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S U S T A I N




A quick scroll through my Instagram, and it seems that only in the last few months have I developed a true appreciation for nature and the daily gifts it brings. To notice the beauty of leaves, or an ever-changing sky , day in, day out, is extremely gratifying, but the most exciting feeling of all is when I can turn to a friend and show them something that reminds them of the organic substance in our universe that birthed us, feeds us, and will take us back without question or insult at the end of our time.

Plus, nature shots provide an almost foolproof prettiness for the 'gram.


This shift in personal perspective is the result of a variety of factors, namely, the circumstances surrounding my upbringing, a slew of socio-environmental documentaries, the history of international relations (the West vs, the World), and my culture, native tongue, and practicing religion. A bit simplistic, but here's the breakdown:

1. In a recent effort to reconnect with my Nigerian roots, I began looking into the origins of the Yoruba language, its religion, and the relationship the people have with the land. In deciding to take up the laborious task of immersing myself into the spirituality of the Yoruba religion, I also began to understand the importance of connecting with nature to not only sustain oneself physically, but also to center oneself spiritually.

2. Raised by a proud Nigerian mother in the middle of the South Bronx, I learned early to  separate necessities from desires, and to be content on just enough. Imagine the ensuing culture shock when, as a serial private school attendee, I came upon the socioeconomically well-off who seemed to complain about not having what they really wanted while simultaneously disposing of things they already had (and depending on what was being disposed, I had a habit of dumpster diving on the sly). I began to notice that every item had a shelf life, including non-perishables like clothes and toys. This lifestyle of excess suddenly made going back home to "just enough" highly unpleasant, and I believed it was highly unfair (for all the wrong reasons).

3. High school introduced me to groups of people who had something to strongly care about and fight for, despite how others felt about the cause. 
The Documentary Club sucked me in during my senior year with promise of free popcorn (which was mediocre at best), flooding my conscience with soil erosion, fish farming, growth of unhealthy GMOs and use of common pesticides and herbicides that killed innocent people. I hadn't thought much about it until the release of The True Cost, a poignant film that's currently abuzz in the fashion industry for exposing the nastier side of fast fashion production. Followed by the three part documentary Human, I could feel the vitriol with which the Chinese and Bangladeshi factory workers decried the West's obsession with the fast and cheap, telling stories that boiled down to the West's fashion industry essentially murdering people and ruining lives to save a few more dollars.

4. The final nail in the coffin was the creeping up of Africa on the luxury fashion radar. I am all for the development of a fast growing populace with a lot to offer, but it seemed that in none of the pieces I read did any author mention how to approach fashion in Africa with a critical eye for and knowledge of its history with regard to colonization and the West. None of the pieces discussed sustainable production to protect the interests of Nature or those of individual tribes and other groups who choose to depend solely on the land (which is not at all a crime or a sign of "primitive civilization"). And when it came to investing in the fiscal future of some African nations, many cited internal warfare, genocide, terrorist attacks, and insufficient infrastructure as deterrents, but there was no insight into why this is the case, or how to help them. It's as if the fashion world, with all its political, social economic, and environmental clout, is simply waiting for a series of governments to adequately prepare the stage for its entrance.

This should never be the case. 


Hat & Culottes: Goodwill / / Blouse: NastyGal / / Jacket: CO. by Cotton On

This piece of the Web is not meant to be a soapbox, a source of solely depressing news, or a place to propagate holier-than-thou sentiment; however, when innocent Nigerian civilians are kidnapped, abused, and killed in a series of attacks (this goes for many other nations and regions worldwide) on a regular basis, when access to education is halted or taken, when the land is being made barren and social dissent is at an all-time high, and fashion's greatest interest is in what the nation's wealthier citizens wore to Lagos Fashion Week, it causes a rage; one that stems from disrespect, from complacency, from the capitalism.

That brings us to my personal objective, which is to democratize sustainable fashion. Most of what is currently marketed as "green" or "eco-friendly" costs a ridiculous amount of money, more than most people in the US alone can afford. Coupled with the disappearance of America's middle class, does it make sense that to combat the issues of climate change, deforestation, mass extinction, etc., heavily brought around by greed and disregard for the Earth and its inhabitants, we must either be guilted into sending more money, or consider our collective home and livelihoods second to our need to survive in a capitalist society?

Furthermore, sustainability isn't just about making sure the global environment is always at the forefront of everyday decisions;
it's also educating ourselves and others, locally and globally, about alternative lifestyle choices and marketable niche skills that can not only go a long way to save our personal wallets and the planet, but that can help people raise an economy from very little. Sustainability means challenging brands, economies, and one's own personal lifestyle choices, as well as looking for solutions to build a fair trade world market where others are not being exploited for the selfish benefit of dissociated entities. It means thinking of all our planetary cohabitants as equals, and as our collective responsibility.

With all the arguments about whether being paid cents a day for grueling, thankless, and highly dangerous work is "fair, considering the conversion rate" or that removing oneself from the unethical production pipeline "contributes to unemployment," it is a pitiful existence we live if we choose to justify humans as collateral damage injustice to protect a false sense of altruism. Sustainability means searching for and implementing multi-platform long-term solutions to issues of environment and the human relations, not just buying organic detergent and packs of $20 wooden toothbrushes.

I hope you follow along on this imperfectly conscious journey to find ways to save the world, one person, animal, plant, project, and (of course) outfit at a time.