House of Gratia Et Caritas – Conscious Fashion + Storytelling // Interview With Melissa Wong
Photos courtesy of HGC
Melissa Wong, creator and founder of House of Gratia Et Caritas (HGC), believes when you're willing to put in the hard work the sky is the limit. I echo Melissa's belief and I am inspired by her vision and mission behind HGC - tasteful coverage of everything fashion for a cause and a blog encyclopedia of charitable companies that give back fashionably.
There was Melissa, from NY to LA, from corporate job to out of a job, to then pursuing her love for fashion and philanthropic causes. This journey birthed the idea and concept behind House of Gratia Et Caritas.
Melissa's philosophy behind her brand comes from the importance of educating consumers to think more consciously about where their goods are being made, who is making them, or what their purchase could benefit. Because of this, HGC launched to "provide a safe place for brands that are new, do-good inspired start-ups, organizations that have forward thinking and thought-provoking style ideas, creative charities, and innovative cultural collaborators who love the business of fashion". Ultimately, Melissa is setting out to deliver a message to shop more consciously.
Read ahead to discover Melissa's story and what she has to say about conscious fashion. She also uncovers the meaning behind the HGC name, her 365 vision, and even a shares few tips when it comes to the conscious culture of LA aka where to shop consciously. Oh! Because I guarantee you'll want to meet Melissa after reading her interview - she's hosting her first-ever pop-up shop in Beverly Hills, CA. Details here.
Q | Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to launch House of Gratia Et Caritas
It’s funny when I think about how many ways I’ve wanted to answer this question. I actually started three different drafts of how I wanted to artistically explain what inspired me to launch the blog and how it happened. But I guess the simplest way of explaining it is to be blunt. When I lived in New York, my first jobs out of college were with a retail buying office and a print publisher. I was hoping that the paths would cross and I would be able to work at a fashion publication but that didn’t turn out the way I had planned. After a few years, I moved to LA to take a break from the chaos of the city and focus on writing and volunteerism. I quickly learned that the fashion world in Los Angeles was incredibly different than New York’s, but there was something really refreshing about it.
I was in LA and I had recently gotten laid off from my corporate job and I had been spending a lot time at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf working on freelance fashion editing projects. I wasn’t sure that pursuing freelance full-time was the route for me, but I also wasn’t inspired by anything in my former corporate world. But yet there I was, out of a job less than 2 years after moving across the country, and I was still missing an outlet for my love of fashion and passion for philanthropic causes.
That day at the coffee shop, I was job-searching and came across the Vogue sitemap online, which at the time was still called Voguepedia (it’s now rebranded as a Vogue video series). But it listed the A-Z guide of everything haute couture and had brief overviews of everything and everyone high fashion from designers, founders, trends, brands, models/muses, and much more. This was fascinating to me because I suddenly realized that what I needed was to curate my own fashion blog where I could write about everything and anything I wanted- and all I wanted to write about was fashion and charity. And here it was, this epiphany, this light-bulb moment that happened over an iced coffee and an online job hunt.
Q | What is the purpose behind House of G & C and the meaning behind the name?
The meaning behind the name comes from my love of words and my infatuation with the Latin language. The name, House of Gratia et Caritas comes from combining the idea of creating a home, (similar to a fashion house or maison couture which produces both couture and ready to wear lines of apparel, shoes and accessories) and also being the “home” to all things relating to “gratia” meaning grace and thankfulness and “caritas” meaning charity.
The purpose of House of G&C is to provide a safe place for brands that are new, do-good inspired start-ups, organizations that have forward thinking and thought-provoking style ideas, creative charities, and innovative cultural collaborators who love the business of fashion as much as I do. But more importantly, it exists to allow a creative space, free from judgment and criticism. Right now that safe place may be in the form of a blog, but ultimately my vision is to expand to monthly HGC pop-up shops around the United States, 365 Days of HGC Style Calendar, a HGC curated Quarterly Shopping Guide, or even my own HGC charitable accessories line. I’ve always believed that the sky is the limit when you’re willing to put in the hard work.
Q | What are some of you favorite conscious brands that you've featured via http://www.houseofgratiaetcaritas.com/
There are SO many! I’m constantly discovering new brands, new stores and new storytellers, and that is the best part of this blog. I can’t say I have any favorites since every story is unique and interesting, but I will say that the “Day in the Life with The Giving Keys” was incredibly fun, my interview with Ann and Jessica from the online marketplace, Enrou was great, and I will definitely have more to come covering Teeki, Sevenly, and InFORaCause, and many more brands coming soon.
Q | I know you are based in Los Angeles, what do you love about the conscious culture there? Any recommendations on what our readers can check out?
I love that the conscious culture in LA is so carefree, open-minded, and welcoming. In fact, I think it’s refreshing. And it’s also like being a part of a family. When you meet someone who wears one of these brands, (e.g. someone who’s wearing a Giving Key necklace at a concert or Falling Whistles necklace at the grocery store, or you meet someone who’s wearing a shirt from the latest Sevenly t-shirt campaign) there’s a certain acceptance that just exists. For me, I’m lucky to be able to meet these wonderful souls every day. Sometimes it’s at a house party, at the dog park, at a charity event, or simply finding a new friend on Instagram. To meet another person that’s a part of this culture is like getting zapped with a jolt of positive magnetic energy- you just know that they get what your cause is about and you don’t even have to explain it. That’s what I love the most.
- Brick + Mortar Recommendations:
- DTLA: Arts District - Alchemy Works and Apolis
- Silver Lake: Faircloth & Supply (Pop-up Shop until October 6th)
- Venice: TOMS Flagship Store
- Orange County: Share & DO Good - New location in Fullerton, CA
- Valley: InFORaCause at the Valencia Town Center
- Tejon Outlets: InForaCause – new 2nd location at Outlets at Tejon Parkway, Arvin, CA
- Virtual/Pop-Up Shops: These brands can be found at boutique and national retailers, or they are always participating in local LA shopping events.
- Della LA – Sold at Urban Outfitters
- goodhYOUman – Sold at Kitson and various retailers
- Bead Relief Bracelets– Participate in local events
- Krochet Kids – Sold at this month’s Nordstrom Pop-In Shop
- The Giving Keys – Sold at Ron Robinson, Kitson and participate in local events
- Smile QQ Watches – Sold at Ron Robinson
Q | What message do you want to share with our readers regarding companies that give back fashionably?
I always think it’s easy to forget how lucky we are to live in the U.S. We have incredible freedom to live where we want, to choose what jobs we get to pursue, to travel domestically, to buy and own vehicles, to pursue higher education, to shop frivolously (not everyone does but it exists), to go on long sabbaticals to explore other countries, to truly be a consumer. But even in the States, there are always areas within the biggest metropolitan cities that have families who work two or more jobs to put food on the table, and still can’t make ends meet.
What I think is important is to educate consumers to think more consciously about where their goods are being made, who is making them, or what their purchase could benefit. It may seem like a stretch, but your do-good purchase could help provide school supplies for kids in your own neck of the woods, or it could pay for a year of clean water for a family India. You just never know, there is so much good being done, it’s hard not to share it with the world!
With the all the “do-good” brands out there from KIND Bars to Lauren Bush Lauren’s FEED line, to TOMS’s latest coffee line to Warby Parker eyeglasses- I really can’t say it again, but I will because there is just so much product out there that is “for good”. But these businesses can’t succeed if people don’t know about them. So the message I want to share is simply to shop more consciously. To be aware of the brands, their causes and to make wearing these goods a part of your lifestyle. I always say to my friends: “If you’re going to spend $30 on a new shirt or $60 on new shoes, or $100 on sunglasses, why not spend it somewhere that gives back?”
Q | Any new projects coming up for House of G & C?
Yes! I’m excited to announce the first House of G&C curated pop-up shop that will be taking place at The Phoenix in Beverly Hills on October 12th. It initially started as a simple birthday get together. But with the success of the latest fall fashion shoot, many people were asking where to buy some of the merchandise from the shoot. So I reached out to my friends from Share & Do Good, InFORaCause, and DesignedGiving and asked them to be vendors. There’s no cover charge, but in an effort to help grow the House of G&C brand, I’m asking that people follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at the door, and that they come with $20 to spend/or donate to one of these vendors. There is limited space, so I would recommend RSVPing early. More info on the event and RSVP details can be found on the blog.
Other new projects: I’m working on a more consistent content calendar with an events listing section in 2015 (would include LA, NY and other cities) and also 365 Days of HGC Style calendar for 2016.
Q | You are about to kick off a column at Conscious Magazine to talk about Conscious Fashion. Why is writing for Conscious important to you?
I love the Conscious conversation and the culture. Writing for Conscious for me means being able to be on the radar of like-minded individuals, especially those that are truly living and being the change that they want to see in the world. I’m incredibly excited to share the stories and showcase the products of these great, emerging do-good brands. I want to inspire readers and brands alike by educating them to shop more consciously, to wear these products, and to share with their friends to help tell the stories of these cultural innovators and style collaborators. There’s a sweet quote from actor and President of Sundance Film Festival, Robert Redford, that really touched my heart, “Storytellers broaden our minds: engage, provoke, inspire, and ultimately, connect us.” If I can do this to help any brands through House of G&C, then I truly feel like I’m doing what I was put on this universe to do.
From the Editor
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