We had the good fortune of connecting with Margaret Burton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Margaret, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Taking risks has definitely shaped my life and career. I have lived with open hands and a readiness to go where life wants to lead me. I remember at a very young age I said something like “I will never live there or do that” and an adult scolded me very seriously and said something along of the lines of, “Do not close yourself off to things because you might loose out on where you are meant to be!” It was a very impressionable moment I never forgot. I lived in Ohio my entire life and was awful in high-school so the only option for me was art school. When I was there my confidence grew tremendously. I was into my second year and dating someone who lived in NYC. He said if you are going to be in artist you have to live in NYC. So I visited and realized how many more possibilities there were in life. So I dropped out and moved. This was my first big risk because my parents said they would not help me if I moved and I hadn’t gotten into an alternative school yet. I got a job at American Apparel and lived in a 1 bedroom apartment with 4 girls. I figured if I didn’t get into another school Id be an apprentice to an artist. Luckily I got into Pratt and began studying fashion design and started as a freshman. My junior year I had my first big internship with a high end women’s wear brand. One of my jobs was to cut old styles or samples in half for the garbage. This was a huge shock to me and is what started my research into fashions supply chain and waste problems. My senior year I was at a party talking to someone about fashions waste and showed them a video of the Shoddy industry (where all our thrown out or donated clothes goes in India to be turned into thread). He said “My parents live there, you should go stay with them and research”. Second big risk, I flew on my Christmas break to India for a month to stay with someones family I didn’t even know. I saw the Shoddy industry in real life and I saw what real poverty looks like. I came home determined to make a collection that combats waste by only using donated clothing and teaches the public the truth behind fast fashion. After graduating came the third big risk. I got an internship opportunity with Jeremy Scott in LA. I packed everything in my car drove across the country and moved to there without having ever visited. I had been there for a year interning and continuing to make and sell my designs when I got a call from someone in Charlotte NC asking me to come teach an after school sewing program to refugees and inner city high school students. This was the fourth and biggest risk. I had to decide if I leave a big city could I still continue with growing a fashion design business. Would losing the art community of LA and the connections I had yet to make leave me unnoticeable? I decided to let go of those fears and go where I was being called. Its been three years now and I have officially become a 501c3 non profit, I have a sewing studio, and am creating one of a kind garments from donated clothes full time. It is worth the risks to end up where you are supposed to be.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
To combat the fast fashion industry that has taken over the global marketplace, I created Margaret Burton Inc. A non profit that takes donated clothes and turns them into one of a kind garments. We also strive to educate our communities on how to shop with seamstresses across the world in mind and to purchase long lasting clothes. We also open our studio up once a week for tailoring and repair appointments.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I loved taking people to Malibu, I loved stopping in the middle of the winding mountain drive to buy from the fruit stand on the side of the road. Walking around the LA arts district and stopping at Urth Caffe for a coconut boba tea. Waking up in the mornings in my neighborhood of Highland park and walking to my local Mexican bakery for a juice and pastries. Having brunch at Kitchen Mouse. Of corse hiking the Hollywood hills. Showing people where they filmed Parks and Rec in Pasadena. Using RA guide to find the warehouse dance scene or going to Tenants of the Trees in Silver lake. Basically eat our way through Silver lake, a favorite spot is Pho Cafe. Jumping in the fortune cookie dumpster. There is a dumpster near a fortune cookie factory filled to the brim with imperfect fortunes.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
To Adriana for helping me get into art school, to Oralia for letting me live in that crowded apartment in NYC without knowing me, to my parents for the constant support, to the families that hosted my in India, to Sarah for giving me free studio space in the LA arts district, to Zac for calling me to Charlotte.
Colin Cassidy, Yazid, Angel, Cassandra Renee, Abdul