These boots were made for stomping fast fashion
Photojournalist, blogger and activist Aditi Mayer is fighting ecologically harmful practices and violations of workers’ rights in the fashion industry
Los Angeles-based blogger, photojournalist and activist Aditi Mayer talked about her mission to change harmful practices in the global fashion industry at this year’s Sustainability Awareness Week.
The 24-year-old, recently profiled in Vogue and Fashion Magazine, is partnering with National Geographic to document India’s damaging fashion supply chain; organizing for the rights of Los Angeles garment workers; teaching her 63 thousand Instagram followers how to look sharp the ethical, eco-friendly way — and she’s doing it in style.
Her work is motivated not only by the desire to see sustainable fashion become commonplace, but also by a dedication to workers’ rights, especially in the marginalized communities that make up most of the textile industry’s employee base. She is a critic of policies that continue colonial-era practices and contribute to racism and sexism, and sometimes a critic of the sustainability movement itself.
If you missed Aditi but are interested in seeing her session recording, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also learn more about her on her blog, ADIMAY.
I caught up with Aditi before her speaker event to discuss her work and ask what she thinks can be done to make the fashion industry more ethical and sustainable.
What have been the biggest contributions you have made, through your journalism and activism, to promoting sustainable, ethically-made fashion?
One of the most important campaigns I have been a part of is helping push the garment worker protection act that creates legal frameworks to ensure garment workers in L.A. are being paid fairly.
I see me working alongside garment workers in L.A. as one of the most important things I’ve done. I say that because I think it’s doing two things. First, it’s building people-power from the bottom up, which I think is key to any movement. But it’s also taking power from the top, because there have been concrete shifts in laws and labour here in L.A., as a direct result of garment worker activism.
Why is this work important to you?
This work is important to me because I think fashion is a vehicle for me to explore culture, identity and our relationship to the environment.
It’s very easy to write off fashion as frivolous. But when we see fashion through the lens of the politics of labour, or the environmental impact of fashion, or how fashion intersects with our cultural identity, it holds a lot more weight. And fashion in many ways is a medium that all of us interact with in the day-to-day. I use it as a tool to break down these larger issues like colonialism and the climate crisis in a more accessible way.
What needs to change for the fashion industry to be more sustainable and ethical?
I think one of the most important shifts we need is a focus on bioregional solutions to the environmental side of fashion. That means looking at specific landscapes and seeing: what is native to this region? What are the traditional artisan practices of this region?
I also think that the fashion industry needs to reorient how it views labor. Fast fashion, which mass-produces trendy clothing at breakneck speeds, has largely made the consumer unaware of who is the labour behind the label. The fashion industry needs to reckon with the labour within its supply chains and compensate them fairly.
How does today’s fashion system continue to contribute to colonialism?
Colonialism is a project that looks to extract resources, whether that’s human labour or the natural environment, as the means for infinite growth and success. The fashion industry is often operating on a similar paradigm, one that exploits human labour, especially from marginalized communities and from the Global South, and in the process degrades those environmental landscapes as well.
If we look at the history of colonialism, a large part of it was tied to the textile industry. The fashion industry was built on a history of colonialism, and it is contributing to neo-colonialism in the way that it seeks to exploit labour around the world as much as it can, as fast as it can, and as cheap as it can.
How has the sustainability movement failed to include marginalized people within its ranks?
The dominant narrative within the sustainability movement has often focused on market-based solutions that looked at buying power rather than the historical context of what causes the climate crisis, which is linked to histories of colonialism and white supremacy. That history is very important to acknowledge.
The sustainability movement can do better by going past this sense of historical amnesia of what has truly caused the climate crisis. In doing that, I think the movement would naturally centre the voices of those most directly affected, which is the BIPOC communities. They need to be centred and seen as the bearers of knowledge of next steps, which is tied to traditional ecological knowledge.
Aditi Mayer can be found online at her blog, ADIMAY, and @aditimayer on Instagram.