I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, around family that ran clothing factories. Early on, I understood the power of fashion to lift a generation of women out of poverty.

The fashion supply chain is one of the few industries that employs mostly womenSo first and foremost fashion to me is a way to create jobs with dignity that empower women.

Fashion is an extension of our identity.

It’s how we signal our values to the world. I was working within the UN system on improving garment factories when Rana Plaza fell down. It was the biggest industrial disaster of our time where over 1,100 people lost their lives. I watched the footage with growing horror and felt that we as consumers had to rise up to say no more.

Photo: Financial Times. At the site of Rana Plaza’s collapsed building, a soldier prays.

Because today fashion despite being an enormously profitable industry is an industry that’s exploitative. The CEO of Zara, Amancio Ortega’s net worth is $84.4 billion. We in America spend $6.9 billion annually on our clothes. To lift garment makers’ wages to a living wage, consumers would only need to pay just $1 more on a $20 t-shirt.

To me fashion is about activism.

Yael Aflalo, Founder and CEO of Reformation #humansoffashion puts it best:

Photo: Fashionista

“It’s not only our job to provide beautiful, limited-edition clothing to women around the world, but also to let our consumers know how much power they can have in the fight against traditional fashion practices.”

So does Eileen Fisher, fashion designer #humansoffashion:

Photo: Fast Company

“For me, it is about simplicity. If it is simple, it can be worn in over time in multiple ways.”

“What is fashion to me?” originally appeared on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

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