As another year comes to an end and the holiday season quickly approaches, in Political Fashion, we are making our wish list for Santa Claus.
This is a list of things that can make the fashion industry more meaningful, fair, welcoming, and sustainable for everybody.
This is a list that we are writing as a reflection of what has worked in the past and what hasn’t gone so well. You see, Santa, the history of clothing is almost as old as the history of humans in this world. There are moments of wanderlust and joy, but there are also turbulent moments that have made it difficult for so many to carry on. Fashion brings joy and empowerment to so many, but for so many others, it brings shame, resentment toward themselves, and a sense of rejection.
So this year, to save us from tears, we want to write to you, Santa, about some specific changes we want to see in fashion next year to have a healthier, more prosperous, and more intimate and authentic relationship with clothing.
Fashion needs to be kind.
Aristotle believed that humans are the only species on the planet to be fully conscious. He suggested humans have rational souls while animals only live with an instinct to survive.
If Aristotle was right, this means that we are fully aware of our actions and intentions. Our rational souls make us aware of how hurtful words can be, how our behaviors can make someone feel insecure, and how invalidating it is for someone to be deprived of having a sense of belonging.
We are conscious when we interact with each other, when we consume fashion, and when we talk about each other’s fashion. But these interactions, as in today, are not always meant to be kind and are often hurtful, diminishing, and mean.
Can we interact with fashion from a place of kindness where we don’t have to talk anyone down (including ourselves) in the process of choosing clothes and dressing up?
If we have all this information about mental wellness, behavioral health, and ways to practice kindness, we carry a strong power within ourselves. We carry this power whenever we speak to someone about their clothes, their new color hair, and the people around us when they are letting themselves be seen through fashion. We can leverage this power to have a positive impact on ourselves and the people around us.
Fashion needs equity.
A prevalent mistake among several fashion companies is having a strong and rushed desire to hire a diverse workforce because they’ve heard it is “the right thing to do.” But when there is not a solid purpose or a specific and genuine desire to make a workplace that has equity for all stakeholders, it ends up doing more harm than if there were no efforts to do anything whatsoever.
It’s very evident how much need there is for fashion equity. We just need to look at how many unsatisfied customers are in the department stores who can’t find their size. We see the need for representation from many cultures, not just during an established awareness month but throughout the year. You see, Santa, Hispanic people are not just Hispanic from September 15 to October 15, the so-called Hispanic Heritage Month. So when fashion brands focus their efforts on equity in a 30-day period, they disregard this community for the rest of the year: Hispanic workers, customers, vendors, and designers.
The same insufficient efforts happen with Pride, Black History, Asian American, Native American, Women, Trans, and so many other underrepresented groups.
This equity that customers, workers, and designers want and need can only be obtained by understanding that these groups have to be represented in the different levels of fashion. From creative jobs to administrative and retail. In the last decade, we have seen several social movements rising due to dissatisfaction with this lack of equity. It is time to move forward here.
Fashion needs to address the climate crisis.
The National Centers for Environmental Information stated there is more than a 99% chance that 2023 will be the warmest year ever on record.
In 2023, we saw the devastating effects of climate change with the thousands of Canadian wildfires, the Hawaii wildfires, and the series of hurricanes getting stronger and harder to predict than ever. Hurricane Otis jumped from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in a matter of 12 hours due to the warm temperature of the water, which gave it major strength quickly. This rapid change didn’t give Acapulco residents time to evacuate and created irreversible effects in the city.
The climate crisis is in front of us. It is making our air gray, polluting our water, destroying cities, and firing up entire communities. It’s more important than ever that we don’t forget how important it is to be mindful of the environmental impact our fashion decisions have. The brands we support, the amount of clothing we buy, and how we get rid of our clothes are all very important to how our future looks in years to come.
Fashion needs to be fair.
A pair of sneakers in the mall, with a price tag of $12, is not worth 12 dollars. That may be what the customer pays to buy and take home. But behind a very cheap price tag, there is underpaid labor somewhere in the world, with factories in questionable conditions and a number of employees working very hard to produce an ambitious number of items in a short period of time.
There’s a low-quality textile dye that has a low monetary price but will pollute the lakes and rivers that take water to marginalized communities somewhere in India, where these inhabitants will consume the water to cover their essential needs and harm their bodies sip after sip.
There are synthetic materials that will break or fade very quickly, making the consumer throw the shoes away within months. The materials will lay on the landfill under the sunlight, releasing harmful toxins that will pollute the air for the next few decades, causing a number of respiratory diseases that keep increasing year after year. (American Lung Association)
Fashion is not fair because the price that a consumer pays at the mall is lower than the price the workers, marginalized communities, and our water, air, and soil are paying.
Fashion can only be fair if customers are more active and verbal about the importance of a brand’s values. For example, in the makeup industry, makeup brands now have to be outspoken about whether they support animal testing and whether the ingredients they use are organic or not. More brands have decided to stay away from animal cruelty practices as customers are actively looking for brands that are proven to be cruelty-free.
Fashion needs more powerful voices to represent people’s needs, thoughts, and concerns.
Many social movements throughout history have had a leader as a main advocate and spokesperson for the movement. With a leader, it’s easier to make a social movement bigger and larger, as one person’s voice echoes the movement and amplifies the message’s reach to be communicated.
We’ve seen this happen successfully with the lead of Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Greta Thunberg. When a social movement has a face and a voice, more people follow and understand what the social movement is all about.
In fashion, we’ve had great leads that amplify messages about what the industry should and should not be.
Aurora James addresses the need for Black representation in retail spaces by giving more space on shelves and displays for black-owned businesses.
Aja Barber is a strong advocate for slow, equitable, and sustainable fashion.
These voices are critical to reach different audiences and communicate the urge and need for change in the fashion industry. Today, influencers carry a lot of power that comes with great responsibility. These voices are very important as we work together for a fair, equitable, and sustainable political fashion world.
Fashion will not see these changes reflected on Christmas morning after Santa distributes gifts for kids around the world. Because in order for us to see these changes reflected to their full potential, we need to help Santa and his elves to make this happen.
In Political Fashion, one of the pillars when creating content is understanding that by making people knowledgeable about something, you are giving them power. Knowledge is power. So whether you are a customer, a retail worker, a designer, a fashionista, an influencer, or a person who wants to know more about fashion, you have the power to help Santa make these changes and any other changes you’d like to see in the fashion world.