2020: Clothing Is Political

Our first Clothing Is ____ campaign was deeply nourishing. The images were rich and full of texture and life, and seeing our clothing do what it was meant to do on such inspiring people brought me sincere joy. Seeing how our community completed the sentence, "Clothing Is ____," was just as inspiring. You all took that opportunity to share your perspectives and experiences, and they were uplifting and vulnerable and full of heart.

When Emi Ito reached out to me about a second iteration of the campaign, but this time focusing on folks who would all fill the blank in "Clothing Is ____" specifically with the word "political," I knew we'd be tapping into something even deeper. She suggested that we feature people of color and highlight their stories, providing them a platform to share their lived experiences in addition to creating imagery together. I trust and respect Emi with my whole heart, and I immediately felt that, as a predominantly white company trying to navigate our own growth and work in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space, this opportunity was an incredible gift. Creating space for others to speak is a critical way we can contribute to moving essential conversations about race, gender, identity, and the political nature of clothing forward, and that's what we are here to do with this campaign. I am so grateful that Emi brought this project to us and walked with us every step of the way to bring it to life.

We held off on launching this campaign for a few weeks because the world felt in turmoil. The truth is that the world is still in turmoil and may be for some time. We have decided to move forward now and are grateful to be able to publish this campaign during a time when hope and inspiration are needed more than ever. I am honored to move aside and pass the microphone to you, Emi!

"It was at some point during my senior year of high school when I was introduced to the phrase, 'Everything is political.' The blanket nature of the statement stuck with me and helped me make sense of the world in a new way. As I deepened my understanding of my own identity as a multiracial Asian woman, this idea of everything being political took root. As I became a classroom teacher in a public school in the Bay Area, I saw it all around me every day. And now as a parent, it continues to inform my decisions: from the words I use to talk about gender with my child to the choice we made to send her to a bilingual Japanese school.

I first learned about sustainable and ethical fashion when I was pregnant with my child. The timing felt meaningful—Everything is political—and even more urgent because I was about to bring a baby into the world, and I wanted even more of my personal choices to be in service of the future of my child and all children.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the people being uplifted and celebrated in the sustainable and ethical fashion communities were thin, white, cisgender, able-bodied, white women who rarely discussed anything political on their platforms. This dominant narrative in these communities has been shifting thanks to the work of many people of color who are bringing their ancestral wisdom to the forefront, reminding the world that these practices are anything but new and are most certainly not a trend.

If we accept that everything is political and that many of us are involved in sustainable and ethical fashion because of its political nature, then it makes sense to center the voices of people whose very existence in most spaces, especially fashion spaces, are politicized. Let us celebrate the people who are living within many intersections (a term coined by Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw), who are in the world taking action to bring about positive change, radical change, and necessary change.

When I reached out to Liz, it was with the hope that these voices could be featured in a special Clothing Is Political campaign. That a few of the phenomenal people of color who are changemakers could be swathed in Elizabeth Suzann wools, linens, and silks and share their truths via the support of a platform, a company, a team, and a human—I have tremendous respect for. Thank you, Liz, for being open to this collaboration right from the start. And a deep bow of gratitude to Dominique, Jari, Sonia, Aja, and Bea for your words and, more importantly, for your work. Especially at this time of global uncertainty, your voices and your leadership are vital!

Another phrase that I learned around the same time in high school when I was returning to my Buddhist spiritual roots was, 'We are all connected.' The simplicity of these two phrases has never left me because everything is political, and we are all connected. So my hope is that some of the words shared here will be a reminder of the profound importance of our choices, our words, and our actions—that they are inextricably linked and that the leaders of our movements must be the people who are living at the intersections of these connections."

Emi Ito