Life in Brochu Walker
BW Woman - Carly Ridloff
Tell us about your career journey…from child education to founding The Exchange Project.
I started my career journey at 16 in fashion, working at a clothing boutique. I was always drawn to fashion, and I loved working with people. I also at an early age, realized I loved working with kids, so I became a special ed teacher and private tutor. It helped me learn a lot about what motivates children to achieve, and it also influenced my personal desire to make a difference.
After a fulfilling 15 years as an educator, I shifted gears. I combined my love of fashion and a deep passion for the environment and started The Exchange Project. I asked myself, how could such a beautiful industry be so destructive to our planet? I had to do something.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of your career and why? What about your career gives you the most joy and why?
The most challenging aspect is how to scale The Exchange Project. Right now, our current model is based on in-person, ticketed events that rely on each community to do their part. Our attendees must be willing to participate by cleaning out their closets, dropping off their items at the event and purchasing a ticket. Ultimately, as we grow, we want to find a way to make this easier on our participants.
The most rewarding part of my job is that I am having so much fun…I get to take someone else’s trash and turn it into someone else’s treasure! I am also deeply gratified that I personally get to do my part. I strongly believe that small changes can make a big difference, and hopefully I am empowering other people to take action to create a more sustainable future.
What sparked your interest in sustainability and specifically the challenges the fashion industry faces?
There are two documentaries that changed my life forever. The first one is “A Plastic Ocean”. At the time my kids were 1 and 3. Even with a master’s degree, I had NO IDEA about the single use plastic problem. After seeing that using a plastic knife for 30 seconds resulted in a piece of landfill waste that never decomposes, I immediately changed over my entire apartment…bought glass jars, reusable water bottles, reusable snack pouches, reusable totes and more. I vowed to try and never use single use plastic again.
Next, I watched ‘The True Cost’, a documentary about the clothing crisis. Clothing also doesn’t decompose…it stays on our planet wreaking havoc on our ecosystems and dye seeps into water ways and the soil.
How did you come up with the concept for The Exchange Project? What is your ultimate goal?
Growing up, I always traded clothes with my friends and cousins…it’s such a kid thing. For some reason, as you get older, the desire to trade seems to diminish. This coupled with what I had learned about the clothing crisis organically inspired me to launch it!
The Exchange Project aims to divert as much clothing from entering a landfill as possible. My goal is to extend the lifecycle of clothing and other fashion items by allowing women to trade the pieces they don’t wear anymore for pieces another person doesn’t wear anymore. The ultimate goal…I hope we inspire people across the globe to make the practice of trading clothing just as commonplace and fun as when they were kids.
Our Kinder to The Environment initiative is important to us. Is there anything within the program that specifically resonates with you?
Just about everything resonates with me…the use of recycled and dye-free fibers whenever possible, the protection of animals from where Brochu Walker is sourcing its wool and cashmere to its use of vegan leather and of course its plastic free packaging. It’s amazing that Brochu Walker is a luxury brand, yet still being SO mindful about its production practices! I know it isn’t easy or inexpensive to do…this makes it even more admirable!
How do you maintain the balance between career and family? Are there any tips you want to share with other women who are doing the same?
I think you can have it all, but maybe not all at the same time. There are times when I am busy preparing for an upcoming event and there are times when it’s not as crazy and I can be 100% present with my boys. Open communication with my kids is the key! Ultimately, I am doing all of this for them, and they know it! At the end of the day, family comes first no matter what.
How would you describe your sense of style? Has your style changed or evolved since starting The Exchange Project and having access to a treasure trove of pre-loved pieces of clothing?
Casual. Basic. I love a great white tee, a sick pair of jeans and the perfect flats. I don’t think that my style has changed, but I do love finding something I might not normally buy for myself at the events! I always personally participate in my events…I drop off items I no longer wear and LOVE finding something new.
What are your favorite Brochu Walker pieces and why?
Is there anything else you want to share?
I am just so happy to be working with Brochu Walker. Your brand is so beautiful and the fact that you care so deeply about doing your part to save the planet is awesome!