Dive into the slow fashion movement across brands, digital publications and summits and you’ll see that the faces we’ve seen have been almost exclusively white women. Yet our sisters on the other side of the fashion supply chain, the maker, is Mexican, Sri Lankan, Cambodian and Haitian, to name a few. So why the cultural divide? Mikaila Brown from The Common Thread Project aptly states:
“The imaging of these products and their makers are often steeped in typical tropes of developed and developing, third world and first world, global north and global south. Monolithic archetypes of poor, brown women unable to provide for their families and largely dependent on white patronage for survival plague representations within the sustainable fashion space.”
While it is encouraging to see the swell of activism around sustainable fabrics and more circular systems, there’s a bleak reality: that the fashion industry is built on an institutionalized form of racism inherited from a colonial past, on the oppression of black and brown women.
When we focus on our movement as a human centered movement, powered by women of color globally, we can move beyond discussions of circularity and into the creation of jobs with dignity. Cat Chiang from Restitchstance continues,
having more people of color in the industry can help shift the narrative…to sustainable and ethical fashion as a way to empower and support communities of color.
We couldn’t agree more. Celebrating diversity in the industry on both ends of the supply chain, we’ve curated a list of sustainable brands and retailers founded and run by women of color. Check them out and share on.
Founder Saloni Shrestha has lived all over the world but has settled down in Los Angeles with her ethical fashion brand. Her travels have inspired her to think of the impact her pieces have on the environment and those who help to develop them. By working closely with artisans and designing responsibly, she has been able to design garments that you can only find at AGAATI.
Based in New York City, founder Aurora James works transparently with artisans throughout Africa to create distinctive footwear that crosses cultures. Transparency is key here. Brother Vellies is an open book about their processes and aims to provide African styles while also supporting artisans through job security.
Alicia Lai founded her company in 2005 combining her professional background in podiatry and passion for veganism. Her cruelty-free footwear is both stylish and practical. Bourgeois Boheme is based in London, and Alicia and her team work with artisans in Peru to produce noteworthy shoes for men and women.
American born founder Swati Argade began her fashion career in South India. She was excited about handmade clothing she found while overseas and soon created her own collections. After some time Swati became committed to building a brand that put the planet first. Today, Bhoomki curates a variety of easy-wearing sustainable brands, helping New Yorkers and online shoppers find high-quality ethical finds.
After huge success in celebrity styling – styling Black Eyed Peas, Lil Wayne and more – Dechel McKillian founded Los Angeles based retailer Galerie.LA to make a positive change in the industry. At her shop, you get a carefully curated selection of high quality essentials and funky add-ons, helping you shop your values.
Co-founders Catalina Girald and Gina Rodriguez met by chance through an advertising project and bonded over their joint passions for female empowerment, body positivity, and giving back. Fast friends, the duo created the brand Naja to fulfill the market gap of eco-friendly intimates that provide opportunities to women makers globally.
Cover Photo: Thought Catalog/Unsplash