Aja Barber is a writer, personal stylist, and consultant whose work focuses on sustainability, ethics, and intersectional feminism. Aja lives in London but is originally from Virginia. Her pronouns are she, her, and they. You can find Aja on Instagram @AjaBarber, and if you wish to support her work, she writes daily posts on Patreon.
What role does clothing play in your life?
"Clothing has the potential to transform my day and state of mind. If I'm not comfortable in my clothes, I won't be comfortable throughout my day. Everyone deserves to wear clothing that fits well and makes them happy. For me, my style changed completely when I reached a point where I realized that I wasn't comfortable with my buying habits. I didn't enjoy how much I was consuming, and it was becoming clear to me that fast fashion is a truly exploitative system on multiple levels. This realization led me to where I am today, writing and speaking on the topic."
Aja is wearing the Clyde Trench in Charcoal Heavyweight Wool size XL, the Long Sleeve Kara Snap Dress in Olive Midweight Linen size XL, and the Clyde Jumpsuit in Black Cotton Canvas (see a similar style) size 2XL-Regular.
How is clothing political to you?
"Whether we're speaking about the rise of the working hero trouser, the blue jean, or the black beret and leather jacket uniform of the Black Panthers, clothing throughout our history has always been and will always be political. You speak to the world through your clothes. It's sometimes a marker of social status (yucky, I know), political affiliation, music taste, counterculture belief—the works. But now more than ever, as we work to transform the fashion industry for the better to reflect the world we want to see, it matters who you support with your dollars and why. Your clothing speaks to that."
As a person who lives within many intersections and within a politicized body, how do your clothes express these lived experiences?
"So funny that question. As a bigger-body black person who is often misgendered, I fully gave in to the siren song of 'men’s' clothing recently, and now I seem to be that person that shops almost exclusively from the men's section in stores I love. I am living my best life. This says two things: that many brands aren't doing a good job of providing for folks like me (bigger bodies) and that I'm also on board with challenging the gender binary. I always joke that I leveled up and moved to the 'men's section' in some of my favorite designers.
As someone who grew up never having the 'right' clothes and consequently going through a time period where I was label-obsessed, I like to hope now that my clothing says that I like looking nice, not that I love labels. I never want someone to feel isolated by the things I wear, but more so inspired themselves to have fun with their clothes."
Aja is wearing the Clyde Jacket in Flax Midweight Linen size XL, Sleeveless Kara Snap Top in Flax Midweight Linen size XL, the Florence Pant in Flax Midweight Linen size 2XL-Regular, and the Asawa Tie Belt in Flax Midweight Linen size OSP.
What is one step clothing consumers can take to move the industry needle towards inclusivity?
"Every brand that calls themselves 'ethical' should carry plus sizes. I'm tired of brands claiming to be better than 'those other brands,' all while leaving out large portions of the population. Let's leave fatphobia in the last decade. True inclusivity starts from within. Are the brands you enjoy representing all communities? Are there marginalized people represented within, at all levels? If not, what are they doing to change that?"
What is a political issue you are passionate about?
"Intersectionality, which has been much needed in sustainability circles. If we can figure out how different oppressions are interconnected, all of our movements will be so much stronger than we ever knew."
Aja is wearing the Clyde Jacket in Flax Midweight Linen size XL, Sleeveless Kara Snap Top in Flax Midweight Linen size XL, the Florence Pant in Flax Midweight Linen size 2XL-Regular, the Asawa Tie Belt in Flax Midweight Linen size OSP, the Clyde Trench in Charcoal Heavyweight Wool size XL, the Long Sleeve Kara Snap Dress in Olive Midweight Linen size XL, and the Clyde Jumpsuit in Black Cotton Canvas (see a similar style) size 2XL-Regular.
What is one concrete way you want people reading this to take action today?
"If you support a brand, but you know they're participating in a harmful system that makes you uncomfortable, write them a letter and let them know. Find out who their CEO is. Tell them to stop making so much clothing. Tell them to include plus-size people. Look up their corporate board, and if it doesn't reflect any diversity, ask them why that is. We only get change when we demand it. And if you don't see change you can believe in from a brand you support, take your money away and give it to someone who will take your priorities on board and help to change the industry for the better."
Photography by Zsuzsanna Palmai