Stephanie Ramlogan, a blogger, stylist, and sustainable fashion advocate is a successful #GUNASGIRL of many trades. With such an impressive history and bright outlook, it’s certainly not hard to see why. “My purpose and mission is to help to make women feel amazing about themselves” Stephanie explains. “I am a personal fashion stylist, and after growing up very insecure about my own looks, I have committed to showing others that they are in fact truly beautiful by teaching them about personal style and about how to play up their most attractive qualities.” As the exclusive writer for NoMoreFashionVictims (a very popular blog in Trinidad and Tobago), Stephanie began by writing pieces on style, fashion and how to dress. To date however, the blog has evolved into so much more. “Now I focus on ethical fashion and beauty businesses, particularly vegan fashion”, she tells us. “Anything that involves being a bit more conscious of our shopping habits, and being kinder to the environment, animals, people…and to ourselves actually.” A woman after GUNAS’ own heart!
Our team got to take some time out with this radiant fashionista to talk veganism, positivism and Stephanie’s own fascinating journey. Given her contagious confidence and ambition, we parted feeling even more hope about the future of ethical fashion.
What made you want to transition from a career in pharmaceuticals to fashion? Was this a difficult change, given that they’re such different fields?
Fashion was always first for me. Since the age of 7 I was mesmerized by swishing skirts on the catwalk (I would watch runway shows early on a Saturday morning on tv!) I went to a really prestigious high school where all my friends were aiming to be doctors and lawyers. I was the only girl in my class who wanted to be a fashion designer. While my parents knew I was talented, fashion was just not a smart gamble to chance in Trinidad at the time, so they convinced me to pursue my second passion which was Language (I did my degree in Spanish and International Relations) and promised me that once I had established this safety net, I could go on to pursue fashion.
Pharmaceuticals was a happy accident. After university when I was looking for jobs within Latin American Relations, an opportunity for a Medical Sales Rep came up. My father is a pharmacist and my mother had worked in the field as well for years, and a colleague of theirs thought I should interview. We all saw it as good practice, since I was so under qualified for the position, and it was a very well-known company, so the questions would be particularly challenging for me. I don’t know how I managed, but I was offered the position! I never expected to, and the salary was great, so as a young thing fresh out of Uni, I decided to take the job! It was really life-changing. I was forced to build up my confidence, presenting skills. and even driving! I had to be able to learn to be on my own at all times. Quick on my feet, witty and smart. Learned to interpret body language and to assert myself, as I was the youngest rep at this company in the entire region! Without these skills I would have never been able to even begin working in Fashion. When I left the pharmaceutical job, I enrolled into a design program within no time. I was ready. I needed this experience to really be able to take that next step.
It’s great to hear that path gave you the confidence to follow your passion. What advice would you give others looking to pursue cruelty-free fashion?
People are going to feel offended by you. Everyone likes to think that they are kind and caring, so when you take a stance against, let’s say animal leather, people start to feel uncomfortable, because you are actually pointing out the contrary. Stay true to your ideals, but never condemn anyone. We are all learning and growing. Animal products have been all we know since the beginning of time. It is a hard habit to break. Many people are detached from the idea that animals are tortured and raised in barbaric conditions just for minor fashion detailing. You will never win them over by condemning what they do with anger and by pointing fingers. Lead by example.
Very eloquently put! How would you describe your own personal style? Where do you get your inspiration?
My personal style is ever-evolving. I go from super minimalist to crazy colorful rainbow girl in a matter of weeks sometimes. Definitely what remains a central theme in my style, is that I love re-wearing pieces in new ways. Convertible queen! I try to get the most value out of a single piece, so I purchase really good quality, expensive garments. I don’t shop in volume. I am definitely inspired by the Caribbean. I love being from here. The sunlight, the flowers, the birds– I am drawn to white and bright bursts of color and mixed textures. Comfort is also at the top of my list.
The Caribbean Carnival seems to be a consistent theme in your style and blog. For those of us who aren’t familiar with it, can you tell us a little more about the tradition and what it means to you?
Specifically in Trinidad and Tobago, my country, Carnival is our sun. Our whole year revolves around it. The tradition was born out of slavery, and is a completely emotional and artistic expression of freedom. The music is intoxicating and a mix of all the different cultures that have come to our shores over the centuries. We have contributions from India, Africa, China, Portugal, Syria, Spain– you name it. Carnival for me is about stirring up a pot of magic. The energy during the weeks before the actual two days of the parade is riveting, and we spend our whole year just building up in anticipation. Ask any Trinibagonian about Carnival, and watch their face light up! (It’s in a few weeks, so I am currently very much in the spirit!)
How does the vegan lifestyle in the Caribbean compare to that in NYC? Are there practices one region could learn from the other?
We definitely have a lot of delicious and nutritious vegetarian meal options here, especially with the Indian influence in our culture, but it is just not common to hear that someone is vegetarian. When I visited New York last year I was in heaven! At home, if I want both healthy and vegetarian, best bet is to cook it myself at home. Once you go out, what is served is deep fried if it’s not meat. Or it is a bowl of lettuce. lol. Every time I ask the waiter for the veggie options, they would tell me, “a salad”.
When did you decide to embrace a meat-free diet? Was there an “Aha!” moment involved?
Since I was very young, I nixed meat for months at a time. First time being when my uncle brought over a live duck to our house to prepare for a dinner party. I was mortified. Stopped eating meat for months. Vegetarianism in non-Hindu homes is very rare in Trinidad though, so my mother would continue to cook it. Eventually for the sake of not starving, I gave back in. Similar episodes occurred throughout my life but out of convenience I always went back. It was a moment in my yoga practice where I just felt a strong compulsion to stop. It sounds crazy, but during my yoga practice I would always feel like something was telling me to skip meat that day. And one Diwali, my cousins were fasting, so I decided to join them since it was a good excuse if anyone offered me any meat, and I just never turned back.
When did you discover GUNAS and how does the label fit into your beliefs?
GUNAS was one of the first vegan brands I discovered when do research for a blog post on vegan leather brands. The look of the website and the bags really grabbed me because it looked just as stylish as the regular animal leather bags I liked. Many other vegan brands were not my style and actually quite basic and boring, and I thought “This is why people aren’t making the switch!” Reading through the GUNAS site and about the mission and about Sugandh, I felt immediately like I was doing the right thing by committing to this lifestyle. I was truly touched by the dedication and story of GUNAS. I purchased a Ridley bag to see the quality in person, and no joke, literally everyone I met would comment about how gorgeous the bag was. I would be so happy to tell them it was vegan! And they would always be surprised and excited by that.
Thank you! Hopefully we can all show others the sustainability of vegan bags. What are some of your other favorite vegan brands?
Sienna Byron Bay nail polish is really a gem. I also am in LOVE with Lush cosmetics. In Trinidad we have quite a few vegan skincare lines that are lovely like Buttered Up and Wholesome You. Fashion-wise, Stella McCartney!
You seem to strongly advocate body positivism (and have an incredible figure!) Has going meat-free made you more physically confident?
Still so shy about accept compliments about my body! Going meat-free has definitely impacted me on a physical level. I feel lighter and more energetic. I also used to have TONNES of stomach issues which a mostly gone now, so I don’t have frequent uncomfortable bloating. Confident? Yes, I guess. I have really grown to accept that I will never be tall and slender; that I am curvy and voluptuous, and nothing is wrong with that!
Certainly not. Tell us about the meaning behind your blog name “No More Fashion Victims Girl.” What does this mean to you and what message do you hope to convey?
The fashion victims I see are the people who have to suffer in the sweatshops or under deplorable conditions to make us clothing. The people who spend their lives working for next to nothing to keep afloat. The animals that are reared in captivity and torn from their packs, so that they may be killed or prodded for the sake of fashion. The polluted rivers, and the ever-growing landfills, piled high with fabric waste. No More Fashion Victims is a stance against all the elements that experience pain for the sake of vanity.
As a personal and media stylist, what has been your favorite project so far?
Recently I worked with my first (and second) transgender client. She first came to me so shy and down on herself, that she couldn’t even look at me in my face. After several sessions which included many pep talks, and shopping trips, I see her glowing in her Instagram pics! She is a whole new person! Very confident and proud to be herself.
Many stores are beginning to expand on the cruelty-free market and feature more vegan products (Lush Cosmetics, Free People and Aveda to name a few). Do you imagine this will continue to grow or remain an ephemeral “trend”?
I think it will definitely grow. I am hearing the conversation happening among friends who I never thought even paid mind to these sorts of things. I look forward to it eagerly!
What is your favorite animal free product to work with?
On a final note, can you describe yourself in three words?
Wide-eyed, Vivacious (someone said this about me a few days ago and I loved it!) and Growing.
The opportunity to chat with Stephanie gave us even more respect for her sense of character. Miss. Ramlogan is living proof that vegan women looking to make a difference can come from any background; all that really matters is our drive to do what’s right. Don’t miss a word of what she has to say on NoFashionVictims!