Inclusivity within the ethical fashion & lifestyle industry
Words by Isabelle Landicho
Ethical fashion and living mindfully is important to me, as is diversity and inclusivity. However, one could argue that there is a lack of representation within the industry. This could be due to a number of reasons; economic, social and political. But I am an advocate of living with respect for the earth across race, gender and your bank account. I am aware that this may come with its costs and everyone’s price range varies, but there are ways in which everyone can live more mindfully.
When it comes to clothes shopping one could buy from charity and vintage stores, you scour eBay and Depop, save up to invest in staple pieces from ethical brands. Some high street retailers are making conscious efforts to be more ethically responsible, it’s not the end of the world if you pick up the odd few pieces as long as you make them last and are responsible with what you do with them after use. Simple ways in which we can be more ethical is to refuse plastic bags when food shopping and bring your own instead, frequent the greengrocers to avoid plastic covered produce, invest in a keep cup or reduce your meat consumption. For easy environmentally friendly swaps for your home read my article on Easy zero waste swaps.
What I’m getting at is that the movement is for everyone. To reflect this, it would be empowering to see more diversity within casting and campaigns in eco- fashion and lifestyle, also if there were more POC owned businesses within the industry- from my research there appears to be more POC owned brands in the US than in Europe. I know we are still at the start of our journey, yet I believe that more representation and inclusivity can lead to a shift in attitude from people across all walks of life. In this article I will be featuring some of my favourite conscious brands across the globe that champion diversity and are owned by people of colour. The movement is important, it’s also equally important that we don’t alienate people in the process.
Virginutty is a London based independent coconut oil brand, founded by my good friend Melissa Legarda. The brand “empowers you to adopt nature into your daily self-care ritual” and is inspired by our homeland the Philippines. Virginutty coconut oil is vegan, cruelty and paraben free, sustainably produced, fair trade and 100% organic. Even the packaging is recyclable, it is bottled with glass and the labels are created from food waste. Their mission statement is lovingly centered around giving back: “We want to give back. To the Philippines, to the farmers, and to the earth. We founded this brand with socially conscious visions for the future - including supporting grassroots agricultural charities”.
2) Selva Beat
I was immediately drawn to Austin, Texas based environmental magazine and online platform Selva Beat because of HOW CUTE it is, ethical fashion has a certain rep that Selva Beat revokes with its charming aesthetic. The magazine takes environmentalism and places it in “the context of your favorite topics – beauty, fashion, culture, food, sex, love – to make activism as accessible and engaging as possible.” Selva Beat is fresh and of the moment and is an inspiration on how to make sustainability fun and relatable to the younger generation. One of my favourite articles is “How I buy sustainable fashion and still pay rent”.
Aditi Mayer is an ethical fashion blogger and photographer with a massive online following. What I like about Aditi is that she is one of the few women of colour within the industry. Her blog is not only great for eco- brand recommendations but also brings forth thought provoking articles such as “The ethics of inclusion” and “Privilege and power imbalances within ethical fashion”. Aditi offers a fresh and nuanced perspective that other ethical influencers cannot, her point of view as a woman of colour within an industry that at times lacks representation is important. I hope that the popularity of Adimay is a sign of things to come and sparks the movement of diverse voices, stories and narratives within ethical fashion.
4) Brother Vellies
Founded by Brooklyn- based Aurora James, Brother Vellies is an ethical footwear and accessories brand with a difference. Beautiful crafted and incredibly chic, each item is handmade in South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Morocco with the goal of “introducing the rest of the world to traditional African footwear and creating and sustaining artisanal jobs within Africa”. I commend the brand on its transparency and sustainability practices, the leather and animal skins they use are byproducts from the edible food industry in South Africa and Kenya, leather offcuts from production are even used to make their own line of children's shoes.
5) Most Prominent Co.
A streetwear brand worth the hype. Most Prominent Co is founded by two inspirational women of colour and operate within a circular business model. Put simply, you send them your pre- loved clothes using a prepaid shipping label, they repurpose the garments and sell them with 15- 20% of the sale donated to a non- profit or organisation of your choosing. I love how inventive this is. Moreover, the brand is current, it features cool graphics and their slogan tees actually represents the cause they read: kill fast fashion.
SORA is a gorgeous lifestyle brand that sells multi-functional towels from 85% post-consumer plastic bottles. They are lightweight, compact, absorbent, and can also be placed on top of yoga mats – not to mention they are incredibly stylish. The bottles are collected, cleaned and crushed into flakes which are made into pellets extruded into a yarn for the fabric to make the towels. It takes about 8 bottles to make each piece, so that’s 8 bottles your saving from littering the planet. Every part of SORA’s business model is taken to account, the wrap that encases the towel is made from recycled wheat straws and even their business cards are fashioned from recycled paper.
Proclaim is a nude lingerie brand challenging what the word nude entails. Their campaigns feature a cast of ethnically diverse women of all body types and caters to a shade of nude for each of them. As a woman of colour, I celebrated upon discovering Proclaim as it is often quite difficult for me to find my shade of nude on the high street. Not only are they inclusive, their bras are made from 100% post- consumer plastic bottles and are made in Los Angeles their factories adhering to strict Californian labour standards.
WKNDLA is a beautiful, modernist small- scale jewellery brand from Los Angeles. Each piece is hand- made to order in their LA studio using certified nickel- free raw metals from the U.S, and their packaging is 100% recycled. WKNDLA is also committed to supporting the local and global community, a portion of all sales are donated to causes that “help create a kinder, more sustainable future” such as L.A. Kitchen and the Plastics Ocean Foundation.
AAKS is a brand founded by a Ghanaian native and former Londoner, the brand specialises in bags made using the craft of hand- weaving. Local artisans from a small village in Northern Ghana spend about a week crafting each piece using traditional weaving methods passed down generationally. Each hand bag is made using ecologically harvested raffia from family farmers in the country, the raffia scraps are even used to construct smaller bags to ensure nothing is wasted. I like how transparent AAKS is, the weavers and members of the company’s small- scale team are featured often in the company blog so you know who exactly is making and benefitting from the purchase of their wares.