The Spring/Summer 2016 New York Fashion Week experienced a lot of changes, including an increase in being mindful of what consumers are asking for. Studio 189 is one of the companies at the forefront of designing ethical fashion, and the brand made an appearance at NYFW alongside the traditional designers who've been showing there for years. Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah launched Studio 189 in 2013 as a way to preserve African inspired culture through clothing and creative projects. Unlike many of their counterparts at NYFW, Studio 189 is an online platform that showcases a variety of designers and their unique process, from extensive glassblowing to funky denim patchwork. Many of the designs are one-of-a-kind pieces that you can rest assured won't be mass produced or necessarily replicated.
Until recently, ethical and/or sustainable fashion hasn't exactly been associated with haute couture. Up until a couple of years ago, I personally associated it with hemp backpacks and the complete opposite of sexiness. However, as much as I love my $12 short shorts, increasingly prevalent news about unsafe warehouses accidentally burning to the ground started to make me more conscious about where I shop. I also knew that my days of wearing anything made out of hemp were put in a vault of bad fashion choices that I only have my love of Sublime to blame. Still, ethical fashion was something that I began to care more and more about, which keeps me in mostly recycled, second-hand clothes.
The discussion on the lack of fashionable options in ethical fashion isn't new to the Studio 189 creators. We sat down after their fashion show in September to talk about this exhilarating time for education and change in the fashion industry. Dawson and Erwiah's approach to their creative platform goes directly to the source of their inspiration: They travel to Africa.
I'll admit: My usual first reaction when Western companies travel to Africa is to suck in my breath and wait for them to tell me that they've stripped a village naked of natural resources or taken advantage of slave labor. However, just by perusing the showroom, feeling the rich textures of the apparel, I knew these items were made by someone who loves their trade. Speaking with Dawson and Erwiah further convinced me of this. The pair realized that if they wanted to take these designs, they needed to give something in return. With education they provide local artists with workshops, certifications, and counseling, the brand creates opportunity for craftspeople that would otherwise be out of reach. The inspiration behind Studio 189's colorful showroom just so happened to be the traditional techniques and overflowing talent of local artists across the pond.
We chatted about how expensive a pair of jeans used to cost and how tempting it can be for even conscious consumers to choose to pay $9 for a dress on sale. But, as Dawson points out, saving money is the fastest way to lose it. I know that most of those sale items I grab are usually things I probably wouldn't have bought if they were still full price. While the cost of the clothes of Studio 189 and similar companies aren't usually in my budget, the creations are unique and durable which makes you want to save your money to splurge on a sick denim jacket that you swear you will wear every day for the rest of your life.
For now, sustainable fashion remains mostly in splurge territory, while, according to The Atlantic, fast fashion's low prices and quick turnover continue stimulate our brain's pleasure centers. It's going to be a long road to entirely ethical fashion, but the more exposure that stylish, sustainable brands like Studio 189 get, the trendier it becomes. And I for one am excited to see that.
Image: Kristin Collins Jackson (5)