I have such a complicated relationship with social media. Since I’ve been on summer break the past few weeks, I’ve been spending more time on it.
I love the ways folks use these online platforms to create unique and engaging content to build meaningful connections with others and to talk about passions and issues important to them. I love it even more when content navigates and tackles the intersections and politics of race, gender, sexuality, and class and other social justice issues. I love content that stays critical of itself as a means for political and personal growth (rather than just profits).
But I’ve noticed that the more time I spend on Instagram or YouTube looking at lifestyle/beauty/fashion content creators, the more I feel this growing need to buy something that a few days ago wouldn’t have crossed my mind as being something absolutely essential in my life. (Marketing doing its thing here.) Sometimes, I also find myself conceding to the pressures of normative standards of beauty that companies and brand ambassadors push. Rather than feeling inspired by content, I compare and consume.
Questioning my individual consumption habits (at the same time that I find ways to stay critical of companies, systems, and structures that ultimately drive and sustain social and economic inequity) has been a process of learning and unpacking.
For my mental well-being and to develop more sustainable and ecofriendly habits, my intentions are to physically consume less when it comes to beauty and fashion. For me to be into “ethical fashion” or “slow fashion” (and to question what those things mean) is to consume things that make me feel good mentally and physically and to consume things that positively impact others and the planet in small and big ways. I definitely recognize it’s not a perfect process and not everyone can participate in it.
I’m trying to cut down in order to make room for things that nurture me, that I find value in.
What are the thoughts that run through your head when you go shopping? When you use social media?
The past few months, I’ve been playing around with old T-shirts, button-ups, and more pieces that I’ve dugged up in my mom and brothers’ closet. I’ve also found old photos of them wearing these same pieces decades ago! Some pieces have a story to them. Others, I’ve created my own, finding nostalgic value in acid wash denim and neon colors. Shopping secondhand or swapping clothes with friends are always good options too.
SHOP SMALL + SLOW |
Ethical fashion isn’t perfect to me. A company that brands themselves as being radical or charitable isn’t necessarily paying their workers livable wages or sourcing sustainable material. Cue the various combinations of ethical standards that companies do or don’t uphold. Companies can always do better in an industry tied up in exploitation and inequity.
As a consumer, sometimes I shop at small vendors knowing that their standards of manufacturing, sourcing, etc aren’t perfect. But I do my best to support small businesses owned and/or worked by families, immigrants, and working class folks. I love hearing the stories behind the people and their shops.
Show love to the places that don’t get all the highlights! All along Broadway and within the swapmeets in Los Angeles Chinatown, you can find the working class and immigrants hustling and making a living. I like buying my sunhats and accessories here. Check out this cool #shopchinatown zine that highlights some of these small shops (and bakeries!):
Basics are my best friend. (Desmond is also my best friend and wears a lot of basics, so I’m also always borrowing his clothes – refer to “borrow” above.) I love buying things that I can wear and use in multiple ways. Pieces like button-downs can be styled in various ways so you’ll likely have it in your closet longer!
SUPPORT POC/WOC |
I’ve noticed that many well-known ethical brands are overwhelmingly owned by White folks but I’d love to support businesses run by people of color and more specifically, women of color! Some of my most recent purchases from ethical WOC-shops include:
A fairly new company started by Amy Lownes who grew up in Thailand and works with artisans in Thailand to create beautiful accessories such as hair bows, jewelry, and bags. I love how Arada centers the labor and the stories of the Hmong women who make and embroider these pieces from quality materials. All profits currently go towards buying new sewing machines!
I love that the limited pieces are made from deadstock fabric that Angela Sison finds when she travels. Everything is produced in Sison’s mother’s small family-ran factory in the Philippines.
I have their Sarah Shorts, Alyssa Boxy Top in chambray, and striped Alexis Skirt.
New Classics Studios is an online shop of sustainable goods curated by Alyssa Lau – a good option if you can afford it! Someone I just discovered and love is Hoda Katebi’s JooJoo Azad. Not a shop, but a super badass online platform “dedicated to the integration of ethical fashion and activism through an anti-capitalist, intersectional-feminist, lens” and that “focuses on exploring the intersections of fashion and social justice as a means of challenging Orientalism and mainstream beauty standards”. (!!!) It’s everything I wanted and more.