Hi friends and lovely readers! Today, I’m talking about something that’s been weighing on my mind since I started this blog: sustainable and ethical fashion’s diversity problem.
The sustainable and ethical fashion community is so wonderful and full of awesome, creative, and thoughtful folks, but it’s also not that diverse. And while I think this space is generally more progressive and cognizant of social issues than the rest of the fashion industry, sustainable and ethical fashion that doesn’t include people of color isn’t as revolutionary as it could be.
I’m also excited to introduce you to a brand that’s addressing fashion’s diversity problem head-on: Proclaim! But first, let’s talk about why we need more POC in sustainable and ethical fashion.
Why does diversity in fashion matter?
The fashion industry is overwhelmingly white, and sustainable and ethical fashion is no exception.
For the Fall 2017 season, only 27.9% of models in New York, London, Paris, and Milan shows were women of color. And in Spring 2017, only 24.5% of models in fashion ads were women of color.
As a woman of color, the consequences of underrepresentation in fashion, and media in general, took a very real toll as I grew up. Models, celebrities, and other high-profile consumers and creators of fashion are the faces of beauty in our culture, and growing up with beauty standards that I quite literally could never achieve was tough. At the age of five, I had already internalized a ton of these Euro-centric standards; I clearly remember wanting blue eyes and blonde hair because I thought those features defined beauty.
Over time, there’s been a lot of progress. It’s been amazing to see more women of color as runway models, actresses, and fashion and beauty bloggers. As I’ve grown older, my perception of beauty has changed to include women of color and women who look like me, thanks to progress in representation! But it’s still not representative, and the sustainable and ethical fashion space also feels extremely non-inclusive to me.
Why is diversity particularly important in sustainable and ethical fashion?
In sustainable and ethical fashion, the consequences of this lack of diversity extend beyond beauty standards. Most of the sustainable and ethical fashion bloggers and business owners I know are white, and while I admire and respect this amazing community, I think the lack of representation makes conscious consumerism feel very white and inaccessible.
It’s in sustainable and ethical fashion where I feel that women of color need to be not only included, but centered, the most. After all, the people whom fast fashion exploits are textile and garment workers, most of whom are women of color. The environmental damage of fast fashion also disproportionately affects the health and livelihoods of low income communities of color.
When communities of color don’t feel included in sustainable and ethical fashion spaces, it can prevent people of color from participating in movements that ultimately help their own communities, and it can also lead to some pretty unethical practices (see Reformation’s possibly racist and classist marketing and Stella McCartney’s cultural appropriation).
Having more people of color in the industry can help shift the narrative from sustainable and ethical fashion as a way for white people and people with class privilege to “do good,” to sustainable and ethical fashion as a way to empower and support communities of color.
Side note: For more of my thoughts of diversity in fashion, read my interview with AWEAR! Mag (a sustainable and ethical fashion magazine founded by an awesome woman of color!!).
Proclaim makes eco-friendly bralettes which challenge the fashion industry’s narrow definition of “nude.” The bralettes are made from recycled water bottles and (so far) come in three nude shades, all named after inspiring and powerful women of color.
Founder Shobha Philips says she started Proclaim because “the nude revolution is long overdue. As a woman with brown skin, I’ve always been aware of a color called “nude” that didn’t include me in its narrow definition. It was frustrating trying to find a bra that matched my skin tone to wear under a white dress or lightweight top. In talking with other women, it became clear that I was not alone in this feeling and I decided to do something about it.
We want bras that are better — ethically made and inclusively designed. Proclaim is expanding the definition of nude by celebrating real women. We’re making bras you can feel good in and feel good about.”
Um, I know, she’s amazing!
Awesome, but how did you like your bralette???
I received the lightest shade named after the incredible Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.
I’ll be honest: Initially, the price point at $68 a bralette threw me off. I don’t think I’ve ever paid over $30 for a bralette before!
But once I put it on, the quality, comfort, and support made the price a lot more palatable, especially when you consider the fact that it was made sustainably and ethically, and that you’re supporting a small WOC-run business.
ALSO, your girl is looking out for ya and snagged you $15 off your purchase at Proclaim! Just use ‘CAT15’ at checkout.
If you’re on the bustier side, you’ll absolutely love how supportive these bralettes are! I am pretty sure this bralette is more supportive than some of my sports bras, and I could see myself wearing it to yoga class (although the plunge neckline may make inversions a little risky).
I am a 34C and am wearing a small, which fit nicely, although the plunge neckline made the risk of spillage pretty real…I think a medium would provide more coverage. I’m not complaining, though, because this bralette is very, very flattering.
If you’ve tried Girlfriend Collective, the material is really similar to theirs (also made from recycled water bottles) in stretch, supportiveness, and softness.
Obviously, with only three shades, not everyone will find their nude. I definitely didn’t. But it’s two more shades than we can usually choose from, and it’s made sustainably and ethically. Plus, I think the colors look beautiful regardless of whether or not they match your skin tone. I’m hoping they come out with more shades in the future!
Don’t forget to check out Proclaim and use ‘CAT15’ for $15 off your purchase!
Glasses: Warby Parker Abbott glasses in Heritage Bronze
Bralette: Proclaim bralette in Frida
Jeans: Weekday mom jeans; similar (see another way I styled them)
Cardigan: bought secondhand at a vintage market in Cape Town…full of holes and sentimental value :’)
Disclosure: I was gifted product in exchange for an honest review and this post may contain affiliate links. No amount of money or product is worth more than my relationship with you, and I strive to provide transparent and honest content.