We had the good fortune of connecting with Carly Sowecke and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carly, can you tell us about an impactful book you’ve read and why you liked it or what impact it had on you?
I’m an insatiable reader. I’ve loved reading from an early age and always have a book I’m reading and at least one or two up to bat. A few years ago I read Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and I still think about it all the time. Shantaram is a story of an escaped convict who flees to India. The story that ensues is set in Bombay in the 1980’s and it’s absolutely nuts to say the least. But the reason I love this book is because it taught me how to be a better traveller, a more empathetic human, and to really check myself before judging people at first glance. It’s one of my favorite books to recommend to friends because it’s entertaining and has some killer lessons sprinkled here and there.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
It’s only been recently that I’ve pursued a career in fashion. I have my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Geology from Stanford, where I was a competitive rower on scholarship, and worked in the energy sector until recently. But after a decade in that business, I felt like I was ready for something more creative and to run my own business.
I’m not new to sewing; my mother is a seamstress and taught me how to sew when I was a young. That early education created an appreciation for and fascination with fashion. I’ve always loved to create things – I made and sold purses at school (shiny red lining with leopard on the outside!) and I even entered a prom-dress-making competition in high school (my dress didn’t win, and I wasn’t asked to prom…womp womp).
The decision to quit my corporate job and start my own business was scary. I was worried about losing my consistent salary, starting something I didn’t know anything about, and just plain scared to fail (aren’t we all?). The energy sector is fairly brutal if you have a gap in your resume, so my feeling was, if this new business didn’t work out, I wouldn’t have many options to get back into oil and gas. There was also a bit of an ego thing to get over. Being a geologist, people were impressed with that title, and I was proud to be successful in a technical career. I was worried what others would think if I quit that job and went to something “cute” and dominated by women; I worried I wouldn’t be seen as a legitimate hard working, smart person. There are people out there who I’m sure think this way, but I’ve gotten over it. The truth is, this career path is very difficult and people really have no idea how hard being both creative and business-minded is. So I have struggled with this transition. But if I look at my life now vs. being in the corporate world, I love where I’m at now. I love having freedom, setting my own schedule, and knowing that I can see the direct result of my hard work. I also love the unknown success that may be awaiting me in the future. Working at a corporate job is wonderful in many regards, but the day-to-day is fairly predictable. One million percent not the case with owning your own business.
I started this brand because I saw a gap in the market for something that I love – fashion, design, and creating. I also see a shift in the way people are starting to shop. There is a shift toward more sustainable practices in all areas of our lives, and I feel like fashion and clothing is such an over looked part of this equation. Sustainable is such a nebulous term. It can mean so many things to different people, and it can also be used as a trendy marketing ploy. For me, this term applies to both the fabric choices I make and my labor practices. I strive to use fabrics that are not derived from plastic, that are natural fibers, or use fabrics that are vintage, found, repurposed, or dead stock. For labor, I do have a few others help me sew and I pay them fairly for their work. My ultimate goal is to have a studio where I have a small team producing clothing, paid fairly, have great working conditions, great benefits, good lighting, and everything smells like cedarwood and lavender.
Sustainability is kind of a buzz word right now, but I take it to heart and I really see a shift happening in the way people are buying clothes—the customer is demanding more transparency in how their clothing is produced. The thing is—people are going to keep wearing clothes (!) and they want to wear things that make them feel good—this is not going to go away. The truth right now, is the fashion industry is destructive to the environment and has poor labor practices. From the amount of water that is used to make denim, to the toxic chemicals used to dye textiles, to the low wages and terrible working conditions in the industry, there is a lot to improve. With Field Study Clothing, I wanted to create a more conscious clothing brand that cares about fashion and style, and also cares about the impact we have on our environment and community. You can have both and actually, we have to have both.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love Oklahoma City because it’s really grown as a city in the past 10 years. I would say we would definintely have to start our day with a latte at Flower and Flour in Deep Deuce, then take a short drive to check out my shop on 13th in Midtown OKC. Then walk over to Walker Avenue also in Midtown OKC to see my favorite vintage shop Oak City Vintage, and my favorite stationary store Chirps and Cheers. Then we’d head over to Broadway to visit Plenty – the cutest gift shop with everything from vintage candy to jewelry. I’d also take us up to Full Circle Bookstore for the coolest wood and ladder-clad independly owned bookstore in OKC. For dinner we’d eat at Big Truck Tacos on 23rd St. then head over to the Tower Theater for a concert.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My husband, parents, and sister for supporting my big 180 career change. My husband never questioned my decision to start this business, he was all in from the beginning. Also, my friend Carly, who helped me realize there is another way to live life.