Freshman Combines Passions for Fashion and Climate Change Awareness

Madison Brown

Menlo freshman Madison Brown sells hand-made, sustainable clothing through her Instagram account, @earthbabe. Screengrab:

Louisa Sonsini, Opinions Editor

Despite the negative spell cast by the COVID-19 pandemic, some positive outcomes have emerged, including a spike in creativity. Freshman Madison Brown can relate.

Around the world, people have utilized shelter-in-place orders as an opportunity to channel their creative interests toward new projects. In fact, of the 35,000 respondents who participated in WeTransfer’s annual Ideas Report survey, 61.6% of people in new jobs say they are having more creative ideas than ever, and 40% felt more creative than usual. 

This magnified sense of creativity has particularly benefited small businesses. On  Instagram, 30% of users have bought items on the social media platform, according to YotPo research. Instagram’s number of users has also hit an all-time high, largely due to pandemic circumstances. In 2020, the app reached one billion monthly users, a milestone that Insider Intelligence predicted for 2024.

Instagram’s user-base growth has made the app popular for new, self-run businesses, especially during the era of COVID-19. During the summer of 2020, Brown seized this chance to start a clothing business of her own.

Brown has always had an eye for creativity, crafting her own clothing items since age six. “I use Pinterest and watch tons of fashion and runway shows, [… and] that’s where I predict trends that are going to come into style,” Brown said. “That’s also where I sketch a lot of my designs from.”

In addition to her passion for clothing design, Brown is an advocate for climate change and opposes unsustainable clothing and fast fashion, which contribute to global warming. As of 2020, the fashion industry was responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, a number higher than all international flights and maritime shipping combined, according to the World Bank. If this trend continues, the World Bank predicts that the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will heighten to 50% of annual global carbon emissions by 2030.

With her clothing Instagram account @earthhbabe, Brown combines both her passion for fashion and climate change awareness. “It started out really small. I would upcycle clothes for myself and make myself jeans a lot,” Brown said. “My friends liked what I made and wanted me to show my stuff to the world by selling [my pieces]. Ever since then, it’s been my favorite thing to do.”

Once inspiration strikes, Brown uses recycled fabric to create a new piece of clothing. Recently, Brown has relied on clothing donations, which she receives in large bags from people around the Bay Area. In return, Brown will grant donors store credit or a free item from her account. Her pieces are thus primarily composed of reused fabric, except when she adds accessories like lace and ribbon. 

In light of sustainability, Brown has also created a zero-waste line, which consists of clothing items solely made from recycled materials. Some of these items include bucket hats and purses, each made of leftover clothing scraps. “I want my buyers to understand that you can make everything into something beautiful instead of throwing it in the trash,” Brown said. “I think that’s a really important part of my brand name.” 

After Brown completes an item, she typically uploads a picture to her Instagram or asks a friend to model in the piece. From her Instagram account, Brown has received over 180 orders. Most of her orders are within the U.S., but she’s had a few Canadian customers as well. “I would say 30% of my customers are Bay Area-based, and 70% is the rest of the United States,” Brown said.

To gain publicity, Brown has relied on Instagram accounts from outside California. For example, Instagram user @daniellebridgee — with a following of over 14,100 people — has advertised Brown’s brand. “Hawaii is a really hard area to get customers from because it’s so small. [Because Danielle] lives on Maui, she attracts a lot of customers from that area,” Brown said. Earthbabe has also gained attention through a local newspaper, the Palo Alto Weekly, when they virtually interviewed her. This video is posted on her Instagram page

Throughout her entrepreneurial journey, Brown has gained valuable knowledge and experience in regards to clothing-making. “I’ve learned a lot about business, and I’ve learned [to improve] my designs. I’ve also learned how to do most fabrics and how to do a lot more stitches,” Brown said. 

In the future, Brown aspires to expand her Instagram-run business and develop her support base. “I want to grow and share sustainable fashion with the world. I really want to be […] a known brand, and I want people to see what I am trying to do. I’m trying to make a change,” she said.