We had the good fortune of connecting with Jillian Clark and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jillian, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Roboro is combating the global effects of the fashion industry; both environmental and human impacts. The fashion industry is the 2nd most polluting industry in the world, and the largest contributor to modern day slavery and child labor. Our 6 Tenets ensure that all Roboro products address these social and environmental issues, in addition to the quality of our products.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
At this point, I’m on career number 3. But what I’m potentially most proud of is how organically my careers have evolved.
Career #1: Ballet Dancer.
I started ballet lessons at age 4 and that was my first real creative outlet and love. I danced semi-professionally until my mid-twenties, until I made the decision that most athletes eventually are forced to make. My body could no longer handle the pressures and stress that was required and I needed to focus my creativity in a new direction. That was when I discovered costume design.
Career #2: Costume Designer.
I always loved the tutus and elaborate costumes in the ballet. Growing up, my mom would make my solo performance costumes and work backstage helping with the big productions. So it was a space I was comfortable and familiar with. I graduated UMass Amherst with a BA in Design for Theater and Dance and then worked in the costume department at The Boston Ballet Company for several years. To this day, this was one of my favorite jobs. Half of my time was spent in the costume shop building and repairing some of the most beautiful and elaborate costumes I’ve ever seen. The other half of my time was spent backstage working with the wardrobe crew and the dancers. I watched world class ballet from the wings of the Boston Opera House for 4 glorious years. Despite backstage view, I started to feel antsy and now had my sights set on designing movies, so I relocated to Los Angeles. I worked as a PA for wardrobe departments, designed shorts and low budget shoots, I even once made a dress out of ice cream pints for a company trade show. But I eventually got my union days and was designing my own shows and running my own departments. During this time, I started to take a new interest in the fashion industry. Costume designers and fashion designers work in the same space, where they use clothing as a way to tell a story. But I had never really been interested in the fashion industry. I was excited by the stage, not the catwalk. With this new found interest, I learned about the negative global impacts of the fashion industry.
Career #3: Founder & Sustainable Fashion Brand Consultant.
After watching the documentary ‘The True Cost’, it was one of those ‘well… this is what I’m doing with my life now’ moments. I was embarrassed to have not been aware of the environmental impacts of clothing manufacturing and the human rights violations happening all around the world, just so that I could buy a $5 H&M tee shirt and $25 Zara suit, to stay within the wardrobe budget. I started to become increasingly aware of how wasteful the film industry is and I couldn’t unsee it. I started to think of ways that I could use my access to an excess of discarded fabric and clothing, and my skills as a designer and seamstress, to come up with a more rewarding creative outlet. I began to upcycle textile waste into new garments and designs. They weren’t half bad and my friends even started to buy them! Without any thought to branding or strategy, I asked a friend build me a logo and I started applying to different markets and events. It turns out a lot of people were super into this idea! Three years later, one complete brand overhaul and an entirely new perspective on using clothing as a means for storytelling, I’m excited for this next iteration of my career. I still go watch the ballet from the wings every time I’m back in Boston. I still design the occasional short film, the difference now is I only source from rental houses or sustainable and ethical brands. I found it helpful to give myself a professional mission statement, the same way I did for Roboro. My mission statement is to ask the question ‘what we wear and why we wear it?’. It allows me to tell the story of personal expression, character costume or maybe even humanity reversing climate change!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My cousin Mo, founder of CompostableLA and previous Shout Out LA feature, answered this question best and I’ve quoted her. But I’m also biased…you’ll understand why:
“My cousin, Jill, did this for me when I moved here, and she should just be a tour guide. I swear she missed her calling. One of my favorites of these outings was aMini Venice tour. I live on the westside, and to me there is nothing more uniquely SoCal than Venice. So this is what I recommend (adopted from Jill): Beach day near the Venice Pier/Marina del Rey. It’s a little quieter down that way, less tourists so less crowds. After a couple of hours, move up to Washington Blvd for a burger and beer at Hinano’s. Then stretch your legs while strolling the Venice Canals. It’s peaceful back there, perfect respite after a busy bar scene. The canals will lead you out either towards Abbot Kinney for those that like shopping, or the Venice boardwalk. I would go the boardwalk way to grab an ice cream and people watch near the skate park. Maybe you do a little shopping on the boardwalk, but eventually you end up at Larry’s for happy hour. And you are going to make that happy hour last, because Townhouse has a burlesque show on Wednesday nights… but that doesn’t get going until late. So kill some time enjoying sunset on the roof of Hotel Erwin. Not here on a Wednesday? Well then just head down to the Santa Monica pier to catch sunset on a ferris wheel before seeing a show at Harvelle’s. It’s Los Angeles – there’s always something!”
In a post Covid world, things are slightly different. Larry’s is regrettably no more and the basement packed Townhouse Burlesque won’t be coming back anytime soon. But the new outdoor seating policys have made Washington Blvd a whole different experience and the canals and beach are outdoors, just wear your mask and socially distance! So for the most part, I stand by my Mini Venice Tour!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Oh geez, there are too many to count! But there are a few that truly stand out in first finding my feet as a small business owner.
Colleen Monroe and the Mentor Monday group with Liberty for Her. Colleen and I have been colleagues and friends for years, first meeting through our shared love for costume design. When I first started Roboro, which was called MeWe Clothing Brand at the time, Colleen invited me to a female entrepreneur meet up group, called Mentor Mondays. This group of women met up once a month and shared their wins, their loses and their advice with one another. This was where I first learned how to ask for help, how to build a website, how to maintain your sanity when you work for yourself. I’ve made long lasting friends and professional connections thanks to this group of boss babes!
Sean and Shannon Scott from Comunitymade have been my like fairy-god parents. I met Sean and Shannon at a Mentor Mondays holiday party and they haven’t been able to get rid of me ever since. Not only did they see the potential in Roboro from the very beginning, but they have actively supported the company in giving us our first work space and hosting our first events in their beautiful Arts District location. They have also been an amazing source of support and advice, as a new small business owner. They’ve helped me with everything from finding a trademark lawyer, to working with interns, to picking out the right bottle of red wine after a long, hard work day. AND they produce my favorite go-to sneakers right in the heart of downtown. I’m continually grateful and inspired by these two.
Last and certainly not least, I have an incredible community of friends and family who have been supportive since day one. For the first couple years of the company, I’m not even sure most people understood what the company was trying to be. Sometimes I wasn’t even sure what the company was trying to be! But despite that, they continued to show up and believe in me and in the company mission. Without a doubt, Roboro would still just be a twinkle in my eye without these people.