7 Sustainable AAPI-Owned Fashion Brands to Support and Shop

Why is responsible fashion important to you and your styling work?

I feel that it’s very much my responsibility, as an active participant in the industry, to leave it a better place than I found it. Collectively, the global fashion industry has a lot of power and impact on society, culture, and the planet. To fail to use that power strategically in a way that would positively benefit the most vulnerable and to reverse the environmental damage that the industry is significantly responsible for would be a tragedy.

What’s the biggest misconception around responsible clothing, in your opinion? 

I think there is a misconception that responsible clothing is expensive. Brands continue to underpay people in the supply chain in order to keep the price of garments low because making clothes cheap motivates people to shop more. Brands have programmed us to think that clothes should be cheap. But making clothes actually requires a lot of time, energy, resources, and expertise and should cost more than we might like it to. 

A T-shirt should cost more than an avocado, for example. An avocado is expected to be used once, twice maybe. A T-shirt should be used hundreds of times. It should last decades if made and cared for correctly. The making of a T-shirt requires that the cotton is grown, picked, woven, dyed, cut, stitched, packaged, and shipped, which is an oversimplification of course, all by human beings who must be paid in order to earn a living to support themselves or their families. The avocado is grown, picked, packaged, and shipped—fewer people work on preparing an avocado to be sold.

We’ve been brainwashed to think it’s normal for a T-shirt to cost $1.75 so that anything higher is perceived as expensive. The price a responsible brand charges us includes paying what is fair to all the skilled people who bring a garment into existence in addition to the costs associated with choosing textiles and processes that are less taxing on the environment. Naturally, this price will be higher. But higher isn’t a bad thing. 

Instead of buying five to six pieces of clothing a month, maybe we should be aiming to buy five to six things a year. As consumers, we need to resist a bit against the brainwashing and work to find contentment to wear what we already own. Buying something new should require saving up and choosing something special that will be worn and cherished for a very long time. 

What are some of your favorite ways to be a conscious fashion consumer? 

More than anything, I love and feel very grateful when I have the opportunity to support BIPOC entrepreneurs. The fashion industry has a history of appropriating wisdom, style, technique, technology, and craft from cultures around the world. It’s time to support the livelihoods of those who continue to provide “inspiration” for an industry that capitalizes off of their ideas year after year. 

What impact does a person have when they shop from a responsible fashion brand?

There is so much good that comes from supporting responsible brands. Number one, we directly support the livelihoods of all people that work throughout the supply chain of the brand. When a brand prioritizes paying fair wages, we know that we are sustaining a living for folks to provide for themselves or their families. Number two, we reduce our impact on the environment. By purchasing something made from hemp, for example, we know that less water is used to grow the hemp. No pesticides are used, so persistent chemicals are eliminated, and at this garment’s end life, it is completely biodegradable, which means no waste. If we buy something secondhand or upcycled, the environmental impact is even further reduced. Plus, we save something from going into the landfill. Lastly, by purchasing from responsible brands, we are, in essence, voting for the kinds of products we want brands to continue to offer. 

Anything you’d like to add about supporting brands owned by the AAPI community? Perhaps why it’s important to you.

Without ethnic, cultural, racial, body, ability, faith, and income diversity, the fashion industry would be boring. Not only is it important to support companies that prioritize people and the planet, but it’s also important to support the people behind the companies that make the industry so inspiring. 


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