Sursy Series 004 | MARCH 17, 2019
Meçlâ Kaplan is the founder of Sl0., a food, fashion, and lifestyle brand based in Denver, CO focused on supporting a holistic approach to living.
I met Meçlâ recently here in Denver, the place she also calls home and has lived with her family for the past ten years. She’s in the process of starting her new venture – Sl0. – and with me in the same boat in getting The Sursy off the ground, we’ve become fast friends and business confidants.
On the night of the bomb cyclone this past week (which, by the way, was the most insane snow weather I’ve personally ever seen…), Meçlâ and I chose to chat on the phone instead of driving across town in the blizzard, and I got to learn even more about this fellow North Carolinian’s life thus far, her ambitions, and her creative pursuits!
You have an interesting first name! What's the origin?
I have grown to really like my name, but my whole life it has been a thing for me. I grew up in Monroe, NC, so of course there was always a twang when people tried to pronounce it. Then when I moved to New York City I started feeling more empowered through the culture and diversity and for the first time I felt like I fit in.
I was named after my grandmother on my dads side of the family who is Turkish. It translates to mean ‘reflection in water,’ I never really thought too much about the meaning until recently. I’m realizing lately that my reflection is in everything...my family, my home, my food, my clothing label etc.
How did you wind up in New York City?
I graduated from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a fashion design degree, then moved to New York City and got a job with Barneys New York. I worked on the sales floor, and quickly moved into the buying office. This was in 1999. Six months later I was promoted, and soon after that promoted again. It was still a time where you could just move to NYC and get a job and move up...It seems much harder and more competitive now? Not sure, it’s been almost 20 years since I’ve lived there!
Did you like that job? The fashion industry?
Working in that environment taught me a lot about building things visually, like putting a cohesive group of clothing together for a sales floor, developing a private label and how to source materials. I loved working with vendors, but I wasn’t doing any design so ultimately I wasn’t truly happy in the job. I was in my early 20’s at this time, and I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to make fashion work for me.
I knew I needed more than a superficial work environment, but that was really hard to find at the time if you were working in fashion. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that the social responsibility piece of fashion was going to be my priority if I was to continue in the business.
Seems like that 'social responsibility' piece is really important to you?
It’s definitely my focus now. Everything I do I want to be as conscious in that space as possible. I think about who is making the product, where it’s coming from, who is wearing it, what’s a fair price, etc. Not producing so much so it sits in inventory, eliminating waste as much as possible. Same goes for my cooking; being a 'zero waste chef' is what I’m working towards.
Is the lack of that type of focus in the fashion industry - at least at the time - why you decided to move on in your career?
Honestly, I ended up leaving NYC and moved to Glenwood Springs kind of on a whim. My mom moved there and I was craving family. One year later, I started a family of my own. When you’re around people in the fashion industry things become very superficial and that was a big part of what made me leave, along with a colliding of personal tragedy and world tragedy…My dad died, and then soon after I watched 9/11 happen right from my NYC rooftop just beyond the Brooklyn bridge.
What do you remember most about being in the city during the 9/11 attacks?
The thing that was so amazing is how everyone in the city pulled together. From my experience, I remember there was a really huge sense of community. I was on that fashion path at the time, and looking back I think that moment made me pivot in my career towards wanting to do something with more meaning. It’s taken me a long time to get there, but I think I really knew the value of community at that moment.
As a holistic chef, what's your vision for how sl0. will grow and come to life?
Ultimately, I am focusing on building a business and a brand that supports what I like to call a ‘holistic approach to living.’ Sourcing and cooking my food responsibly, food and chakra pairing, producing ceremonial community dinners, and designing a clothing and textile line that has the same format and caters to the same client.
Living a holistic life is different for everyone. To me, it’s the spirit behind the choices I make and knowing that the environment we live in - everything we touch and everything we are - is energy working together. I believe if we’re aware of that energy, it can create healing on many different levels.
So from a food standpoint, I am trying to infuse my beliefs as far as making sure I am in a good headspace before I touch the food, honoring the food before I serve it, knowing where the food comes from...it’s the acknowledgement and appreciation of the cycle of life. I want to help people put this ritual into their lives. It hasn’t been front and center for a while in our world and I feel it’s important to work together as a community to bring it back.
Seems like a business infused with a lot of strong, passionate, personal beliefs and philosophies?
Definitely. The business sums up everything I have learned personally, spiritually, artistically. It’s also a service and community based business which is where I’m most comfortable and content.
Can you elaborate more on all of the 'moving parts' of the business?
Sl0. is a lifestyle inspired brand that encourages people to slow down, embrace community, and know where your food and textiles are coming from. As a holistic chef, I plan to host small, party pop-ups and ceremonial-community based dinners. That’s where the company is definitely anchored. But under that I envision offering my own line of sustainable textiles including a movement + meditation line of clothing, meditation pillows, and table linens. It’s slow fashion and slow food, so it fits. Eventually other things could manifest, but the first thing you’ll be seeing is the clothing line! Should be ready this summer!
Who are your customers?
Who I'm marketing to has actually completely changed as my business has evolved. When I started researching the business and industry initially, I was speaking to the fashion world only. It was a completely different business! I was only focused on the clothing line and I hadn’t quite discovered my passion for cooking. It’s been a huge learning experience allowing it to take on a new life form. So now that I’ve incorporated food and healing, I want to focus on people who are looking to live a more conscious, slower-paced world or are looking for a change in that direction. Maintaining a diverse, inclusive, community based business is my priority.
What's been your biggest surprise, or something you've learned since starting your own business?
My biggest surprise is how the clothing line came back. I thought I had forsaken all things fashion. But I guess it makes sense, It’s all I’ve ever wanted since I was about 8 years old!
Would love to hear more about how you made the transition to Colorado and about your family now!
My transition to Colorado definitely helped mold me into the person I am today. I was recently married for the second time and I’m happier than ever! As a mom of a 14 and 16-year-old, life obviously has been busy. But, my family is my rock and they are my biggest fans!
A few years ago, I got stuck in the retail world and was completely miserable. So, I decided to go back and forth from Colorado to Los Angeles to work as a stylist. My kids were so amazing and supportive during that time. When I came back to Colorado for good, I started my first business called Thread: Fashion School for Kids. As my business took off, I maintained a full-time job. Kinda exhausting! Again, my kids were so awesome and supportive. Even though they were younger, I could feel how proud they were of me. Needless to say, the three of us are super close. My husband Larry is the perfect fit for us and he and the kids are the inspiration behind my community dinners. Sitting around the table for family dinner is a ritual in our house...if you came to dinner at our house you would hear some interesting music choices, eat comforting food, and witness some really bad dancing. But, you would leave feeling loved and a happy!
What's your best piece of advice for entrepreneurs who want to build a business?
Get to know your community! Don’t be afraid to reach out and to network. When you’re excited and passionate about something, other people will be too.