Stella Faith founded Moda Etik in Istanbul, one of the biggest fashion hubs in the world, as a brand and community to challenge the greed in the industry and to re-engage Christian women with fashion
Non-profit project manager and founder of multiple businesses, Stella Faith, is from the USA but lives in Istanbul, Turkey, where she launched Moda Etik in 2021. Moda Etik, which means ‘ethical fashion’, is a community and slow-fashion brand that creates locally produced T-shirts and tracksuits made from premium cotton in neutral colours. These fair-trade pieces function as long-lasting wardrobe staples, which in turn helps to reduce overshopping.
Stella’s heart is that Moda Etik would become a beacon of light in the fast-fashion hub of Istanbul. Moda Etik is a growing community that provides free educational and inspiring content on style and colour to equip people to dress and shop according to their unique style type – and therefore, more responsibly.
Aesthetic-obsessed Stella has always loved creativity, colour and style, but her passion for sustainability and business grew when she was living in Australia eight years ago.
Called to stand up against exploitation of the poor
“I was really convicted by the Holy Spirit about the people who were making my clothes. One of the main commandments in scripture is to love the poor. This means we have a responsibility to ensure that the people making our clothes are working in safe conditions, get a fair wage and that the clothes they make do not damage the environment by releasing toxic dyes into rivers and lakes.”
In 2013, the world reeled at the horrific collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh. Over 1,000 people died, and many more were injured. Amnesty International called it a shocking human rights abuse in the pursuit of profit over people. This tragedy greatly impacted Stella, and she immediately curbed her shopping habits and turned her creative hand to styling.
I was really convicted by the Holy Spirit about the people who were making my clothes
Stella started learning to be intentional about her clothes and style, and educated herself on the history of the fashion industry. She realised that even just 60 years ago, fashion houses would produce just two seasons of clothes per year. These pieces would be of lasting quality and more expensive, so people would invest in them for the long term. Today mainstream fashion brands persuade us to buy new clothes every month by constantly pumping out new lines of cheaper clothes for short-lived trends.
“It’s totally possible to step away from the greed-driven marketing that’s constantly bombarding us. Investing in sustainably made brands for the long term is a good start – but what’s
more important is knowing yourself. Learn what you like to wear and what colours suit you – so you don’t keep overshopping or buying the wrong pieces.”
Transforming herself – and others
When Stella moved to Turkey from Australia in 2015, she sold almost her entire wardrobe because she couldn’t ship it all overseas.
“I wouldn’t recommend this; my line is usually: ‘Wear it until you can’t wear it anymore.’ But for me, it was a clean slate…it was a life decision and a vow. Of course, I’m not perfect, but ever since, all of my fashion decisions have been made thoughtfully and intentionally. I only buy secondhand or Fairtrade, and I only invest in a piece if I know I will wear it a lot.”
In Turkey, Stella then qualified as a professional stylist and colour analyst. She started offering this service to people in her community as a business – and for free to those who couldn’t afford it.
“Knowing yourself is essential, and it’s deep work. When I help a Syrian refugee style herself for a job interview or an Egyptian freelance photographer style his new business website photos, it boosts their confidence. It can really make a difference to their success.”
Stella also believes it’s time for Christian women to take back celebrating style and enjoying fashion.
‘Patriarchy in the Church has taught many of us to hide our bodies at all costs, not to draw attention to ourselves as we could be a ‘stumbling block’ to others. Jesus said “I love you” to only four people in the Bible. Did you know that two of them were women? I want to remind women how cherished they are, and that they can celebrate who God made them to be by expressing themselves through their style.”
Starting out in business
A few years later, Stella founded a wholesale bakery business that provided bagels and cheesecakes to local cafés. It was wildly successful for five years, with ten employees from Turkey and Syria. This venture touched many lives by helping people make memories and mark milestones with delicious baked goods – especially throughout the pandemic.
“I am so thankful for those years and what I learned about what it means to be an entrepreneur, how to lead cross-culturally – and how to handle taxes! It massively shaped me as a person and grew my heart for job creation. I was also convinced that Christians in business have a responsibility to provide people with a ‘living wage’ so they don’t need to get a second job to make ends meet.”
In 2021, Stella felt led to sell the business and focus on style and sustainability again. She knew it was no coincidence that she was living in one of the biggest fast-fashion hubs in the world – Istanbul. Turkey’s factories pump out clothes and distribute them all over Europe, and there are few labour laws to protect their workers – who are primarily underage Syrian refugees working illegally.
“These girls are not able to finish school. I started Moda Etik to educate and empower others to turn the tide of fast fashion with style guides and accessible information. Each of us as individuals are just a small drop in the ocean, but if we wake up and stop buying so much, we can affect the demand and, subsequently, the supply.”
The birth of Moda Etik
One of the foundations of an intentional wardrobe is neutral T-shirts that accentuate your God-given skin tone and provide the canvas upon which you can build your unique style through accessories, makeup and hairstyle. And it’s here that Stella noticed a gap in the market for Fairtrade or sustainably made staple pieces. The colours were just not available, so Moda Etik created locally made T-shirts in neutral colours that suit different skin tones.
These innovative T-shirts, paired with Moda Etik’s blog and social media community, which is packed full of easy and fun content to inspire you to express your styles without buying more clothes, make Moda Etik truly unique.
Right now, Stella works with a community of freelancers in Istanbul, and she dreams about having a full-time team someday so she can provide more rewarding living-wage jobs for people. She’s also excited to do more styling for people in her community who wouldn’t typically have access to it, to help them to love themselves and achieve their aspirations.
On her days off from her business, Stella actively promotes the pre-loved and secondhand clothes movement in Istanbul, and loves people-and-style watching in cool neighbourhoods.
Tips from Stella to help you rethink your shopping habits
Don’t feel condemned if you’ve overshopped – allow the Holy Spirit to move your heart on this issue and ask him to show you where to start.
Invest in learning what your unique style and colours are (see below to sign up for Moda Etik’s free style guide, which is coming soon.)
When you see a piece you love, only buy it if you know you will wear it a lot.
You can also contact Stella about her virtual styling and colour analysis services via the same contact page and connect with her @modaetikofficial