47 BADASS WOMXN OF COLOR INFLUENCERS UNAPOLOGETICALLY CHANGING THE LANDSCAPE OF SUSTAINABLE FASHION
It is officially “International Women’s Day” and we’re all feeling the celebratory energy in the atmosphere!
Did you know that the first “Women’s Day” was organized in New York by women socialists to demand political rights for working women in 1907, which of course aligned very closely with the women’s suffrage movements. The fight was for better pay, shorter working hours and the the right to vote. In 1911, International Woman’s Day was marked for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland with women led rallies. Later, the date officially became March 8th to pay homage to an important strike by New York textile workers in the 1880’s. The first International Woman’s Day rally was held in Russia and it slowly spread, mainly being celebrated in socialist countries. In 1977 the United Nations solidified the holiday for all women around the globe.
Now let’s get real for just a moment. The epoch of women’s rights was NEVER a fight for ALL women.
The early women’s rights movements in the mid 1800’s were propagated as a fight for “all” women but were exclusively a solidarity movement for white women, especially in alignment with garment and textile industries.
(Black women / women of the African diaspora are the ONLY race of women in America who were inherently ethical designers, natural dyers, weavers, masters of circular supply chain, stewards of the environment, protectors of the land and spiritual style influencers WHO were STOLEN from their country and made to be slaves on American soil. No other ethnic group was forcibly separated from their indigenous culture and country and built a nation; systemically creating generational white wealth [along with the expropriation of Native Indian land] with absolutely no benefits.)
Abolitionist leader, Sojourner Truth was the only Black woman at the 1851 Women’s Convention in Akon, Ohio where she delivered her “Ain’t I A Woman” speech. Yes she’s a woman, but she’s also Black - expressing how she wanted to be free from sexist domination, but also racist oppression - an ideology that the movement never included. In fact, Truth’s name should always be at the tip of anybody’s tongue when presently talking about the importance of racial intersectionality in feminism. PAY HOMAGE TO TRUTH.
Nationalism. Imperialism. Capitalism … Woman’s RightsISM
Indigenous communities globally have traditionally practiced the theory of sustainability throughout every facet of their lives. With various traditions, these cultures’ eco-system of fashion and adornment have always been rooted in nature and regenerative thought. However, most indigenous cultures have battled nationalist-oriented politics of superiority. European powers colonized virtually every country - appropriating culture, exploiting resources and dehumanizing families, especially to monopolize every inch of the fashion industry.
Haiti led a successful revolt and became free from French control in 1803.
Brazil’s declared independence from Portugal was in 1822.
The Emancipation Proclamation granted Black American slaves freedom in 1863.
India became free from the British Empire in 1947.
Ghana just celebrated it’s Independence two days and gained independence in 1957.
To this day, “freedom”, “emancipation” and “independence” are really only paper certificates. Over centuries, colonists were able to successfully set up white dominant infrastructure to systemically control and disguise slavery and economic oppression ESPECIALLY FOR BLACK AND BROWN WOMEN.
With the International Woman’s Day movement inherently being an American fashion industry movement focused on women’s rights in absence of Black women - understanding power dynamics should be on everybody’s radar. From fast fashion labor in Bangladesh and textile dumping in Ethiopia all the way to prison labor in America -the focal point of any and every “women empowerment” conversation in sustainable fashion has to be centered around dismantling the system and liberating global voices.
The erasure of black, indigenous and people of color context within the framework of women’s rights for the fashion industry is no longer tolerable! Invisibility of WOC voices is a very alive and proactive act of psychosocial conditioning, especially in America. WOC in this space know the history, know the struggle, know the cultural trauma, but also know the meaning of resilience! Not only are they the true vanguards of conscious living and sustainability, they have been cleaning up a mess that was never created by them!
The sustainable fashion space has been a white-woman dominated space, reflective of a very narrow and exploitive presence and perspective. The collective imagination stems from a patriarchal -colonial state of mind where visual and textual representation creates a narrative of 1) who cares about sustainability, 2) who can participate, 3) who are the leaders, 4) who are the innovators and 5) who are the style icons. Race has always determined access to information and it shows all throughout this movement.
Though “sustainable fashion” is still a relatively new concept (not for Indigenous communities), there are nearly 100 articles intentionally leaving out the work of WOC and usually tends to share Black and Brown communities within the context of laborers. If your “round up” of sustainable fashion influencers doesn’t include at least 50% WOC stakeholders ( and NOT just white-passing folx or Asian-Americans), then your mission of caring about sustainability is BULLSHIT and further perpetuates oppression.
THIS IS NO LONGER ACCEPTABLE!
Sustainable Fashion, International Woman’s Day and cultural relevancy are all tied together!
International Woman’s Day is more than simply posting a photo of an indigenous garment worker, a tribal woman from Africa or sharing stories of the work you did as a white woman in Indonesia. PLEASE SAVE YOUR SAVIORISM!
SO TODAY WE ARE DOING SOMETHING THAT NO OTHER SUSTAINABLE FASHION PLATFORM HAS EVER DONE!
Bringing it full circle, 112 years since the first “Woman’s Day” in New York … we are bringing together some of the most influential New York based womxn in sustainable fashion to share a moment of STYLE, SERVICE and most importantly, SOLIDARITY! 15 BADASS WOC joined me for a shoot to salute our power and presence in this space, to let the industry know that we are not only going to be SEEN and HEARD, but we demand AGENCY, not just the facade of DIVERSITY.
WE CREATED SUSTAINABILITY
WE SUBSTANTIATED ETHICS
WE EVOKED CONSCIOUSNESS
WE ARE THE CHANGE MAKERS
WE ARE THE VANGUARDS OF STYLE
… WE’VE ALWAYS BEEN FLY AS FUCK
We are changing the normative and universal Eurocentric viewpoint, into one that is representative of the world and the change agents globally who have been invisible.
Therefore, we are honored to share:
47 WOMXN OF COLOR WHO ARE CHANGING THE LANDSCAPE OF SUSTAINABLE FASHION!
Not only are we bringing melanin to the forefront of the conversation, we are challenging what it means to be an “influencer” in sustainable fashion. Although this feature doesn’t focus on ethical designers (we’ll save that for another time), we garnered an intersectional group of womxn who are political activists in the sustainable fashion space as well as those whose simple presence itself is political. Sustainable fashion has WOC influencers who are educators, revolutionaries, bloggers, consultants, founders of cooperatives/incubators, those working to reform/abolish the prison industrial complex, second hand stylists, LGBTQ and body positivity activists, eco-friendly laundry mat owners, scientists, multi-stakeholder conference producers, waste management innovators, master tailors, boutique owners, founder’s of print magazines and most certainly global style icons.
CHECK THEM OUT AND SEE WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY ABOUT BEING A WOC IN THIS SPACE:
“To me, the spirit of being a WOC in sustainable fashion is a celebration of, as the saying goes, our ancestor’s wildest dreams. Black & brown women making waves and contributions to further the higher good is nothing new, but seeing it on the level and public stage as we see it now is invigorating and awe-inspiring. To keep this enlivening spirit growing and positively impacting the world, and to unabashedly make it our own, we must continue to educate everyone on our collective history as sustainable innovators, and we must make it a ritual to praise, encourage, and build each other up through all of our individual endeavors.” - Addie Fisher, Writer / Founder of Old World New
“Being a WOC in the sustainable fashion space means using my positionality to dissect the fashion industry’s reflection of larger systems of inequality. All agents in the sustainable fashion world need to look critically at the voices that are being overlooked, time and time again. It’s not merely a question of defining who makes up the “voiceless,” but rather questioning what systemic factors are at play to make certain voices silenced in the first place.” - Aditi Mayer, Fashion & Documentary Photographer / Founder of ADIMAY
“Being a WOC in sustainable fashion isn't just a pledge to buy more consciously and change the ethics behind the production of clothing, but also a pledge to amplify the voices of those being ignored. It's a pledge to keep conversations inclusive as spaces grow. I pledge to build a more equitable future where all voices have a seat at the table and power is shared.” - Aja Barber, Writer / Fashion Consultant / Sustainable Fashion & Social Justice Activist
" As a sustainable fashion activist, Pakistani-American and first generation immigrant, I have had the honor of getting to know thousands of the resilient and awe inspiring WOC who bring our fashion to life while trapped in a system of oppression. I founded Remake to pass the mic back and bring her into our collective consciousness. I hope our films and stories move WOC to realize that as shoppers and makers we are in the same fight on either side of the supply chain. I want 1 million women to remake their closets to buy less and better. #wearyourvalues.” Ayesha Barenblat, Founder of Remake
“Ethical Fashion Influencer / Founder of Better Shop BK - I move through the space always thinking about how I can bring more of myself and my culture to ethical fashion and how I can include mi gente in the movement. It does no good to be a WOC in the ethical fashion space if I'm not also speaking to my people and their particular cultural needs and preferences. That means I like to showcase color, prints, and bold statement pieces. I believe in making ethical fashion fun because Latinx's know how to have a good time. I believe we're positioned to have more agency in this space precisely because WOC have been ignored for so long in mainstream fashion. By offering a space for WOC to be represented and celebrated we have a real opportunity to bring more WOC into the world of ethical fashion.” - Benita Robledo, Ethical Fashion Influencer
“Being a WOC who cares about sustainable fashion and sustainability, period, just makes sense to me because it’s WOC and our communities who are most affected by environmental damage due to environmental racism, and WOC make up the majority of garment workers who suffer from the unsafe and toxic working conditions of fast fashion. To change the narrative of this space that’s currently dominated by white voices, we need to support WOC-owned brands and voices that celebrate inclusivity and uplift our own communities.” - Cat Chiang, Slow Fashion & Social Justice Blogger
“Responsibility. There are a lot of stereotypes that often come with being a POC. From day one, it's been extremely important to me that my work speaks louder than the color of my skin. I wanted people to see the website, see our Instagram, attend a conference, go to an event and support the SFF because it’s a great experience. I've realized however that being a woman of color in the sustainable fashion community means responsibility. It means that I have a responsibility to show other POC that there is a place for them in this space. It means being visible and sharing my voice so that others feel like they can share their voice too.” - Brittany Sierra, Founder of Sustainable Fashion Forum
“The spirit of my ancestors who, before the recent colonial era, lived closely to their land, lived with sustainability as part of their life, with knowledge on mending, harvesting, home remedies, home births, plants, and in respect with the Earth and living creatures.” Celine Semaan, Sustainability & Human Rights Worker / Founder of The Slow Factory & The Library
”As a Black minimalist, I accidentally fell into sustainable fashion through my love of thrifting and receiving messages from folks who were excited to see someone who looks likes them in this space; but I immediately understood the responsibility to not only use my influence for my sisters but to uphold that label. I decided to be 100% transparent that I’m not “ethical and sustainable” and wanted to help broaden the conversation to include BIPOC, who might be facing economic disadvantages and still want to participate in ethical fashion. As a community, from consumer to brand, we don’t need to be perfect but to confidently stand arm in arm for representation and equality.” - Deborah Shepherd, Writer / Youtuber /Founder of Clothed In Abundance
”We were born to a German mother and African-American father in the eighties. While growing up in Germany – one of the most ecologically-forward countries in the world – shaped our sustainable lifestyle and business model, there were no role models of color in business for us to look up to at the time. Being able to connect with and receive support from other women of color owning sustainable wellness and fashion businesses today and being able to inspire future entrepreneurs in that space is one of the most exciting aspects of running Celsious!” - Corinna & Theresa Williams, Founders of Celsious: Eco-friendly wash & dry / organic coffee shop
“Some of our most cherished sustainable garment making practices and techniques have deep roots in African wisdom and earth work. I am the bridge from my ancestors to the future. And like those before us, it’s vital to stay connected, active and engaged in the works that supplies our communities and the world with the tools for change.” - DeVonne Jackson - Upcycle Style & Earth Advocate / Founder of Positive Obsession
“Being a Mexican and African American woman, sustainable fashion feels like revisiting my roots. I take a deep sense of pride by bringing light to alteration services and upcycling as a way to create awareness for not only my role as a seamstress in the sustainable community, but also WOC all over who are the back bone of manufacturing garments for the majority of the world. Sustainable fashion, I feel, is often seen as a privileged space and when WOC come together, I think it brings the lack of diversity representation to the forefront. By us coming together to support one another, we can throw back the curtain, diversify the landscape and reclaim our space. “ - Drea Johnson, Alterations & garment production / Founder of Hidden Opulence
“The spirit of WOC in sustainable fashion is the tradition of resilience, resourcefulness, and style passed down from our grandmothers. It is rooted in deep reverence and reciprocity with the earth. In order to grow the agency and leadership of WOC in sustainable fashion we need to continue the decolonizing work of challenging beauty norms rooted in white supremacy, the extractive economy, colonialism, and cis-patriarchy.” - Elizabeth Kennedy - Eco-womanist / LGBTQ rights advocate
“So often as a Mixed heritage Japanese American womxn, I have had to shrink myself and silence my voice; it has taken a lot of work to decolonize my inner lens and take up space in the world. Being a womxn of color in sustainable fashion means being my whole self and letting my heart lead my work, which also means uplifting the contributions of BIPOC in these fashion spaces as much as I possibly can. In terms of collective agency, I draw on my Buddhist background, of the power of Sangha, the spiritual community. Womxn of color have been and are doing deep spiritual work in sustainable fashion to honor our ancestors and ourselves-- together we are manifesting powerful changes!” - Emi Ito, BIPOC justice advocate / Founder of Buy From BIPOC
”We all have the right to live happy and free. And we all need role models that we can relate to that are fighting for this right. I couldn’t find a role model that looked like me, so I became one myself.” - Hailey Noa , Yoga & Pole Dance Teacher / Conscious fashion advocate
“LULAH is inspired by my family’s legacy, which spans slavery, Jim Crow and Black Lives Matter. My mother, Lula(h), was born in 1953 in North Carolina and overcame racial oppression to raise three girls as a single mother while carrying the same leather handbag for a decade. LULAH’s vision is to create an American heritage brand in the likeness of women of color through bold storytelling while providing sustainable career opportunities in the fashion industry to formerly incarcerated women. We are reimagining the aspirational narrative of modern American heritage brands by targeting thriving women of color, as we demystify the incarceration of women and diversify fashion.” - Ibada Wadud, Founder of LULAH (better handbags made in Brooklyn by formerly incarcerated women.)
“Being a woman of color in sustainable fashion means blending my passion for fashion with my roots. Being raised by two immigrant parents taught me that everything has value, including the things others might consider waste. We have agency in this space when we tell our stories and amplify the others in the space.” - Janine Hausif -Sustainable style advocate / Founder of Sew Sustainable
“As a woman of color (Nigerian background) my first introduction to the sustainable space was that it was the least diverse I've ever witnessed--aside from being the only Black female student in my MBA program. It felt like that--the need to show up and be present-- make my voice and energy felt in a white washed space by adding some color, an afro-futuristic perspective, and my cultural background as well. That led to the launch of Fashion Envie, an eco-collective platform in 2013 by Beau Monde Society, dedicated to providing a curated space for independent WOC designers and artists. There’s still much work to do. Platforms such as Girl in Om, MelaninASS, Chroma Agency etc. help in pushing this message across all mediums. Representation and storytelling matters and it begins with us.” - Jennifer Nnamani, Founder of Beau Monde Society (eco-focused creative agency)
“I know I am a woman of colour (Filipino Australian) but I am also not just the colour of my skin either if that makes any sense at all. As a WOC, I am highly aware that we WOC don't all think, act, react and feel the same way or assume alignment of common values just because we identify as WOC, but in the sustainable fashion space, it's different, being with and speaking with other WOC is often where I feel most accepted and understood, perhaps because there are cultural similarities and shared experiences. Now even though, we are still all individuals, with our own experiences, and we perceive matters of inclusion, exclusion and discrimination differently so as a WOC sustainable fashion collective, acknowledging and appreciating each other's presence, giving platform or space for each other to be heard and supporting each other's work and contributions goes a long way to encouraging a more accepting, diverse and inclusive sustainable fashion community.” - Jennifer Nini, Founder of Eco Warrior Princess
“It’s a revolutionary time to be in sustainable fashion, and to have a voice in this movement, as a Black woman, I feel proud and hopeful. I'm also thankful for platforms, like Melanin & Sustainable Style, that connect us to other women of color who are doing this work-- allowing us the opportunity to build and collaborate. It's through strengthening these relationships that we'll begin to see a major shift in how sustainable fashion and beauty spaces operate.” - Katherine Pruett - Founder / Editor in chief of Ethical Style Journal
“Being a WOC in sustainable fashion means that I can join the growing group of incredible WOC who have already been paving the way and doing this work for much longer than I have. It also means that I can share my truth in a space that has traditionally excluded our voices. I believe that the ways in which we take up and demand space will contribute to our collective liberation.” - Keila Tirado-Leist, Conscious Living, Sustainable Fashion & Anti-racist advocate & writer
“As a WOC making choices that are in line with my values and treating all things and people with dignity and respect is at the essence of who we are as a people. Learning how to live holistically with the earth has been passed down from generation to generation in my family. I believe we can have more agency in the space by staying committed to our why, trusting the nuance we bring to the conversation and continuing to advocate for real change.” - Kathleen Elie, Style & purpose driven ethical fashion influencer / Founder of Conscious & Chic
“Being a Black woman in the sustainable fashion means, at least on an individual level, joyfully embracing the challenge of innovating/designing with the unique needs of people of color at the center of my vision as a Founder/CEO. As a collective it means we must strive as we move forward to form new, more sustainable ecosystems- ecosystems purposefully built to protect justice & to protect the future of the planet. And it means taking it upon ourselves to create & support platforms & companies that keep the full truth of our experiences within the gaze of American and thereby global, culture & conversation.” - Kimberly McGlonn - Environmentalist / Activist for Criminal Justice Reform & supporting returning citizens / Founder of Grant Blvd.
“I believe being a woman of color in the sustainable fashion industry is my zone. I am a woman who loves fashion and the environment. As a collective, we all can use our voices to celebrate other women in this field. As well as create our own businesses and collaborate with other sustainable businesses to ensure diversity is a part of their mission.” - Lindsey Brown, Sustainable Fashion & Travel Blogger
“WOC should dare to lead and take up space with a clear message of making sustainable fashion more inclusive, incorporating all types of diversity - race, class, gender, seniority, body shapes... But also we must listen and learn. Being genuinely open and humble, so that that we can have a constructive dialogue and gain understanding, is the way to respect and lasting impact.” - Lilian Liu, Responsible Business & Sustainable Fashion Correspondent United Nations
“Since I decided to gather a global community in slow fashion & conscious living. I made a commitment to represent women in all spaces. To maximize change we need connect, empower and support WOC.As a Latin American woman born Cusco, Peru and raised in different parts of my country, US and now living in Europe I have experienced and witnessed challenges, few opportunities for WOC. However, I noticed that WOC I met along the way turn those challenges and struggles into strength and opportunities therefore we need to empower, build more funding programs for WOC. These will lead to open more doors and raise awareness about important topics such as social sustainability, diversity, equality and inclusion.” - Mariel Jumpa, Ethical consultant, speaker, advisor, co-creator of Slow Fashion World
“Being a WOC fashion activist makes me feel more responsible and excited to fight for fair conditions in fashion because the biggest part of the chain and the most oppresed one is composed by WOC making less than 5 dollars a day, and when we buy Fast Fashion and unethical clothes we are financing our own oppression. I think that the only way of changing the situation is really talking about it, being boring, asking your friends to check the labels before buying, suggest chocking documentaries, giving sustainable easy tips, promoting exchange bazaars, making them realize sustainable fashion is not about buying 200 dollars organic t-shirts, it is about thinking our consumption in a way that it not only good for us. We all wanna make the world a better place, sometimes people just don't know how!” - Maria Ramos, Environmental conservation activist, second hand/thrift style influencer
“The San people say that "The more you know the less you need." To me being a WOC in the sustainable fashion space is a way of paying tribute to my ancestors, who lived sustainably for centuries. The more I learn about how POC have been and are still sustainable the more empowered I've felt and the more inspired I feel to be part of the representation of WOC in sustainability, choosing fashion as my medium. I feel if we empower and support each other especially when it comes to speaking out against the fashion industry, the slow fashion industry included, the industry will realize we're not just a minority group that they can gloss over anytime they are insensitive to our cultures or disregard human rights. I am South African (Tswana) and Japanese.” - Masego Morgan, Ethical fashion and lifestyle blogger
“As a Black American woman of Caribbean & Native American descent, it’s important to me to be able to honor & share the story of my ancestors. With nearly two decades as a creative director & designer for multi-national denim brands, I’ve often found that I was tasked with formulating a story of a denim consumer that I didn’t wholeheartedly identify with. For Oak + Acorn - Only for the Rebelles, I feel it is my purpose to derive a brand with an ethos rooted in an authentic history of the American jean founded in the birthplace of American Black culture, Harlem, NY. WOC have been influencing American culture since the beginning of time - through art, music, social, political & ecological movements, I believe there’s a unique opportunity for us to lead in the sustainable fashion space by using our expertise & innate creativity within brands historically supported & influenced by us.” - Miko Underwood - Founder of Oak & Acorn (1st sustainable denim brand in Harlem, spiritual artist, consulting creative director for branding & content
“We can no longer accept tokenistic attempts by sustainable brands who include WOC front and centre in ad campaigns, when these are not the voices leading the way in the business of fashion and in decision making roles. It’s time for WOC to take front and centre; the industry needs to be broken down, with its foundations rebuilt in a system that doesn’t oppress black and brown Women - an institutionalised form of racism from our colonial past. The way forward is through elevating the voices of WOC in business, media, marketing and leadership; as editors, writers, activists, influencer’s, CEO’s and beyond. We can have more agency by setting the tone for the industry, speaking out when actions are discriminatory and creating our own work through our respective platforms and foundations.” - Natalie Shehata - Sustainable stylist & secondhand fashion advocate / Founder/ EIC of Tommie Magazine
“The spirit of being an Asian-American Woman in sustainable fashion lies in the opportunity to share perspective. More perspective will allow this industry to move forward.” - Natasha Halesworth, Founder of The Consistency Project, second-hand advocate
“As Black women in America, we are constantly intended to live in a state of self-hatred despite being the original creators and innovators. It's a piece of my personal passion to remind us of who we are and where we come from so we can reclaim our essence -- in fashion and all other aspects. As a collective, the more we encourage and support one another, the higher heights we will reach. Promote each other, collaborate with each other, hire each other.” - NayMarie, Founder of Taji Magazine (Elevating Black Brands, Narratives & Imagery)
“As a Black woman (Nigerian/American parents) in sustainable fashion, I hope to represent and share the platform with the many who don't have a platform. I am a stand-in for the women who make clothes and deserve a living wage. I am a stand-in for those who live near landfills, or near water polluted by dyes and chemicals. My strategy with Custom Collaborative is to develop, model, and advocate for systems -- like our worker owned cooperative -- and practices -- like using upcycled textiles -- that make living wages and clean water the norm for all women and all communities.” - Ngozi Okaro, Founder of Custom Collaborative (Non-profit for women artisans from low-income & immigrant communities)
“The beauty in being a woman of colour in this space is the opportunity to be able to affect change and be a voice for other women of colour. Being Indian, we are starting off with trying to make changes in how Indian fashion and design are perceived internationally. India's place and contribution to the garment and fashion industry is not just as locations for factories for fast fashion brands. Our traditional textiles, handloom and handicrafts techniques are part of our pride and heritage which is unique to our country and so beautifully made. At the end of the day, the more diversity any industry has, the more voices it can nurture and take into account, making the required changes possible mainly towards being inclusive and respecting varied points of view equally.” - Nivi Murthy, Founder of IKKIVI - online shop for stylish sustainable fashion made in India
“When I first started off in this industry, which wasn't long ago, I felt shunned for not being as educated or financially stable to support the brands "I was suppose to in order to be sustainable." So for me, being a WOC spiritually in this space, I want to destigmatize this idealism that is attached to the word "sustainability." I believe us WOC need to be more unapologetic when it comes to this industry and not be afraid to call out.” - Reza Cristián- Founder of Sustain (Ethical media site), Slow Factory liaison
“Through my experiences and exposure as a Muslim woman of South Asian origin living in the U.S., I saw how transformative it was for a women to have her own paycheck; the ability to earn money can dramatically impact power dynamics between sexes and create a lasting sense of self-confidence. As a result, I decided to spend the last few years focused on the economic empowerment of disenfranchised women. Through my experiences, I've learned that the degradation of the Earth impacts people in poverty the most - the advancement of people in need and preservation of the Earth should be deeply interconnected.” - Saara Hafeez - Co-Founder of ALTRD (empowering immigrant women & refugees)
“As a Mexican-Salvadoran-America in this conscious fashion realm, I can help bridge the gap that exists between sustainable fashion and diversity and inclusion. As collective we can help empower and encourage those that have been sitting in the back to come up and take a seat, front and center. Together we can be louder.” - Sally Garcia, Slow fashion & thrift fashionista and low waste advocate
“Not only am I a woman of color, I'm also an immigrant. A large number of the women working in fashion in America in positions that don't have decision-making power are immigrant women. I feel responsible as an immigrant to speak on issues that impact immigrant women in ways that empower us and seek to ensure that our voices are not neglected. We can have more agency in this space by advocating for more WOC to be in leadership positions within the industry, whether it be at fashion houses, as entrepreneurs or as voices in the media.” - Tabitha St. Bernard - Founder of Sustainable fashion brand Tabii Just /Youth Initiative Coordinator of the Women's March on Washington
“I’m the daughter of Indian immigrants and an ethical fashion designer and retailer. I have spent much of my career in India on factory floors and working alongside textile artisans. I bet anyone reading this has a garment in their wardrobe made in South Asia. In India alone, there are 55 million apparel workers, a population larger than most countries in Europe, and more than half are women. Although women of color are integral to the supply chain, and the textiles and motifs appropriated from their countries help run the global design machine, we rarely see them speaking on sustainable fashion panels or in leadership positions at ethical fashion brands. There is power in numbers, and a WOC sustainable fashion collective will bring voice and consciousness to our contributions and existence in this space.” - Swati Argade - Founder & Creative director of Bhoomki - sustainable fashion retail destination
“Being a WOC in the sustainable fashion space means I'm representing a part of my culture in our fight for a better environment. It means I'm playing a role in educating other POC and standing as an example that we too can be involved.” - Tania Arrayales, Second-hand sustainable style maven/ climate and fashion activist
“Being a WOC in sustainable fashion means bringing diversity to the conversation, and developing solutions that integrate many different cultures, values, and goals. As WOC, we often hold many identities and bridge many communities & generations, so we understand that sustainability comes in many colors and doesn't have to look like all the other "hygge" eco / ethical examples. We, as a collective, can democratize sustainable fashion to disrupt the status quo in the industry. Many of us grew up dressing to assimilate, or to hide a part of us that we didn't feel would be accepted. Now it's time to share what we know about empowerment through sustainable fashion!” - Terumi Murao, 100% secondhand wardrobe stylist / model /creative director
“My personal style is being a 90s baby who has travelled to 47 countries and lived in more than seven cities in my short life. I believe style and fashion can be used for positive appropriation, as a way to understand / respect / acknowledge other cultures and experiences. While I support sustainable fashion, I believe conscious consumption is only useful if it is undergirded by holding companies accountable for their degradation of our environment and exploitive labor practices. Thrifting and clothing swaps are my go to, in addition to helping enforce corporate regulation. The fashion industry has an opportunity to shift oppressive and wasteful supply / demand practices. We can push for this shift. Environmental justice is being led by WOC. It is centered in equity and creates alternative futures. My intention is to take space, create space and reflect my values in my personal style.” - Teju Adisa-Farrar, Writer and strategist at Earth Justice
“As a WOC, I see sustainable fashion as a celebration of our power to inspire others, regardless of color, to live a conscious lifestyle. Together this planet is our home, our community, our responsibility. and how can we as a collective have more agency in this space. It starts with each of us - we model living a conscious lifestyle first before we claim the power to inspire others to do the same.” - Tess Tiaba, Founder of Love Stories Bali/ creating eco-schools in Bali / an indigenous love advocate
“As a Nigerian-American, I am quite aware that sustainability industry is overwhelmingly beige, which can lead people to believe that Black people don't care about these types of issues. In my role as a fashion philanthropist, I'm find it empowering to fashion to empower and uplift our communities. I believe fashion has a philanthropic side that can help us connect with more people to do more good.” - Timi Komonibo, Founder of style lottery, a non profit sustainable fashion / fashion philanthropy
“Being a woman of color in sustainable fashion means that I have a responsibility to my ancestors and to our planet to make sure that systemic fuckery isn't being perpetuated by those who are often removed from the adverse effects of unethical and unsustainable practices (colonization and de jure/de facto racism) founded on the exploitation of those whose communities are inevtiablly and disproportionately affected by these practices. It means that I have a responsibility to identify and eradicate the effects of racism and colonization from my own life, which requires me to grapple with my own trauma in a healthy way so I can help other people of color make healthier, sustainable consumption decisions. We can collectively have more agency in this space by actually understanding the diversity of thought and culture within communities of color and have (uncomfortable) conversations so that we can leverage our collective strengths to create solutions that are FOR US BY US, instead of perpetuating divisions. Our planet needs all of our help.” - Whitney R. McGuire, creative lawyer & co-founder of sustainable brooklyn / sustainable fashion advocate
“Being a WOC in sustainable fashion means making choices that not only support the environmental integrity of our planet, but also supporting other WOC in this space. There are many different forms of sustainability, and I try to focus on environmental and economic sustainability with all the purchases I make. As a Sustainable/Ethical influencer, I try to use my platform to encourage other to make ethical, thoughtful choices in their purchases, and also discuss how our cultural identities help us develop personal style and connections within our communities. We as a community have tremendous power, both with our dollars and through collective action, and it is important for us to uplift and support each other.” - Zarina Citlali Guerrero, Ethical fashion & lifestyle blogger
This is by no stretch of imagination is an exhausting list … in fact this only barely begins to scratche the surface. This article is simply to let you know that we are here and there’s work to be done!