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TIE UP LOOSE THREADS

What story do your clothes tell? Rethink your fashion choices to preserve ancestral knowledge, lift your spirit, and regenerate the planet. 





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Artwork by Diana Eusebio


Three quarts of moss, a teaspoon and a half of alum, and a half teaspoon of cream of tartar. On the first day of class at her studio at Oolite Arts, Diana Eusebio passed down this recipe to her students, describing a ceremonial, multi-day process of ingredient melding. This recipe isn’t for food, though. It’s for a color: the perfect pineapple yellow. 


Diana's creations drip poignant emotion, veiled by rich hues: fiery oranges, contemplative yellows, and earthy greens. She uses plants native to the “luscious environments” familiar to her ancestors – and still surround her today. Spiny achiote plants form a golden orange. Yellows come from pericón flowers. Deep purples and blues derived from indigo plants. 


“I started thinking, What colors can we make from Miami's environment?” she says. “So these colors that I'm working with in my art all symbolize the city, our environment, the plants that grow here.” 


Diana's homemade dyes color textiles from yarn to clothing, bridging her modern, Miami-born artistry with the traditions of her Dominican and Peruvian ancestors. While many indigenous artisans have shifted to synthetic and chemical dyes, succumbing to mass market demands for cheaper and faster production, Diana remains a torchbearer of this traditional knowledge, diligently preserving it and passing it on to others.


"In Quechua and in the Andean regions, in historic times, there was no written language – not because of a lack of intelligence or a lack of understanding of communication – but because communication simply occurred differently. It happened through textiles," she explains. 


"So the colors on the fabrics that were woven in, the types of fiber that were used, or even the knots that were made in thread told a story that could be interpreted by different people in the region."


Photos by Ferhat Turan


Diana’s study of Latin American textile art — a medium she says was never colonized — and her natural dyeing workshops reconnect her with the land and indigenous knowledge; they also heightened her awareness about what the textiles she uses in daily life communicate for better or worse. 


“It makes you think, maybe I shouldn't take it for granted. Maybe it's something that I should pay a little bit more attention to,” Diana continues. “We look at the ingredients on the back of foods that we consume, but we forget that fabric is one of the basic necessities in life and something that we kind of consume through our skin.”


As she teaches students about textiles and dyes, Diana also opens others’ eyes to the impact that we overlook in our everyday fashion choices. 


“Every pore on your body is eating every item of clothing you're wearing,” toxin-free fashion consultant Taryn Hipwell warns. 


And generally, it’s not healthy food. A recent study conducted by the environmental health research group Silent Spring Institute and published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal showed that nearly 60% of tested children’s textiles labeled “waterproof,” “stain-resistant,” or “environmentally friendly” contained toxic PFAS substances known as “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the environment and association with increased risks of reproductive disorders, cancers, and more. 


Taryn’s always been interested in fashion. She went to design school, but her first job at a fashion house changed her career trajectory. She was suddenly plagued by hives and migraines, only to discover regular use of chemicals like formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, in the company’s clothes. Educating consumers and clothing brands about healthy fashion became her life’s work. 


Taryn has partnered with TEDxLA, collaborated with clothing brands, and worked with fashion students at major universities to increase awareness around toxicity in clothing and propose healthy solutions. Still, she acknowledges that shopping for healthier clothing can be overwhelming. 


Her book, How to Shop for Shi(f)t, is a practical guide to non-toxic clothing shopping, from reading brands’ impact reports to watching out for key ingredients and greenwashing. Clothing made from recycled plastics, for example, contains microplastics that are still harmful to humans and the environment, she cautions.


Though fashion practices worldwide leave many concerns and frustrations, Taryn’s practices are solution-based. She gets excited about innovative, stylish brands and has hope for the future of her industry.


“People’s demand for transparency from companies is really going to shift how clothes are shared,” she says. “It's the designer’s responsibility now to really start getting stricter on fibers and fabrics.”


Taryn is a member of Mana Fashion Services, a fast-growing, Miami-based hub for ethical creators making an enduring impact on the fashion scene. Launched in April 2022, the place immediately became a vibrant, inclusive fashion center where “looking beyond the label” is the norm.


“Our focus is to nurture and empower a fashion community that prioritizes sustainability, technology, and entrepreneurship. Since our inception, we've been dedicated to supporting small businesses through a range of fashion community-building initiatives. We're actively organizing curated pop-up bazaars, showcasing ethical vendors from South Florida and Latin America, hosting numerous industry happy hours for facilitating both online and offline networking, educational workshops, and more,” Mana Fashion Services creative director Aleksandra Sivokoneva says.


Fashion gives us a lot to think about: the stories we’re choosing to tell and the safety of the materials we’re laying against our skin. But as Mana Fashion Services’ initiatives exemplify, our considerations must extend beyond ourselves, too. 


According to Environmental Protection Agency research, the world produced approximately 17 million tons of textiles in 2018. Yet production far exceeds true need. A total of 11.3 million tons of textiles ended up in landfills that year. We wear clothes to protect ourselves from our environment. Now it’s time to protect our environment from our clothes. 


Photo Courtesy of The Upcycle Project


The Miami-based Upcycle Project successfully transforms textile waste into valuable raw materials and helps designers source sustainable fabrics.


“Imagine a world where every stitch and seam tells a story of transformation. This was my dream when The UpCycle Project took its first breath,” says Gabriella Smith, eco-fashion activist and CEO of The UpCycle Project. “Our goal was simple yet ambitious: to raise awareness of the waste created by the fashion industry.”


Gabriela mentors design students on fashion sustainability and encourages them to create upcycled designs with materials that would otherwise be discarded. Forgotten dry cleaner pieces, used sheets and napkins from hotels, damaged beach towels, preowned denim, and discarded school uniforms. Through a creative circular approach, these unwanted textiles don’t take up permanent residence in a landfill but transform into fashionable pieces. 



ACCORDING TO THE UPCYCLE PROJECT DATA, WITH JUST ONE PROGRAM – REPURPOSING DAMAGED BEACH TOWELS – SOHO BEACH HOUSE SAVED 3 MILLION LITERS OF WATER, REDUCED CO2 EMISSIONS, AND PREVENTED 1,000 POUNDS OF TEXTILE WASTE FROM GOING INTO FLORIDA LANDFILLS.


“We believe we have enough to satiate our hunger for newness by cultivating creative designs with what’s already out there,” Gabriella adds. “Our mission is to bring creativity, circularity, and innovation to the waste created by humanity so that we can continue to live on Earth longer. And have fun with fashion while we’re at it.”


Photo Courtesy of The Rescue Collection


Taylor Bloom, the Miami-based founder of The Rescue Collection, is also excited to give a second life to pieces at risk of being discarded. You can often meet her at the Little River Flea market.  


Taylor hasn’t always been an environmentalist, but she can pinpoint what changed her perspective: The True Cost, a documentary on the fashion industry’s impacts on the environment and its lowest-paid workers. 


“I could feel a physical impact. It was like a shock going through my body of Oh my gosh, what have I been a part of?”


Over the next few years, she quit her corporate job and ended up in Miami, where she reignited her interest in fashion’s creative possibilities with a newfound purpose. She started her own company, which sells trendy, stylish, but one-of-a-kind clothing items she repurposes herself. Taylor says moving away from the steady salary and rigid schedule of the corporate world to a creative life of Goodwill shopping and weekend markets was scary and even a bit isolating at first. But now, sharing in a community of advocacy and producing products she knows are doing good, she feels more fulfilled than ever.


“When you first start putting your voice out there, and you start talking about how you really feel, you start to open up the door and the opportunity for other people to come in,” Taylor says. “And then you realize you're not in this alone. There are a ton of people who really care.”


Plastic is one of Taylor’s biggest concerns, and for good reason. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, plastics comprise approximately 60% of all materials sourced for clothing production, which includes polyester, acrylic, and nylon textiles. These synthetic fabrics are lightweight, durable, affordable and flexible. But here’s the catch: every time they're washed, they shed tiny plastic fibers called microfibers, a form of microplastics up to five millimeters in size. Scientists estimate that textiles produce 35% of the microplastic pollution in the world’s oceans, making them the most significant known source of marine microplastic pollution. 


Taylor argues that this overwhelming industry practice isn’t just bad for the environment — it’s bad for our souls. 


"Polyester, nylon, and spandex are all synthetic materials. Essentially, you're wearing plastic, which actually has a very low vibration, while natural materials like hemp, cotton, and linen have a higher vibration. So, by choosing what you put on your body, you can literally raise your vibration. Ironically, many yoga clothes — where we often discuss these significant spiritual principles — are often contributing to environmental destruction."


Like Diana and Taryn, Taylor says our power as consumers is in our choices, and from her one-of-a-kind dresses to her signature “fuck plastic” shirts, she’s creating fertile ground for better choices.


“That dollar is voting for the kind of world you want to see. That money is lending momentum to something. Like I always say, where are your values? Does this piece of clothing reflect who you are and who you want to be?”  



 

We hope you appreciated this paywall-free article. As an independent community-driven publication, Impact.Edition elevates the voices of local changemakers who work toward positive, lasting change – from addressing social inequality to saving the planet from environmental ruin. We would be grateful if you would consider a monthly donation to support our volunteering editorial efforts and shared mission to empower people with best practices and creative solutions for a more just, more sustainable world. Any donation to Impact.Edition will be tax-deductible. Thank you for making a difference!




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