, and their approach is to teach you to make your own clothes, and they do it in a fun & modern way. Beyond that, there’s so much good vintage in Atlanta: Paris on Ponce, Buffalo Exchange, Clothing Warehouse, and Rag-O-Rama, to name a few. Plus, a lot of the vintage community does pop-ups which always blow me away. Estoria 97 and Argosy are two restaurants that host events, and you can always check their tags to see good vendors to follow on Insta. And then I have to mention @adarushshop as one of my favorite vintage sellers in town.
SGC: C+M is very innovative with their events, from hosting local musicians to DIY makers, what is the overall goal you wish to portray with these store events?
If you meet enough small biz folks, you’ll hear over and over (in this digital age) that one of the goals they have is to “create community,” so sometimes it feels trite to say that. But honestly, with all the time we spend on devices fostering our passion via likes and saves, it’s nice to bond with people “IRL.” I also think that C+M is more than just me or what we sell, or the shop gals that work here. It’s sort of its own thing, an amalgamation. I mean, it’s definitely cooler than me and often younger too! So by aligning with artists and makers we love, it further defines who C+M is.
SGC: What sustainable/slow fashion brands are currently in the store?
C+M: Oh my gosh we are full right now! We have: Ace & Jig, Esby Apparel, OZMA of California, and Sugar Candy Mtn. as our bigger brands. Then we work with some local and regional designers like: Megan Ilene, Pamut, and Maelu Designs. And we started buying back slow fashion from people to resell. So we have some brands that are not lines we carry new (many are only sold online), but we have pieces of theirs. So that has been fun because we’re constantly in flux with pieces by designers like: Christy Dawn, Elizabeth Suzann, Ilana Kohn, Black Crane, Rachel Comey, Reformation, and so many more!
SGC: Is there a difference in the terms sustainable vs. slow fashion? If so, what do you believe differentiates them and any resources you find helpful to give out?
C+M: I tend to take a broader definition of “sustainable.” So while many may use it to describe fashion in terms of the environment, I typically use it with the implication that the only thing that is truly sustainable (maintainable for the future) is to respect the environment AND the people that make the clothing. So in that sense, “sustainable fashion” is a bit closer to Slow Fashion, which encompasses more than just the environment. Slow Fashion is sort of an umbrella term that can mean many things that help slow down our clothing consumption. Some of the pillars of slow fashion include: •Buying vintage, mending & modifying clothes to extend their life. Being conscious of waste in our wardrobes. •Buying quality items that last. A focus on craftsmanship and styles that withstand passing trends. •Made sustainably with a focus on fair wages & responsible environmental ethics. •Shopping consciously. Supporting small businesses, transparent supply chains, and the local economy. So the terms aren’t completely mutually exclusive or jointly exhaustive and they are often used interchangeably regardless.