We had the good fortune of connecting with Carol Miltimore and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carol, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
The idea of work life balance is something I think about on an almost daily basis. Having your own business is often compared to having a baby, which I agree with. It is always on your mind on some level and there is always more to be done with it. However, I have learned over the years to not let it overtake my life in unhealthy ways. In the first few years of the business I let myself be consumed with work and it left me utterly burnt out. It was about two years ago when I realized how living like this was not good for me personally and also not good for my business. Since then I’ve been striving to make sure I take more regular breaks and that I have at least part of the weekend to unplug from the computer and my phone. I now see that some of my best ideas for the business come when I’m doing something that gives me perspective, such as on a hike alone or gardening. I’m never going to be able to stop at five and have weekends or vacations away from work completely but being at peace with that and making sure I practice regular self care is the key. The best advice I received about this is to treat running your business not as a sprinter but to pace yourself as a long distance runner would.
What should our readers know about your business?
My business, Seek Collective, is a slow fashion brand focused on creating beautiful and unique garments for people to feel at home and special in while producing as ethically and environmentally as possible. The goal is to bring transparency to the apparel supply chain along the way and highlight all the people and skills involved in the process. It has never been an easy business to run but it was set up like that in many ways. After working for over a decade as a fashion designer, I knew if I were to stay in the industry I needed to do things differently. I go straight to the source for each material, partner with traditional craftspeople, and work to help consumers feel more connected to the makers. I aim to produce through empowering all those involved in the supply chain, after seeing firsthand how exploitive the apparel industry is. So at Seek Collective, instead of buying yardage from a mill and handing everything off to a factory, I work directly with the hand block printers, handloom weavers, natural dyers, and a small woman owned stitching unit. This means a lot more moving parts and a great deal more planning with opportunities for things to go wrong along the way, but it feels worth it. The work is never over and I am always striving to improve. In 2020 we changed our hangtags to be a compostable material that can grow seeds, we expanded our zero waste program, and partnered with One Tree planted so that a tree will be planted for every item sold. All the inspiring people I partner with to create everything is what motivates me each day.
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 moved to Berkeley, CA from Brooklyn, NY early last year but also have spent a good chunk of each year in India since starting Seek Collective. Since the East Bay is my newest home and I’m still falling for it I’ll focus here. Some favorite restaurants are Sister, Royal Rangoon, Minnie Bells, Brown Sugar Kitchen, Donato, Comal, Nabolom Bakery, and Nyum Bai. Tara’s or Curbside Creamery to get your ice cream fix. For special beers on tap Cask, for cocktails Sister and North Light, and for wine Ordinaire Wine bar or my garden. What I love most about the Bay area is how many wonderful hikes there are. Joaquin Miller Park for redwoods, the Berkeley fire trial for a work out and views, Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve at sunset, and the Albany Bulb for bay views and eccentric art. Slash denim for vintage Levis and McMullen for high end designers.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Something that is often not touched on when running your own business is how exhausting it can be emotionally. There are days where you get knocked down so much and it is hard to get back up on your feet again. It is some very dear friends, including other business owners, but have been there for me to help me continue on. One example is the year I brought one of my best friends with me to India on a production trip. While there I ran into some major issues with a manufacturer at the time. I wanted to give up and it is because of her being there, her encouragement and support, that I kept going.
Ashley Batz, Suzie McMurtry, Carol Miltimore