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Essay
What I Learned As An Ethical Fashion Ambassador
01-15-16
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Shooting sustainable styles from Ethica for Columbia and Barnard’s student-run fashion magazine, Hoot. Photos by Liora Fishman. 

Hey, there. I’m Liora, and I’m Ethica’s campus ambassador at Barnard College, infiltrating the student community with my sustainable fashion agenda.

What have I been up to, you ask? Well, to start, I’ve spent most of my recent Fridays on my laptop in the Ethica office, configuring web content for the Stories section of our website, learning from co-founders Melissa and Carolina, and petting the team mascot, Jack. If I’m not formatting pieces written by our contributors, I’m probably writing the content myself. More specifically, I recapped NYFW with an ethical shoe slant, wrote a navigable ethical leather guide for the shoppers who don’t have time to translate the typical ethical fashion jargon (that’s our job), and interviewed designer sibling duo Delikate Rayne.

In my quest to better educate myself and others, I found myself at ethical fashion events around campus and New York City over the past few months. I attended an Everlane Room Service event to check out their display of shoes–as well as to explore how they define transparency. What I learned is that their commitments are different than the philosophy at Ethica. While the company discloses a great deal relative to its pricing, there is room for far greater transparency regarding the wages of their workers and sourcing of materials. That said, I do applaud them for using vegetable-tanned leathers, and I’d be thrilled to see them move toward upcycled and sustainable vegan options as well.

Is Everlane ethical fashion? I went to ask the question. One thing's for sure, though: they make beautiful shoes!

Thanks to my efforts, sustainable styles from Ethica will also be making an appearance in Hoot magazine, the Barnard and Columbia fashion magazine. Their most recent issue focused on “origins”–and what better way to speak to that theme than knowing exactly where your clothes came from? The clothes I pulled for the shoot are from Pima Doll. I got an all-access pass to the photo shoot, traipsing around the Lower East Side with the Hoot editorial and creative teams to see how they’d incorporate their Pima Doll picks.

A behind-the-scenes look at the Hoot magazine shoot. 

When I’m not actively promoting Ethica and sustainable fashion, I’m probably sleeping. Just kidding. I do other things. But it’s not an exaggeration to say that I’m almost always wearing something from Ethica (Litke is my second skin, Angela · Roi carries all my belongings, and I like to cozy up in a Carleen sweatshirt), or that I am constantly talking about sustainable fashion to my friends–those who care about it and, more importantly, the ones who don’t. The latter are my targets, in a sense–the people I’d like to convert to ethical fashion believers. Because once you know the damage the fast fashion industry does to the environment, and once you’re clued in on the harrowingly real conditions in most factories, you can’t go back. Fast fashion becomes illogical and unsettling. There’s no easy way to turn a blind-eye to the environmental and social impact of this industry. If I can plant a seed in the back of someone’s mind that encourages him or her to, at the very least, think about the power he or she has as a consumer and the choices he or she makes, I consider it a success. 

Working at Ethica hasn’t been much of a work process at all–it’s transcended that by a long shot. It’s changed the way I shop, the way I think, and the ways in which I use my money. My dreams of shopping sprees have been replaced by that of capsule closets and artisan-made heels (more specifically, the peep-toe Alden booties by Bhava).

My ambassadorship and internship have come to a close, but Ethica isn’t the kind of place that’s going to be “out of sight, out of mind.” Consumerism is ever present, so ethical fashion is ever relevant. Don’t worry, ethical fashion friends (and those I’ve yet to convert)–you’ll be hearing from me.
 

Liora Fishman is an editorial intern at Ethica. She is studying English at Barnard College in New York City.