GINA STOVALL | TWO DAYS OFF
Gina Stovall is a climate scientist turned researcher and practitioner, living in Los Angeles, California. During the day, she connects climate researchers who have mitigation and resilience solutions to city and state decision-makers who can implement these solutions in their communities. On nights and weekends, she works on her new sustainable clothing line, Two Days Off. Here, her perspective on city living, climate change, a simple wardrobe, and representation in the slow living and sustainability space.
ERIN: Let’s start with you sharing a bit about yourself with RMTL readers who might not be familiar.
GINA: A year ago my partner and I left New York City, our jobs, and lovely studio apartment overlooking the Hudson River for the dream of living a slower, quieter existence. Over the past 7 years I have considered myself a minimalist, not just in the things I own but in how I choose to cultivate a simple uncomplicated life that allows me the space to do things that make me truly happy. I am originally from New York and have always had a love hate relationship with my city and although I loved my life there, it didn’t fulfill all of my needs. We took a week off to visit LA 6 months prior to our decision to move there. During our short stay we felt at ease and the nagging feeling that we should just go for it didn’t fade.
I am a geologist by training and specialized in climate change related impacts research and modeling. In graduate school I truly began to understand the urgency of climate change and decided to redirect my career from the hard sciences to the applied. Since, I have worked with city and state governments help mitigate their emissions and implement new policies and projects that build resilience in their communities. While I have always found so much meaning in my work, I have also had an itch to create a purposeful project of my own. Likewise my partner was beginning to consider starting his own architecture firm and couldn’t envision it in NYC. We both felt we needed to leave the city, its long winters, and its constant stimulation to have the mental space to pursue our goals.
At the start of 2018, I launched Two Days Off, a sustainable clothing line that had been knocking around in my head for a couple of years. Each garment is designed by me and handmade to order. I have been exploring slow fashion in my own wardrobe for years and it excited me to enter into a highly unsustainable and at times grossly unethical industry like fashion and rethink the model form the perspective of an environmental advocate and scientist. Two Days Off has a mission much greater than just clothing, it is a statement on consumption and our environmental impact. I intend to grow the business slowly and thoughtfully and show that beautiful design, business, and sustainability can work in harmony.
It was hard opting out of the picture perfect life that we spent so many years building, but our lifestyle now aligns with and supports our goals and we have never been happier.
ERIN: A lot of folks who I tend to look toward online are concerned about climate change and vocal about their impact on the environment, but few of them are as intimately involved in that work as you are. How does your day job—being a climate researcher—intersect with the work that you share online and with your new clothing line?
GINA: My work can, at times, be highly technical and if I am honest, a bit boring. I track and analyze policy, I evaluate the science for nuances and talk a lot about statistical probabilities, and most of that is not very relatable or interesting. That is why online I like to zoom out to the big picture, why it matters and what we can do. Talking about climate change and the behavioral changes each of us as individuals can take reinvigorates me, and I believe empowers others. I also talk a lot about mindfulness and being present because I believe a lot of the environmental problems we have come from over consumption and mindless consumption that doesn’t add much value to our lives. If we become more intentional in all aspects of our lives, I believe that can only have a positive effect on our planet and the most vulnerable among us who feel the impacts environmental degradation the hardest.
Two Days Off is a direct manifestation of my love for sewing and design and knowledge of sustainability. I consider every decision in the process from growing fibers to create textiles, to how it is transported and manufactured, all the way to how it will arrive into someone’s hands and how long it will be worn and loved. I try to make the very best decision I can each step of the way, and that means we are growing slowly, but intentionally. I intend to create as much value with this business as I can.
ERIN: What kind of advice do you have for folks who might be overwhelmed or feel helpless in the face of climate change? So many of us know that we need policy to shift course, but that means it’s easy to feel powerless. How do you find hope (and take direct action)?
GINA: Climate change is a huge and complex issue, so it is natural to feel overwhelmed and small in the face of it. But the thing to remember is you don’t have to take it all on your shoulders, doing one small thing is better than nothing at all. I suggest starting by considering two things: your political representation and your own behaviors and impact. If you care about climate change, but your local, state, and federal representatives don’t, write them, call them, petition them and if things don’t change, vote them out of office. Then look at your own personal impact. Choose one thing you can improve and be discerning each time you spend a dollar. “Does this brand represent my values?” I rarely spend a dime unless I know can answer this question in the affirmative. And lastly, know sustainability is a learning process. I by no means am zero-waste and 100% renewable. I still have paper towels in my kitchen but I will tell you a roll lasts a whole lot longer now and they are made from 100% recycled materials.
ERIN: You recently launched Two Days Off, a small sustainable clothing line. Can you talk a bit about what getting dressed simply mean to you—in terms of both form and function?
GINA: In my twenties I was one of those women with an overflowing closet and “nothing to wear.” Much of it was thrifted and vintage, but still went to waste hanging in my closet as if they were museum pieces. Spending so much time hemming and hawing each morning was such a waste of my energy and time. It wasn’t until I decided to go to graduate school that I realized I needed that time back. I began being more honest with myself and what I actually liked wearing versus what I wish I wore. Yes, a blazer and a perfect pair of pumps would look nice, but what I actually loved wearing was oversized tops and a great tapered pant. Getting dressed simply is about feeling like myself. Wearing clothes that I don’t have to think about through the day but that still make me feel beautiful and confident. That’s what I design for Two Days Off: modern easy pieces made from good quality fabrics. I like natural fibers that breathe and wash well, Items that you don’t have to fuss with to get on, and that you don’t even need to iron, and pieces that will integrate into your wardrobe but add a subtle interest. My dream wardrobe is one that I can reach into with my eyes closed and no matter what I pull out, it will make an outfit I am excited to wear.
ERIN: This fall you participated in the fall 10×10 wardrobe challenge. Can you explain a little bit about the challenge for folks who might not be familiar and talk a bit about the #10x10representationmatters hashtag—created by J. Ito and Bo Kim as a way to center marginalized voices in slow, ethical, and sustainable fashion spaces—and what it meant to you?*
GINA: The 10×10 is a 10-day challenge to mix and match just 10 items of clothing in hopes of becoming more creative with and appreciative of what is already in your wardrobe. It is best known in the slow fashion world on Instagram and it supports the ideas of quality over quantity and investing in versatile pieces that you will love.As a multiracial woman working in STEM, I have never existed in a space where I felt represented. Although born in NYC, I spent most of grade school in North Carolina where, as you can imagine, I always felt like the “other.” An otherness that up until recently, even my government regularly reinforced with check a box that said so on every form I ever completed. There is a silent dialogue that happens when a person enters a physical or metaphorical space that indicates to them that they don’t belong. It is uncomfortable and at times hurtful enough to make them leave altogether and submit to that exclusion. That is why #10x10representationmatters was so important this year. The slow fashion movement, like the sustainability movement as a whole, exists in predominantly white spaces. In this way, when only white women are shown in the clothes of ethical and sustainable brands, it tells people of color that these products are not for us—that the movement and/or lifestyle is not for us. This hashtag featured women sharing their thoughts and stories on why inclusion is important and made a call to brands to think and act more inclusively. We all deserve a healthier, more inclusive, and more sustainable society, and we all must take part in creating it.
ERIN: You’re coming up on your year anniversary of leaving New York City for Los Angeles. I find that a lot of folks equate living simply or mindfully as being synonymous with living in the country, but I find that in some ways city living feels simpler to me. What’s been your experience?
GINA: I can see how living in the country can seem simpler, but I think simple is subjective. It all depends on the lifestyle that suits you. For me, living in cities makes my life simpler because I am closer to the things that fuel me: museums, good restaurants, and a variety of cultures. In New York, I arranged my entire life around a 20-block radius from my apartment downtown and now my radius is even tighter. Simple for me is not having a commute to work (for the past 5 years I have either walked to work or worked from home), it is having a coffee shop that knows my order, or a favorite spot to sit at the park. Simple for me having easy access to an international airport if I want to get away, or a beach if I want to stay close to home. It is a gallery or bookstore I can pop into without any prior planning or checking of hours, and a small home, filled with only the things I need, that requires little maintenance. So at this stage in my life, city life is definitely the simplest option.
To see more of Gina’s work, head to Two Days Off.
Photos courtesy of Gina Stovall.
*Editor’s Note: This question has been edited to include more context about the #10x10representationmatters hashtag.
The Simple Matters Series is inspired in part by curiosity piqued while writing my book of the same title. I wanted to know what simple matters were for other folks. And why simplicity mattered to them in the first place. My own Simple Matters story came out in January of 2016. It’s still available where most books are sold. (Signed copies are available locally at Stories Bookshop!)