At first, I had come to believe that the core of the sustainable fashion movement was conscious consumption. Common sustainable fashion slogans like ‘Vote With Your Dollar’ often fueled problematic ideas of how one holds power. But more importantly, who could hold power.
I come from a low-income, immigrant family. We’ve always been sustainable in practice, because of class and cultural standards. For us, sustainability wasn’t just a consumer choice, it was a lifestyle: thrifting (before it became fetishized), hand-me-downs, tailoring, and mending skills are norms to prolong the life of our clothing.
Yet, the sustainable fashion movement has been rebranded, reintroduced, and recontextualized as a consumer act, one that is often limited to those who can afford it. It leads me to wonder: Who gets to represent the movement of sustainability?
Today, my mission as a sustainable fashion blogger is to reorient who gets to lead this movement. Diversifying the voices of sustainable fashion isn’t just to elicit the cosmetic role of “inclusion,” but also to diversify the modalities through which we understand what sustainability looks like.
Beyond just talking about the plight of garment workers globally, I decided to draw my efforts to support the resistance of garment workers in Los Angeles, a largely undocumented workforce, whose immigration status is often weaponized in order to prevent them from speaking out.
Beyond just sharing the next ethically made must-have of the season, I decided to create content about opting out of a culture that makes you feel like you constantly need to buy more– and understanding your personal style beyond trends.
And while I still work with luxury sustainable fashion labels, the majority of them are BIPOC- owned, addressing the need to create solutions that understand the context of regional issues and can present aesthetics that honor cultural craft rather than appropriate it.
At face value, sustainable fashion is a well-intentioned industry that is looking to create a market where labor is fairly compensated and the environment is considered. However, it’s important to question the forces at play to make sustainable fashion an alternative market. After all, why are ethics a differentiator rather than a baseline in the fashion industry?
If sustainable fashion exists to challenge the way the fashion industry has operated, then it must go beyond just the considerations of human labor and the environment and interrogate who has been able to exercise true agency. It’s a conversation tied to class, gender, and race.
We can’t expect to fix a problem with the same culture that has created it.