Presenting "WEAR I'M FROM", My Original Web Series About Style & Cultural Identity for NBC News

Click each image to view the episode! Ep. 1 feat. Monica Phromsavanh: A History Remembered Through Unexploded Bombs

Click each image to view the episode!

Ep. 1 feat. Monica Phromsavanh: A History Remembered Through Unexploded Bombs

Growing up, I craved the ability to see a reflection of strong, positive, and uplifting Asian-American voices in the media, and beyond. For APIAs, representation is something we continue to fight for. This has been the driving force behind the work I do today: as a writer, fashion correspondent, and speaker, my strength lies in the power of voice & story.

Ep. 2 feat. Victor Zapanta: This T-Shirt Is Part of Victor Diaz Zapanta's Family Narrative

Ep. 2 feat. Victor Zapanta: This T-Shirt Is Part of Victor Diaz Zapanta's Family Narrative

Knowing this, I am impassioned to share stories that make women of color feel proud of where they come from, and I am committed to creating spaces that intersect style with substance, all the while promoting inclusion, empowerment, & social good. 

Ep. 3 feat. Natalie Le: Connecting With a Father’s Refugee Story Through a Necklace

Ep. 3 feat. Natalie Le: Connecting With a Father’s Refugee Story Through a Necklace

I am honored to be able to exercise these missions through my project with NBC Asian America, in which I have been given the opportunity to be the Creator & Producer of “WEAR I’M FROM”, an original web series about STYLE & CULTURAL IDENTITY.

Ep. 4 feat. Jasmine Wahi: Hand Embroidered Shawl Celebrates Family Legacy

Ep. 4 feat. Jasmine Wahi: Hand Embroidered Shawl Celebrates Family Legacy

Thank you to Traci Lee and NBC Asian America for believing in my vision for this project, and making it a reality. A big thank you to my project partner, Director Erica Eng, who shared her illustrious talents to bring this to life. Additional credits to: Blaine Dunkley (Director of Photography), Nathan Bonetto (audio), Anna Romano (editor) and both Dahlak Brathwaite and Authentik Beats for providing background music.
 
I hope you enjoy. If you feel inspired, please do re-share! And do participate by sharing YOUR style & cultural identity stories via social media. Take a photo of you and your clothing item, caption it with the story as to how it connects you to your heritage, and use the hashtag #WEARIMFROM. 

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 9.16.20 PM.png

Thank you, thank you. 

Yours,
Ruby

Self-Reflections: When In Doubt, Look IN, Not Out

Photo by The Green Balloon

Photo by The Green Balloon

On my bad days, I have a tendency to look for it everywhere. Everywhere except for the most obvious place.

I rummage through every word exchanged, try to lift up the curtains of each adjective to see if I can catch a glimpse of it. I dig in the folds of each smile, comb through every gesture, or wait until it finally shows up.

And too often I forget that the best way to find it is by looking in, not out.

What I have come to realize is that validation is most potent when it is founded from our inner source, not when it comes from the outside. Outside validation feels good and I definitely don’t deny that we all need it once in a while, but if you don’t have a strong inner foundation of self-worth, then outside validation will be nothing but a momentary, fleeting wind.

So how do we anchor ourselves down to enjoy a solid sense of self-worth? By being in constant awareness of our strengths and remembering the value we can offer in any situation. What makes you unique, special, and talented? What do you bring to the table? Make a list. When you can name all of your positive traits, you tend to remember them better. Besides, how can anyone else recognize them if we don’t see it in ourselves first?

Too often, we forget to stand in a position of power because we fail to recognize and express how truly valuable we are. We act like passive receivers, waiting for opportunity, when the truth is that we are active contributors to every situation.

And you know what? The thing that you want actually needs you just as much as you need it. Whether it’s a personal or professional “want”, every single prospect should be approached by your own questioning of whether or not it is a good fit for you, not just the other way around. You are the boss of your own life, and you are interviewing every prospective job and investigating every potential relationship to see if it brings enough value to your own path of growth.

So don’t forget to look inside. You can stop all the external rummaging and the turning of every stone. Simply look in, open the window, and let the light shine in on your inner power.

The treasure is already within you.

Exercise: Make a list (at least 10 items) of all your strengths. Remind yourself what makes you valuable, and show up from that space. When you stand from a position of power and self-appreciation, everything changes. 

I'd love to get your feedback! I'm thinking about putting a collection of essays like this into a book. Would a book of these self-reflections be helpful for you and your journey? Do let me know by emailing me at ruby@rubyveridiano.com and or reaching out to me via social at @rubyveridiano :) 

Read My Interview with the C&A Foundation on the United Nations Foundation's Site

I recently had the opportunity to chat with the Head of Gender Justice and Human Rights at the C&A Foundation, and the interview was posted on the United Nations Foundation's site, The Global Daily. See the preview below, and click the link the read on: 


What the Fashion & Apparel Industry Can Do to Truly Be Feminist

How the apparel industry can take action to empower women

By: Ruby Veridiano

It’s no secret that the fashion industry impacts thousands of women around the world. But while mainstream media is often focused on the women who buy the clothes, it is the women who make our garments, fashion’s hidden figures, who are drastically affected by the decisions businesses and consumers make. With the rise of ‘feminist fashion’, it leaves one to wonder what the industry is actually doing to support women across the supply chain.

The C&A Foundation, in partnership with the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) recently released a new report, entitled “Empowering Female Workers in the Apparel Industry”. The report primarily covers the three main actions businesses can take immediately in order to shift the industry towards gender equality. The research also received support from the Levi Strauss Foundation, and was prepared by Business of Social Responsibility (BSR).

[Ruby Veridiano, contributor here at the Global Daily], got a chance to interview Brandee Butler, Head of Gender Justice and Human Rights at the C&A Foundation, to learn more about the main takeaways of the study, and to get a fuller understanding as to how the fashion industry can truly empower and uplift women.

Read more here. 

I’m a Conscious Fashion Advocate. But I’ll Never Shame You for Wearing Zara, and Here’s Why

The practice of building an ethical wardrobe is not an easy one. For one, ethical brands are much more expensive than ‘normal’ brands, so much so that ethical fashion has been accused of being ‘elitist’ in numerous occasions. Ethical brands rightfully cost more because the price tag covers a fair wage for artisans, safe working conditions, and a healthy margin for the ethical business to be sustainable.

It is a noble cause, and as much as we all wish we could consume more ethically, it simply is not accessible to everyone. Admittedly, even I can’t manage to buy ethical items all the time. Frankly, it’s not realistic or fair to expect that everyone can have the purchasing power to support only ethical brands, because the reality of the world is that we come from varied economic backgrounds. And yet, no matter how much money we own, we all share the basic necessity of needing clothing, and I don't think it's too much to ask for us to feel good and decent in them. 

During a recent conversation with my friend and fashion academic Tanisha C. Ford, she made an excellent point: a 14-year-old girl living in an inner city neighborhood still looks at Zara as an aspirational, luxury brand. It wouldn’t make much sense for us to fault that 14-year-old girl for aspiring for something that society has taught her to want: a beautiful dress that has the potential to outfit her confidence. That 14-year old girl from the inner city does not have the means to buy ethical, even if she wanted to. So as much as I advocate for the moral value behind conscious fashion, it is also not morally correct to shame someone for buying Zara if that’s what their purchasing power allows them to afford.

As essayist, journalist, and activist S.E. Smith so eloquently writes, “Moralistic scolding of people who buy ‘cheap junk made in [fill in your country]’ doesn’t actually address the problem that this is a market that’s created the consumer, not a consumer that’s created the market — wages in the US remain stagnant despite advocacy on the issue, cost of living is rising, and many people can’t make the choices they would prefer to make, because they’re facing down very limited options. This is deliberate, as companies have substantial margins of profit on inexpensively-produced goods made in nations with lax labor laws and poor environmental standards”.

While I believe that consumers can vote with their dollar, not everyone can afford to make this a priority. In my books, that is absolutely okay. I do however, want to suggest different ways in which we can create more responsible shopping habits, which doesn’t involve only buying ethical products:

1.     Buy Less, and Choose Well: Fast Fashion has created a market where clothes can be bought by the dozen. As a result, we are tempted to ‘get our money’s worth’ by buying a lot of cheap items. Instead, I encourage you to choose QUALITY over quantity- instead of spending $100 on five cheap items, use that same $100 to buy one, beautifully made, long-lasting item that you will actually treasure for a longer period of time. This is certainly a more sustainable practice.

2.     30 Wear Rule: In general, I go by this- before buying an item, ask yourself if you can actually commit to wearing it at least 30 times. This helps us choose items that aren’t disposable, but ones that can actually last.

3.     Buy vintage when possible: When possible, give clothes that have already been made another life. In essence, buying vintage is recycling. And if you live in Paris like me, you can find fantastic, “Made in France” items that are made in top quality standards! 

For more ideas, see this ethical fashion shopping guide, made by Anuschka Rees

If you absolutely have to buy from Zara, trust that I will never make you feel bad about it. Rather, I will encourage you to consider points #1 and #2 above. While we can’t always buy ethical, we can manage to practice socially responsible shopping habits, no matter the budget.

Ethical Brand Spotlight: Yours Again

Yours Again is a Copenhagen-based fashion brand that upcycles denim to create refreshing "new" pieces. Transforming old denim fabrics and reworking them into unique designs, Yours Again embraces the beauty and imperfection of used denim, and alchemizes them into chic fashion pieces that are sexy and sustainable. Check out my interview with the woman behind the brand, Simona Uvarovaite, and learn how she has created a fashion brand aligned with her cause and her values. 

1.    What is your background, and how did you get into the business of fashion? 

I always knew I wanted to be a designer, I just wasn’t sure what kind. I started off with studying interior design in Lithuania, but became disappointed with the study program. So I decided to move to Denmark and study sustainable fashion. To be honest, I was not that much into fashion at that point, but when I learned about how polluting and unsustainable the industry is, I got really inspired to change that and find new sustainable practices to improve it. After graduating, I did quite few internships which led me to realize that I need to be the change I want to see- so I decided to start my own brand. It was scary at first to start working independently at such a young age, but it was the only thing that made sense to me. I didn’t want to work for someone I couldn’t relate to.

2.    Where are you and your brand based? 

I am based in Copenhagen, Denmark, but most of our suppliers, as well as the production workshop, are based in Lithuania.

3.    What inspired you to create your brand, Yours Again? Why denim? 

Before starting Yours Again, I thought a lot about what sustainability means to me and how I want to work with it in my career. I thought a lot about production processes and materials other sustainable brands use, and it just seemed to me that in the end, it does not solve the main problem – consumption. Organic cotton is great, but it still uses resources just as any other eco-friendly fabric. So for me, it made sense to use something we already have; clothing that people have already thrown away, and bring it back to life again. Denim seemed to be the perfect choice for many reasons: first, it is more predictable than most other textiles in terms of texture, composition and colors, therefore it is easier to source. Second, it is a very durable fabric, and it only looks better with time. And most importantly, it is a very polluting textile and it takes great amounts of water to make one pair of jeans. So I felt like denim should not go to waste as it can easily be reused and brought to life again. 

4. Why is it important to you to participate in sustainable and ethical practices? 

It is the future of fashion. Communication has become so much easier, and people have access to so much information, which empowers us to be more transparent and have more control over supply chains. The excuse ‘We didn’t know our garments were produced in Bangladesh’ is not good enough anymore. People ask questions and support the brands they believe in. There are quite few brands that inspired me to change my buying habits and even start my own brand. Yours Again has strong values in sustainability and ethical production and hopefully, that can inspire more brands to do upcycling, or find new ways to use already produced resources.

5. What is the power of upcycling? How does it promote a more conscious lifestyle? 

The power of upcycling is using something that has already been created, lived its life, and repurpose it into something new and better. Turning old and unwanted into new and desired.

Upcycling is also about inspiring people to love their clothes and show different ways to reuse them once they have worn out.

6.    You made different pieces out of denim, from bracelets to vests. What is the most creative use for upcyled denim you've developed so far? What is your favorite piece out of your collections? 

Currently we are working on a new collaboration, where we use denim for home décor products. It is still in early stages, but some of the products, for instance denim stuffed cushion, I instantly fell in love with. These products are designed to use almost all of our leftovers and hopefully we can get as close to zero waste as we can. 

And talking about current collections that are already on our webshop, I would say Reckless vest is one of my favorites.

7.    What message do you hope to spread through your work? 

I want to inspire people to love their clothing, take care of it and choose wisely what they buy. I want to show that fashion can be exclusive, beautiful and harmless at the same time.
The Founder, Simona

The Founder, Simona

8.  What changes do you hope fashion (the industry and/or their consumers) can make to be more conscious of the people and the planet? 

I really hope to see more quality in the future, both from the fashion industry and the consumer. If consumers choose to buy higher quality clothing, made with care and thought, then sooner or later, the industry will get the demand. Before mass production took over, people loved having their clothes custom-made for them, so they could feel unique and wear the piece for many years. I hope this trend will come back one day and consumers will start buying more from smaller brands with strong values.

 

 


The Power of Starting with WHY

My WHY: Empowering women to find their voice

My WHY: Empowering women to find their voice

Everyone asks us what we want to be when we grow up, but when it comes to our life’s work, I think there’s another question that is far more important. Instead of asking ourselves what we want to be, I think we should start asking, “What problems do we want to solve?”
 
Thought leader Simon Sinek once said, “It’s not important WHAT you do, it’s important WHY you do it.” So what is your “WHY”? What is the reason behind your work?
 
We are living in a time where the news suggests that the world is in a constant state of havoc. Based on my Facebook news feed alone, the world can certainly feel like a lot. Needless to say, if we’re not careful about where we look, it can look pretty dark out there.
 
So what can we do, and where do we begin? For starters, I believe we have to hold the mirror onto ourselves and reflect: what we are doing to contribute to the solution? Are we being loving and kind in our daily actions? Are we extending generosity and positivity to those we encounter on our day to day? Are we loving ourselves enough to have the strength to give love to others? Are we becoming the women and men the world needs us to become? Most importantly, are we being brave enough to take a stand for something?
 
It’s more important than ever to live with a purpose and a cause, but I also know that for many, it can be a struggle to find theirs. But if you begin by wondering which problems you are drawn to solve, or what you are being called to create, you might get a little closer to the answer. How many of us can honestly say that we have explored our curiosities by stepping out and actually getting involved in them, however small the step may be?
 
When I was a college freshman, I discovered the art of spoken word through my friend Adriel. From the beginning, I told Adriel that I was a writer, but definitely not a performer. But after much cajoling, Adriel eventually convinced me to read my first poem at an open mic. After all, I was curious, so I decided that it couldn’t hurt to try.
 
When the open mic night came, I approached the stage filled with both nervousness and excitement. I was shy at first, but then it came: a roaring fire that I never knew existed within me. It was as if I had discovered my superpowers for the first time.
 
That small step I took led to an unexpected six-year career as a professional spoken word artist, taking me to perform at hundreds of venues across the globe, and facilitating writing workshops that combined art with social change. It also led me to discovering my passion for using my voice to empower women and to encourage others to change the world along with me. It helped me to do the important work of building bridges among communities, and helping others find their voice so that they too, can speak for the causes they believed in.
 
Had I not taken that small step to explore my curiosity, I would not have discovered my personal purpose. And I would not have found my WHY.
 
Because the more we step out to be an active participant in shaping the world, the more the world responds to us. We can’t soul search just by thinking about it, we have to engage every part of us by taking action and testing it out. Doing. Immersing both the mind and the body in leaning into the curves of life’s question marks is how we find the exclamation points, the Eureka moments that punctuate our purpose.
 
I encourage you to dig deep and cultivate your WHY. Because when we as a collective begin to lead with that, we begin to fill all the dark holes with our light. All it takes is one small spark to illuminate the world.
 
Are you willing to light the match?
 
If your answer is yes, let's light up the world together. 

I invite you to join me for my "Women On A Mission" workshop in San Francisco on May 13th, where I will help you define your mission statement and clarify your WHY. 
Get your early bird tickets here! 

I Got A Chance to Ask Prabal Gurung 10 Questions...

I have been a fan of Prabal Gurung since he launched his first collection, so it was very special to have been able to ask him ten of my most pressing questions for an article I worked on for NBC News. As a fashion changemaker, I am most impressed by his roots in activism, and his vision for change. Here's a peek:

Your last show was very political. Many designers shy away from being involved politics, but you're going at it head on. What drives you to use your platform as intentionally as you do?

It's a crucial time for our country, for the world really. As a designer with a platform, I feel a responsibility to use my voice and to lead the conversation in a way that can provoke change.

I've been told by some to keep quiet — that fashion and politics do not mix and that I should stick to my trade, however I cannot disagree more. I feel compelled to take a stand and challenge notions of what fashions' role can be in our society.

To read the rest of the Q&A, head on over to NBC News

Ethical Brand Spotlight: milo + nicki

From milo + nicki

From milo + nicki

Founded by Nicki Patel and inspired by her journey along with her pup, Milo, milo + nicki is an ethical fashion brand with Indian and Zambian roots. milo + nicki's  handwoven creations are made with natural fiber, and the designer ensures that she keeps sustainability at the forefront of her brand. Read on below to learn more about milo + nicki, the founder's story, and what's behind her heart-centered brand. 

What inspired you to create your brand? What's the story behind it? 

My name is Nicki and my partner in crime is the handsome, crazy energetic stud Milo (my pup). We are an energetic, indomitable duo that love hard and care deeply about people and the planet. Milo and I both hit rock bottom in 2014. The combination of our health problems, Milo having a major injury, and a very stressful burglary that spiraled us both downward, we begin to slowly feel the floor crumble beneath us. And no doctor or specialist had a remedy.

I lived in fear of not knowing what the next day, hour, or minute held for us.

By combining our health rollercoaster with my love for fashion, my mission to empower women, and my drive to bring awareness to a deep-rooted destructive consumer industry, I came to create milo+nicki.

As we conquer our fears, take a leap of faith, never give up on ourselves, and live a life full of color, I hope to empower you to do the same.

From milo + nicki

From milo + nicki

Why is it important for you to participate in ethical and sustainable practices? 

The fashion industry is the second largest pollutant in the world, just behind the oil and gas industry. It is saturated by corruption and pollution with stories that never hit the newsstands. What we wear is something more than a piece of cloth. It has history, meaning, roots, sweat, and tears. The sacrifices in each piece of cloth is an untold story, but with milo+nicki, I hope to bring these hidden truths to the surface and build an awareness that drives the ethical and sustainable fashion movement.

Our goal is to educate, empower, and inspire change. We as consumers hold the power for change, we just have to decide with our dollar what we value.

What is the power of your ethical approach to fashion? How does it create a more conscious lifestyle? 

As we began our journey a little over a year ago, I searched high and low to find the perfect fabric supplier, to locate the most ethical local factory, and to create the least environmental impactful supply chain. I realized this was tough, very tough, but I knew that this was something that was very important to us due to our love for the planet and the people. Our power is creating a clear and open formula for transparency coupled with the story of our brand.

If we are open with our consumers, they will want to learn more about our story and brand, which will make them feel more empowered to share our story and support our brand, but also educate and empower the cycle to continue through to other aspects of their lifestyle.

From milo + nicki

From milo + nicki

What message do you hope to spread through your work?

With milo+nicki, I want to empower the ever-evolving women, wherever they are in the world, to push the limits within themselves and within society to conquer her fears, take a leap of faith, never give up on herself and live a life of color. Because no dream is too big, no passion is too small, and no routine is unbreakable.

What changes do you hope fashion can make to be more conscious of the people and the planet? 

For the consumers: ask questions and use the power of your dollar to cast a vote for what you believe in. Knowing how something is made, where it is made, who it is made by, and why we made it that way is not only crucial for shifting the industry norms and practices, and holding brands accountable, but it allows the consumer to feel empowered, inspired and educated on what they are putting next to the largest organ on their body.

For the industry and brands: share the story of the entire process of creating the pieces, be transparent in your supply chain, and be responsible to the people and planet on what and how you create.

To support milo + nicki's first collection, check out their kickstarter campaign here. 

 

From NYC to Paris: My Fashion Week Coverage for the Fall 2017 RTW Season

Waving hello from the DROMe Runway Show, Paris, March 2017

Waving hello from the DROMe Runway Show, Paris, March 2017

Led by my commitment to empowering women and merging fashion with social change, my fashion week coverage views the runway from this lens. With many more designers taking a stand and using their voice to express their values and beliefs, this fashion month was a playground for a changemaker like me. From NYC to Paris, here are all the stories that prove that fashion is more than a superficial concept, but rather, a reflection of the society, culture, and politics that live in. 

Click the article image to read on! 

Until next season! xo Ruby

 

All the Times Socially Conscious Fashion Showed Up on the Oscars Red Carpet

Just a few years ago, my vision to merge fashion with social change felt like a faraway aspiration, one that I did my best to manifest through the creation of the Glamourbaby Diaries. Now, the mergence of fashion and activism are at center stage, at the forefront of all the red carpets, and stunning the paparazzi. More and more, the world’s biggest celebrities are using fashion to express their politics, and it seems, the dream to make social change ‘sexy’ has finally found its time.

If there is a silver lining in Trumpland, you can most likely find it in Ava Duvernay's dress. 

Ava Duvernay wears Ashi Studio of Lebanon. 

Ava Duvernay wears Ashi Studio of Lebanon. 

It’s incredible to see how fashion's collaboration with social awareness has arrived, especially when you see it shining at the Oscars, the world’s biggest award show. It is almost the same feeling I get when I see my friends as familiar faces on the world’s biggest stages as they achieve the dreams they’ve worked so hard to complete:  a strong sense of awe, pride, and a warm feeling of, “you made it”!

But as social awareness butterflies into the new ‘sexy’, let’s not forget that it takes a lot more than a dress or an accessory to wear a lifelong commitment to making a more just, more inclusive society. Let’s make sure we embody these ideals of justice and inclusion by our participation in the democracy and through our everyday choices to take care and protect one another.

Nevertheless, it was still pretty cool to see all the moments where socio-political statements stood front & center on the Oscars Red Carpet this year. 

Irish- Ethiopian actor Ruth Negga, nominated for Best Actress for the film Loving, sports a light blue ACLU ribbon in solidarity with the civil rights organization, paired with a floor-length red, lace Valentino gown. 

Lin-manuel Miranda of "Hamilton" and his mother also wear the blue aclu ribbon. He got his tux from the same place he got his high school prom suit. 

Best Actress winner Emma Stone sports a small Planned Parenthood pin just under the left strap of her Givenchy Haute Couture Gown. 

Emma Roberts Opts for a Sustainable Fashion Choice by choosing a vintage Armani Prive look as part of the Red Dress, Green Carpet Initiative

Now here's to hoping that these fashion statements are just the beginning. 

 

After the Women's March: Be Deliberate and Afraid of Nothing

Joining in from Paris, I marched with an international community of women from the Human Rights Square in Trocadero to the Eiffel Tower. 

Joining in from Paris, I marched with an international community of women from the Human Rights Square in Trocadero to the Eiffel Tower. 

Like many of those who joined yesterday’s herstory-making event, I am still buzzing with energy and renewed optimism from the Women’s March. Fired up and more ready than ever, I am reignited.

As the daughter of immigrants, I marched for every immigrant daughter and son, so that they could continue to have the courage to make America GREAT. I marched for their right (and destiny) to pursue their biggest dreams, no matter where they come from or how they grew up. I marched for inclusivity, for equality, for #blacklivesmatter , for LGBTQ rights, for my Muslim and Latinx brothers and sisters, and most of all, I marched for love.

 Throughout the march, I noticed that two things stood out the most: the music that moved us, and the undeniable, palpable power of words. The bold words painted on countless signs served a clear message: we will not be silent. And to quote Audre Lorde, the master wordsmith warrior, “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing”. 

Yesterday reaffirmed for me the roles of artists and creatives in this movement: the importance of creating the heartbeat and the pulse for the resistance to come alive. Words and music crack the armor and pierce us where it matters most: the soul.

Remembering this re-inspired me to claim my role as a writer, and my ability to use my words to move mountains, to conjure miracles, to create my own reality, and to tell a new story. A story where every woman is her own heroine, and every man, his own hero.

Now is the time where we must be unyielding in pursuing our best, most powerful selves, and to be unapologetic in pursuing our biggest dreams.

 This weekend, we marched.

Today we choose what mission each of us will take on to keep the soul of the movement alive. I wear many hats in my work, but above all, I re-commit to my role as a writer & storyteller, with hope that my voice will lend you courage to find your own.

Remember: be deliberate and afraid of nothing.

 It’s our time,

Ruby

 

 

My Latest Article on NBC News: Ethical Luxury Brand Raises the 'VOZ' of South American Women Artisans

A luxury fashion brand has partnered with Latin American artisans, helping to spread economic empowerment while preserving local culture and arts and amplifying women's voices.

The fashion brand VOZ is working with indigenous women artisans in Chile and Peru, bringing their high-quality and intricate weaving into new markets. This has been life changing for weavers like Juana Zuñiga, who is based in Chile.

"Es una alternativa segura para las artesanas, evitamos así en ocaciones no poder vender nuestros productos," (It's a safe alternative for the artisans, so we avoid not being able to sell our products on occasion), says Zúñiga.

VOZ founder Jasmine Aarons began her work with Chilean artisans through a post-graduate fellowship with Stanford's HAAS Center for Public Service in 2009. She headed to southern Chile as an educator and design innovator, working with the foundation on and off for two years.

Read the rest on NBC News here. 

 

A Tribute to My Muse: The Barrier-Breaking Icon of Glamour, China Machado

2016 was an incredibly trying year. We lost so many legends: Prince, Ali, Bowie, and now my muse, the barrier-breaking icon of glamour, China Machado. And then we gained a Trump. What does it all mean? I think that it is imperative that we all do our part to be our best, most realized, most powerful selves- we have enormous shoes to fill, legacies to live up to, and a world we have to fill up with love, hope, and GOOD. The best way to honor those who have passed is to let their light live on through us. Thank you for giving me the courage to shine, China. Heaven just got a little more glamorous. 

Read my personal tribute to China Machado on NBC News, an essay published a few months before her death. Read about her life here. 

 

33 Degrees: A Tribute to Oakland & the Victims of the Ghost Ship Fire

An old flyer for a party entitled 33 Degrees, a space for community held inside an artist warehouse loft

An old flyer for a party entitled 33 Degrees, a space for community held inside an artist warehouse loft

When I was in my early twenties, I lived in Oakland, where I was lucky enough to be a part of a nurturing artist community. I always say that everything that I am, and the woman I will continue to be, is in large part because of the love, support, and dedication to social justice that I learned from the people in Oakland. 

Back in those days, I had the unique blessing of being able to attend 33 Degrees, an all-night dance party done in the spirit of love, community, and freedom. It was very much like the party that happened at Ghost Ship in Oakland.  I imagine that every person who attended that party was looking for the same thing we once did: a space to release, and to come as they are. As Gabe Meline writes, "these spaces are what kept us alive. In a world that demands its inhabitants to be a certain way, think a certain way, or live a certain way, we gravitate to the spaces that say: Welcome. Be yourself. "

It's devastating to mourn the passing of all the people that left us at Ghost Ship. In loving tribute to them, and all the memories that have given us the courage to be who we are meant to become, I wanted to share something I wrote from the 33 Degrees Era, circa 2007. 

33 Degrees

It is those nights

When the pulse inside us thuds in sync with the 808

Limbs flailing to scoop the rhythm

Caught in the wind behind us

 

Our bodies in full surrender

Spell bound to the synthesizer

Dazed in reverie,

Aligned to the 33rd Degree

 

We’re at your command, DJ

 

So move

Like we’re turning the world on its axis

By our feet

 

Move

Like we’re shaking

The fear out of our skin

 

Move

Like the law will splinter

When we crack the cuffs off these wrists

 

Move

Because freedom

Is in the breaks

 

Catch it when your tongue

Licks the air

The mist from our bodies

Rising like smoke sparked by the beat

 

Contact high, so breathe with me

We go delirious in dance,

Our skins damp with sweet humidity

Because nights like this, sweat is sexy

 

So dance like the funk lived inside your hips

Pop like fireworks detonated at your heels

Our teeth and wrists

Glowing in the dark

 

There’s a movement

In this movement

So move

Like you meant it

 

We’re at your command, Dj

 

Magic flares like fireworks

When West Oakland creates its own sky

A new horizon stretched inside warehouse lofts

The walls exhaling sound

 

My people, radiant

At the crux of the 33rd degree

Finding the sun inside us

While we dance to the dawn

****

In Love, Movement, & Solidarity,

Ruby

What to Keep in Mind When Shopping for the Holidays

Did you know that 80 percent of all garment workers are women? And more often than not, they are not provided with fair living wages or a safe place to work. On the other side of the spectrum, we women are also the largest consumers of fashion, which means that by shifting our fashion choices, we can help empower women across the world.

So now that we know all of that, you’re probably asking, what can we do about it? With the busiest shopping weeks of the year on the horizon, I felt it was the perfect time to share a few habits that you can introduce to your shopping routine so that you can be a more ethical consumer this holiday season. 

Ask "Who Made My Clothes?" 

The first thing we need to start getting in the habit of is the practice of asking where our clothes come from and how they were made. With such a white gap between the makers of our clothes and the final product when it reaches the store, we forget that there was an entire process that requires some give and take on our people and our planet. By asking this simple question, we begin to open our consciousness to this very important connection. To know and see more, check out Remake, an organization telling the stories behind the makers of our clothes. 

30 wear rule

Implemented from Eco-Fashion Champion Livia Firth, the 30 wear rule is the idea that before buying something, first consider if you can commit to wearing it at least 30 times. The 30 wear rule guarantees that you buy quality items instead of buying in quantity, which means that you might buy less, but keep it for a longer period of time. Not only does it reduce waste in your closet, but it also helps reduces waste on the planet. A tip? Add neutrals to your wardrobe to increase repeated wearability, and when you can, choose quality items that will last longer, not something you can dispose of easily.

Shop Vintage + Secondhand

Shopping vintage or secondhand is essentially recycling. By reusing clothing and giving them another life, it reduces waste. Plus, it’s likely that vintage items will be a unique piece, which means that you won’t have to worry about someone else having the same outfit as you!

Support ethical brands

There are many ethical brands out there, many who empower their makers and reduce their impact on the Earth. Ethical brands are made with integrity and support a socially responsible ethos. The challenge is finding them, as they are not always readily available. If you want to get started, check out my ethical brand directory, where I’ve documented some of the ethical brands I’ve discovered.

Shop local and support small businesses

Because they often manage a smaller production line,  they are more likely to be able to trace their supply chain (or how their products are made) much easier. Plus, buying local instead of only big corporations, we help support our local community by boosting its economy.

Do Your Research

 If you’re curious about the fashion brands you’re already supporting, research them and see if they’re aligned with your own values. Tools like Project Just help consumers access information about the brands they wear. It’s like a Wikipedia for ethical fashion. I know corporations have a bad rap, but some of them are actually performing responsibly. I wrote a recent blog about a few big brands that are socially responsible. Check it out here. 

****

So there you have it, my suggestions for an ethical shopping lifestyle. Remember, your dollar is your vote. Our fashion choices do more than make us look good- if we use our powers wisely, we can do a lot of good too. I hope helps you understand how you can use your Glamour for Good, and fueled your potential to be a fashion changemaker. If you enjoyed this post, please do re-share it. Merci and happy holidays! 

Ethical Brand Spotlight: Anthill Fabric

I'm proud to be a #weavewearer for Anthill Fabric, a fashion social enterprise that helps to preserve Filipino craftsmanship by giving traditional tribal fabric a new, modern twist. Here is a dress that they custom made just for me, and it fits like a dream! 

Not only am I able to represent my heritage, but each purchase supports the livelihood of local artisans. As a bonus, the brand is headed up by Filipino womanpreneur Anya Lim , so by wearing one dress, I literally get to wear my heart and (all of my causes) on my sleeve. 

Follow Antill at : @anthillfabric on IG and on Facebook here

Curious to learn more about ethical brands? Check out my ethical brand directory here! 

My Top 5 Picks of Most Empowering Interviews Featuring Brilliant Women

Hello August!

It's a new week and a new month, and it calls for some brand new motivation. While I try to make a habit out of positive thinking, I do have my off days (and even off weeks!). To help me regain a strong mindset, I seek out interviews of brilliant women that I admire. From Gina Rodriguez (who I affectionately call G.Ro in my head) to Oprah, from Lisa Nichols to Marie Forleo, here are some of the most empowering interviews that have helped to lift me out of a funk. Hope it can do the same for you!

1. Conversations with Gina Rodriguez, SAG-AFTRA Foundation

The whole thing is good, but 23:04 is where it really hits me. 

2. She's so good, I'd even have to add THIS one with Uzo Aduba for Variety Magazine! 

3. Oprah On Career, life, and leadership at Stanford University

4. Lisa Nichols on Overcoming Fear

5. Marie Forleo on Intuition and Ambition

It's a new day, and I hope this refuels you...let's do this, ladies! 

Major Fashion Brands that are Socially Responsible

image via Fashion Revolution

image via Fashion Revolution

Ever since I made the decision to be a more socially responsible, conscious consumer, shopping has admittedly been a lot harder. Ethical fashion brands are wonderful but still fairly inaccessible- most have a much higher price tag (since they are paying more for their fairly sourced textiles and living wages), and many of them are mostly only available online. So when you need to find something quick for a last minute event, it can be quite tricky. Luckily, a few major fashion brands have been cleared as socially responsible, so you can shop with a conscious a little easier!

Thanks to Remake, I discovered that Baptist World Aid Australia, an international aid organization, launched a comprehensive study of over 87 companies, and ranked them via an A-F grading scale based on the following categories: fair living wages, working towards a transparent supply chain, encouraging worker empowerment, obtainment of certifications and industry collaborations to improve supply chain and working conditions, establishing company policies, and auditing and supplier relationships. While no company is perfect and there are still some large improvements to make, this study shows an optimistic look at the progress companies are making to be more responsible. 

Below are some of the best brands that made the cut with A grades, and honorable mentions. They might pleasantly surprise you! 

1. ADIDAS Group (Adidas, Reebok, Taylormade) Grade: A

  • The Adidas Group has shared a transparent list of all suppliers and factories, made available to the public. 
  • They have also rolled out a worker-manager communication project so that workers can send an SMS to a hotline to raise alarm if they think their rights are being compromised. 
  • They use innovative technology to minimize the harmful effects of dyeing on the environment. 

Learn more via PROJECT JUST

2. Inditex Group (ZARA, Bershka, Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti) Grade: A

  • As a whole, Inditex has made sure to assure fair living wages as a pillar of their company. They have worked with the Ethical Trading Initiative to increase wages for workers in their supply chain. Inditex was part of the effort to pressure the Cambodian government to increase living wages. 
  • They have also formed a partnership with Better Cotton Initiative to save water and to decrease the use of pesticides. 
  • BEWARE, however: Zara and Inditex brands are still fast fashion, which means the company makes billions of units- it doesn't change the fact that the fast fashion business model is still wasteful. If you choose to buy Zara, make sure you choose items that you can commit to wearing at least 30 times so that you can keep it longer and not dispose of it wastefully. 

Learn more via PROJECT JUST

3. Patagonia Grade: A- 

  • If you're looking for fitness or outdoor gear, Patagonia will be one of your most socially responsible choices. The company has certified factories, and have grown its selection of fair trade items. 
  • The company has also worked with bluesign technologies to ensure that they reduce waste, and manage chemicals and dyes in the production process.
  • However, it is still not 100 percent sure if the brand can trace its entire supply chain. 

Learn more via PROJECT JUST 

Honorable Mention:  Levi's Grade: C+ 

  • Ok, so Levi's didn't get such a wonderful grade. BUT they still deserve an honorable mention because the company has a comprehensive code of conduct that sets the standard in the industry. As a major brand, they are a pioneer in social and environmental responsibility. Their code of conduct establishes a firm foundation for the company to build an effective monitoring system. 
  • Denim also requires tons of water to make- Levi's has made an effort to reduce the amount of water used in production by developing innovative techniques. 
  • However, they have not shared their efforts in implementing a living wage to their workers. 

Learn more via PROJECT JUST

Ok...so what about H&M? 

H&M actually got a pretty decent grade on this assessment, a B+. But while H&M is striving to push a more socially responsible agenda, their business model of mega-fast fashion is unsustainable. Check out the video below via Project Just to see why, and head on to their website to read more. 

Bonus: Below is an infographic from Remake to give you an AT-A-GLANCE perspective on the best and worst ethical fashion brands: 

I hope this run-down of major fashion brands helps you make better shopping choices. Remember, our dollar is our vote, so we have to choose carefully! ;) 

How to Help & Heal Orlando

Over the past few days, I've been reeling over the tragedy in Orlando, mourning with the rest of the world. Though I am a writer, I have been at a loss for words. The horrific act of killing 49 and wounding 53 more, while specifically targeting the LGBT and Latino community during Pride Month, is unfathomable and downright diabolical. With all the tragedies we've been #prayingfor lately, I was hesitant to share something on social media that wouldn't lead to some kind of solution, because I know how easy it is to feel helpless during a tragedy like this. So instead, I wanted to offer ways for us to collectively help and heal Orlando. 

1. Honor the memories of the victims by reading about their stories and lives. 

They are not statistics, they are people who lived full, cherished lives. They are people who look like our friends and our families. Honoring their memory reminds us that these crimes are more than news stories, soundbites, and statistics, but rather, real, human lives. We may not immediately connect to a large social issue or policy language, but we do connect to human stories. May their memories remind us to work harder to create a world where love is love, and a lifestyle in which our daily decisions match our values for equality. 

2. Register to vote and sign a petition. 

Who we decide to put into office dictates the laws and policies that we all have to live with. Exercise your right to have a say in how decisions are made. During this Presidential election, think about the kind of leadership this country needs to create a more just and equal society. Participate. Throw your voice in. Another way to do so is to sign petitions. This one about banning assault weapons is almost at its goal. Help them reach it. 

3. Donate to the victims and their families. 

Equality Florida, a local LGBT civil rights group, set up a GoFundMe account that is almost at its goal of fundraising $5 million dollars for all the victims and their families. Consider donating as little as $5 to help. 

4. STAY PROUD. 

It is still Pride month. As allies, we must use our voice and our daily actions as an example. It is imperative that we stand with the LGBT community. To show them that we are here to support them, that we will fight this battle with them, that they are safe with us. We must champion their right to love as much as we champion our own. If there is an LGBT event in your city, go. Find out here to locate one near you.

There is no consolation for the tragedy in Orlando. But starting right here and now, we must actively choose to be part of the solution. 

In Love and PRIDE,

Ruby

Rise & Shine: Love Letters for Girls Who Grew Up Like Me

Growing up, I didn’t have the luxury of seeing a reflection of my story and my experience in the media that was available to me.

I remember as a teenager, I would often put pictures up on my bedroom wall of people I admired- women like Lauryn Hill (remember her in Sister Act 2?!), Brandy and Liv Tyler (because I was freakishly tall for a Pinay and they made tall look good). But one day, I realized that none of the people I cut out from my magazines looked remotely like me.

It was the same in the books that I read, and the TV shows I watched- there was no identifiable place for me to find a reflection of myself and my story. Because I didn’t find easily accessible role models that shared my experience, I didn’t understand the fullness of my own possibility of how far I can actually go in my life.

 After all, if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.

As an immigrant daughter, I somehow internalized this, resulting in an inferiority complex that led to a long journey of me battling with my self-esteem and fighting for my self-worth. (Proud and happy to say that I’ve since won the battle.)

Fast forward a few years later, and I find myself leading a Girls Group in West Harlem, where I had the privilege of mentoring a brilliant group of young women. One afternoon, while waiting for them to arrive, I came across a copy of Essence magazine that published a poignant letter from Michelle Obama addressed to young black women. In her letter, she addressed her own challenges of rising to her potential as a black woman in America, and offered her advice on how to overcome adversity.

The letter touched me. But as much as it left me inspired, it saddened at the same time. 

Because my immediate thought after reading it was, “But who was writing these letters for girls who grew up like me?”

And so throughout my career as a writer, performer, public speaker, and TV host, my mission has always been clear: to create a platform that empowered people, especially women, to find their voice, and, as Gina Rodriguez so eloquently put, “to represent a culture who want to see themselves as heroes”.

I still have a way to go. But though my platform is small (for now), the intention behind it is mighty. Because I am clear about my voice and the purpose I intend for it to represent.

All of that being said, to serve my mission, I got over my initial insecurities and got the courage to launch my own web series, with the intention of helping women rise and shine to their best selves.

Consider them as my love letters to every girl who grew up like me.

I hope you find them useful. And please do share your feedback and/or ideas of future episodes! I'd love to hear from you. 

Love, Ruby