Remake Makes the Invisible Women Who Power the Fashion Industry Visible
Ayesha Barenblat, Founder of Remake
Los Angeles, CA
I am a Pakistani-American, first generation immigrant that considers both San Francisco and Karachi my home. I am deeply interested in human stories that build empathy and connection. The thousands of women I have met - from Haiti to Cambodia to downtown LA - whose hands bring our clothes to life are my inspo. It’s what keeps me going every single day. That and my amazing Remake family - our team, advisors and Ambassadors - who truly believe that we can make fashion a force for good.
Remake is a non-profit that believes that fashion can be a force for good. With our first hand documentary footage and stories, Remake makes the invisible women who power the fashion industry visible. In addition, we share facts the fashion industry doesn’t want you to know and provide a solution on how to break up with fast fashion through our curated edits, featuring products from our Remake-approved brands list that respects women and the planet. Since our beginning, we’ve been urging people to think about those who make our clothes with our #WearYourValues campaign.
I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, around family that ran clothing factories. Early on, I understood the power of these jobs to lift young women out of poverty. The fashion supply chain is one of the few industries that employs mostly women.
While completing my masters with a focus on sustainability at UC Berkeley, I was struck by the conflicting pressures fashion retailers place on factories, to make our clothes sooner, faster and yet somehow respect people and our planet. For my graduating thesis I went undercover in factories in Karachi and got to know the amazing and resilient women, largely absent from our collective consciousness. Trade agreements had failed them. They worked long and hard hours and yet remained trapped in poverty. My thesis work changed the course of my career and sparked a lifelong quest to improve the wellbeing of the 75+ million women who make our clothes.
For the last decade I have been working across brands, manufacturers and governments to improve the fashion industry’s commitment to her. Then Rana Plaza happened and 1,134 people lost their lives. I watched the footage with growing horror and felt that I had to do more, sooner and faster. Working on the inside of the industry, I had always thought there was a missing piece of the puzzle - shoppers.
So I took a risk, left my wonderful UN job to found Remake, whose mission is to ignite a conscious consumer movement to make fashion a force for good. I believe in the power of hopeful storytelling because behavioral science shows that a pain-centered narrative does not move people. We become numb to bad news - be it sweatshop workers or refugees faraway. It’s hard for people to make a connection to these stories with their daily life.
I have spent the last decade having meals, laughing, talking and being awestruck by the women who make our clothes. These were not victims as the media paints them. These are badass women often supporting upward of 5+ family members, leaving the safety of their villages to enter the big bad world of city life, often at the tender age of 19. I felt that these stories, of the millennial maker, could spark a more empathic connection with millennial shoppers. With the power of film, virtual reality and social media we can connect in ways that were never possible before. I hope that the story told differently, may finally seal her in our collective consciousness, so we can start to ask more about her and buy better.
As someone who has inhabited sustainability spaces for a long time, I am always struck by how much of a non diverse echo chamber the fashion sustainability conversation lives in. To move the needle and mainstream our Movement we need disruption. At Remake we do just that in three unique ways:
Bring maker voices to the forefront: I am often struck by how non diverse the conferences and conversations are around sustainable fashion, even though this industry is powered by women of color. I even wrote an article about this, Sustainable Fashion’s Race Problem. For us our journey and documentary work where we pass the mic back to the women and communities most impacted by fashion is one way to broaden the conversation. We need to bring her back into our collective consciousness.
Engage designers: Our partnerships with Parsons and CCA is a way to ensure that emerging designers think about human centered design. Too often what we deal with from a sustainability standpoint is a design mess. We believe engaging young designers just as they are entering their career to think about these issues is really important.
Appeal to the millennial fashionista: We are really focused on engaging the millennial woman. Studies and our own research show that she is poised to shop differently, as long as she is not compromising on style and is able to discover sustainable fashion easily. We strive to make the discovery of conscious fashion a joyful and easy process for her. In terms of product we are careful to vet not just vigorously for sustainability but for style. Our edits include a mix of high-end and affordable options. We also run workshops and stories on how to join the movement on a budget – be it exploring rental, consignment or swap party options.
At Remake we contribute to slow fashion in four ways:
Our immersive journeys with millennial fashion designers into maker communities is a way for us to seed the next generation of designers to create with intention. This is our long-term bet to slow down fashion.
Our stories, films, social media campaigns and pop-up events inspire consumers to meet the makers of their clothing and be inspired to ask more about her at point of sale. Rather than naming and shaming, we seek to inspire shoppers, especially millennial women to care about slow fashion and to recognize that we can wear our feminist values with our shopping choices.
Our fashion edits and brand spotlights seek to make the discovery of sustainable, ethical AND stylish pieces easy. Once consumers care, we want to shatter the myth that slow fashion is ugly or not affordable.
Finally, we just launched our Ambassador program which we hope will encourage a million millennial women to #wearyourvalues. Remake Ambassadors are people who are passionate about our Movement and want to do more than read and share our stories, attend our conversations and buy better. She is the next-level girl who wants to bring her passion to #wearyourvalues to her family and friends. Our Ambassadors bring our Movement – be it swap parties, workshops or conversations – to their community from LA to New York to Paris. We set up our Ambassadors for success with facts, images, videos, facilitation guides and more so that she can bring her community along on her sustainable fashion journey.
I absolutely love my Mara Hoffman dress. Watching her awaken as a more conscious designer and create fashion that is better for women and our planet has made me a big fan. I am also a regular customer at Rent the Runway. I do a lot of talks and events and it is a way for me to look fresh without buying more. For everyday wear, I prefer my Remake Wear Your Values tee –it’s 100% organic cotton, made ethically right here in California and I love when people stop and ask me how they too can wear their values.