The #BlackLivesMatter protests occurring globally over the last year, as well as the recent riots at the capitol building have caused a much needed and long overdue examination of businesses and industries which have historically profited off of the exploitation of people of color. As a whole, the fashion industry has come under widespread scrutiny for its lack of black designers, black fashion models, and growth opportunities for black employees. Another major issue that lies within the center of the discussion is the popularity of fast fashion brands. This refers to companies that are able to produce cheap and trendy clothing by cutting costs that negatively impact the environment, factory workers, and eventually, consumers. These companies, which are known to operate in developing nations, shift these burdens onto the local population in order to be able to sell at low cost to predominantly white markets.
At Rafi Nova, we are committed to 100% transparency about the origin of our products. We are a fair trade and ethical company that purchases textiles directly from Hmong artisans in Vietnam, always paying a fair price. We are completely transparent in our intentions to clean, cut and re-purpose materials to make our bags and pouches. The cotton used in our face masks is made from preexisting limited run textiles, and we are currently looking to shift to fabrics made from bamboo. Additionally, the plastic used in our smile mask is made of recycled medical grade plastic. In the wake of severe climate change, as well as an increased attention on human rights, ethical and sustainable fashion has become a buzzword in the question of how to salvage the industry. At Ravi Nova, we are constantly looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint and enact positive change for our communities. One of the largest influences on our business model has been our goal of uniting families around the world and empowering them to create joy and health for their children. Fast fashion directly opposes this goal. Environmental racism refers to the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color. This occurs partly as a result of western businesses outsourcing and subcontracting operations to developing countries and using production models that keep wages and safety standards low.
The fashion industry is frequently cited as one of the world’s largest sources of pollution. Once a fast fashion garment is purchased, it is worn an average of only five times before being disposed of, which results in 85% of the textiles produced yearly ending up in landfills. These fabrics are often made with toxic chemicals and dangerous dyes that are released into the air and water when washed or thrown away. 80% of the garment workers worldwide are women of color, many of whom are subjected to gender violence from male supervisors and do not earn a living wage. This undeniably makes fast fashion an issue affecting both racism and feminism, and we think time is up! Many fast fashion brands have posted messages of solidarity on social media accounts in the last year without taking any concrete action or addressing the problems in their business practices. Activists are calling on shoppers to boycott these brands and vote with their dollars. Essentially, brands cannot claim that black lives matter when the people of color in their supply chains are mistreated, and we as consumers cannot support them without supporting these injustices.In addition to refraining from supporting fast fashion brands, there are many other ways to be involved. The 15% Pledge is a petition you can sign that aims at encouraging major retailers to commit a minimum of 15% of their shelves to black owned businesses. The No New Clothes Pledge challenges signers to be cognizant of their purchases for 90 days in the hopes of building more support for black owned and local businesses. The fashion industry, including ethical fashion, still has an incredibly long way to go, and we are only beginning to pave the way to real change. As always, Rafi Nova welcomes any questions and concerns from our community. Please connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @rafinova_go