In the Wild With Leann DiPaola - What Sustainability Means for Wild Cactus
Welcome to the return of In the Wild with none other than our owner and founder, Leann.
Normally Leann is our interviewer behind In The Wild, but today as the interviewee, Leann is talking about all things sustainability as a small business owner– particularly one in the fashion world.
How did Wild Cactus begin?
I was living in Lake Tahoe at the time, and going to Reno and thrifting was a big hobby for me. I always loved mixing new and thrifted pieces together, and wondered if I could make it a thing. I started an Etsy where I sold some of my thrifted pieces. Then I started doing pop-ups, selling at markets, and eventually created my own website. At the time I was managing a boutique, so I started selling at the boutique too. With my management experience and creating my own brand I felt the strong desire to open my own store and just knew that was the path I wanted to go down.
What made you make the transition from second-hand, to higher-end brands?
When I went to school in Arizona, I majored in Sustainability, so ever since then, my brain has just been wired that way. I would curate my outfits with vintage and new (still do) and that’s how Wild Cactus started, both with new and vintage pieces being stocked. As my shop owner's day to day tasks started piling up, it became harder for me to find time to curate a vintage section. Portland also just has such an incredible vintage scene so I ultimately decided it was time to put that to rest, and focus my buying on small, independent & sustainable brands. Eventually I plan to do some vintage drops here and there because I still thrift for fun in my free time and find amazing goodies.
How do you find brands that you want to work with?
Trade shows, social media, talking with reps. I then start researching the brand's story, background, location, etc. I want to know where and how the items are made–and how they treat their employees and the environment. For example, the Australian based brand, Zulu & Zephyr is a 1% for the planet company, use only recycled fibers and cottons and have transparency with their sustainability efforts. Another example is Maya Meyer, a friend of mine, who makes everything by hand with vintage or deadstock fabrics. Those are the types of brands we want to promote.
How do you practice sustainability both at Wild Cactus and beyond?
Sustainability is an all encompassing word– it’s not just the brands we carry here. It’s the morals we have. Everyone who works here cares about sustainability and strives to be environmentally and socially as responsible as they can be within their lifestyles. I try my hardest to buy a good variety of items to stock while also keeping style runs limited so we don’t have overstock from season to season.
It’s also about community. With our events we try to include as many local, small makers as we can within the Portland area. For holidays, and most things in general, I buy local. We donate to local shelters or bring items to consignment shops. We try to use all recycled packaging. Noone is perfect but we try our best within our means.
Most people come to SE Portland to shop because it’s more affordable, with all the second-hand shops, how does Wild Cactus compete with that, while being on the higher price end?
No matter what, the clothing industry and consumption in general isn’t fully sustainable. But, if you’re going to do it– which most people do, we believe in buying products from businesses that are doing it right and by doing that, you are supporting small, independent brands, women and BIPOC makers and your local community. I try to stock items that range in price as well, from a small $12 candle up to a higher priced unique clothing item, I want there to be a little something for every shopper.
Do you have any tips for people who want to practice sustainability with items they already own?
Finding a good tailor. I take things to a tailor all the time. If we get a damaged piece at the shop, or need pants shortened– we take them to our local tailor just down the street, FYN Apparel, or to Neighborhood Alterations in Woodstock. They do a great job.
Where do you want the fashion industry to be 10 years from now?
I don’t want the world to lose sight of the retail shopping experience and all of the uniqueness and personality it brings to a community. From the buildout of physical spaces, the intentional curation of items and the community these spaces can bring.