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August 17, 2020 3 min read

As the fashion industry reflects on the current calls for systemic change, consumers are questioning brands’ eco-credentials and if they fall short on advocating for social justice. Find out what intersectionality means for us and why labels can’t rightly call themselves sustainable without being inclusive.

Since starting Verse in 2016, we have been engaging, and learning every day about how our choices impact the people and the planet. Whilst curating our first collections, the struggle was real. In 2016 we were at the start of the curve and apart from some household names (think Patagonia, and People Tree) we found it really hard to find designers and brands that were in line with our values as well as aesthetics. In the years to follow the increase in brands and designers trying to put their stamp on sustainability has been in the 1000's. Literally check the Verse inbox on a daily basis and be inspired by product PDF's coming from all around the world. 

While we have been laying our core foundational values on vegan alternatives, ethical product, recycled product, sustainable product and eco friendly product, our initial feeling is that we perhaps have been spending a lot of time making the switch to organic cotton and drawing attention to fabrics rather than acknowledging the communities of colour who experience injustices as a direct result of the industries processes including fashions huge contribution to landfill. 

The turbulence that 2020 has brought has taken a sleeping giant issue and reignited it and we find ourselves amidst a wind of change. 

 

environmentalists for black lives matter

 

What is intersectional environmentalism and the fashion industry ? 

We need to build links - intersections between movements against all kinds of oppression. 

If we wish to save the planet, we cannot be silent in the face of injustice: the path to sustainability and the route to liberation are two tracks on the same dirt road. We have seen fashion brands come into massive scrutiny this year, and effectively be "cancelled" due to being committed to ecological yet be faced with internal and external race and ethical complaints. Climate activist Green Girl Leah ( @greengirlleah) has essentially defined intersectional environmentalism as "an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of the people and the planet"

The movement is identifying that marginalised communities and people of colour are often not even included in the conversation. yet are the most vulnerable to negative environmental impacts. In the fashion industry the way it operates now is definitely benefitting the elite whilst harming people of colour in black and brown communities. 

In the case of fast fashion ---- most of it will end up dumped in a landfill in a third world country, not here in our own nations. It affects those most at risk of climate change, pollution, on top of limited access to human rights such as medical care, and clean water. Even in wealthier countries people of colour work in the most polluted areas such as garment workers in L.A. 

A lot of brands turned towards Instagram to show solidarity for Black Lives Matter, but many people quickly jumped on collective bandwagons questioning real inward questions and uncomfortable truths within these large companies and brands. There is a failure to address injustices happening in their own supply chains. Just because a worker gets a paid minimum or fair wage, does not mean that there are many other injustices happening and a regime in place where power is not evenly distributed. 

In our own reality and truth, we also faced some question marks that festered since the Covid-19 pandemic showed some harsh truths about some brands that we have supported over time. During this time we have been really caught up in marketing campaigns, sustainability growing as a whole, and i guess never felt the need to really question the diversity, inclusion and intersectional values of brands and designers we stock. 

Its a time to recheck, re- evaluate, re-connect with our community, our values and our intersection between environment and inclusion. 

The environmental movement IS very white, we want to address that and offer an alternative and more inclusive platform where people of colour also feel welcome, heard and matter. Check out the Intersectional Environmentalistfor more information and resources.