Why we need more POC in sustainable and ethical fashion! ft. Proclaim

Why we need more POC in sustainable and ethical fashion

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!!).

About Proclaim

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!

Outfit details:

Glasses: Warby Parker Abbott glasses in Heritage Bronze
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.

27 thoughts on “Why we need more POC in sustainable and ethical fashion! ft. Proclaim”

  • I guess I never really thought about the whole “nude” colored thing but that is totally true! It isn’t very diverse…at all! And this is definitely something we all need to think about.

  • Thanks so much for sharing this…I often see “nude” being used as a name for a pale blush from even “progressive” makers, and I wish the ethical fashion world were more inclusive across the board. That Reformation stuff is pretty ugly.

    You look super hot in that bralette!

    • Yes, it’s definitely something that the fashion industry can work on! I think Naja also has a line with lots of shades of nude and it’s pretty amazing.

      Thanks so much!

  • This is so true Cat! I’ve found that, unfortunately, the ethical fashion industry has not (like you said) been a leader in showing a new set of models as we might have hoped, and honestly? Part of me has wanted to start distancing myself from the industry because of the “elitism” that it seems to project. In addition to noticing a lack of diversity in ethnicities, I’ve also noticed a lack of diversity in body sizes. I hope that the industry can really begin to make some changes in these areas! Thanks for being so honest about it! Love you girl!

    • I absolutely agree…I hate that buying ethical is often more of a status symbol than an attempt to do good and address the privilege that we have as people able to participate in conscious consumerism. The lack of size diversity is rampant and so ridiculous…all of these things have made me really frustrated with the industry, making me wonder if sustainable and ethical practices have become more of a marketing gimmick than an honest commitment to creating a better fashion industry. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Ok I am sooo in love with you and this post!!! The entire time I was reading this, my brain was going “Mmhmm… Yes. Yup. YES GIRL. PREACH. Definitely. SO agree.” You did an amazing job with this topic. I love how you opened with why diversity matters in this industry and your supporting facts were ones I definitely didn’t know about. I am in love with this topic and this brand. I’m willing to bet they’ll be expanding their line to include even more colors so I can’t wait to see where this brand goes! So incredible.

    Lots of love, girl! So glad I took the time to read this.

    annabelle | http://www.mixed-hues.com

    • Thank you so much for reading and your kind words! This wasn’t an easy post to write so I’m just really happy it resonated with you! I’ve heard they are working on more color and size options, so I’m really excited to see where they’ll go too.

  • I’m absolutely stunned at those percentages! They definitely need to be higher. I guess I never thought about the ‘nude’ thing either, but it makes so much sense! I think the fashion industry is changing, but not fast enough. This brand gives me hope though. That bralette looks and sounds amazing.

  • There have to be more poc, but also just more diversity in general. I’m a very pale and skinny white girl, and many ethical brands don’t offer clothes that are small enough for my waist or work with my pastry complexionand yes- I understand the ‘nude’ problem. Most ‘nude’ colours are some light tannish peachy colour. For me, a ‘nude’ is freaking ivory. And actual white – which si easy to find- is too light and bright. I think I’ll take a look at the proclaim bralette, the lightest shade seems quit eokay for me.

    Most brands are simply focused on 5’7″ tall, size 36, tan-but-still-fair, blonde woman. It’s sad but it is the way it is. But you know what? I am an art student, am interested in fashion and actually have an idea in my mind of a collection to make.

    • Yep, there aren’t enough options for people who don’t fit into the “standard” body type that the fashion industry makes clothes for. I hope the Proclaim bralette works out for you!

  • Cat I just discovered your blog yesterday and this post almost made me cry. I relate to a lot of your content but especially this post. As a woman of color who hopes to find a career in sustainable fashion it can be really hard to find people to look up to that I feel have this shared experience, But your insights honestly made me realize how important it is that I peruse this thing I’m passionate about and share my knowledge with my community. Thank you so much!

    • Your comment truly touched my heart! Sometimes it feels like I’m just throwing words into the void, but knowing that this post helped you realize that your work is important makes me so happy. I hope you keep doing what you love! You are so needed in this community as a WOC!

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