It’s hard not to notice Ruby Veridiano. With her ruby red lips and gold flats, sweeping cape and quintessential French scarf, one would expect her to be a connoisseur of the latest trends. Yet when you meet Ruby in person, you quickly understand she is even more than that: she’s a rare champion of “conscious fashion.”
“I truly believe that when a woman discovers what she stands for, she stands even taller” – Ruby Veridiano
A Filipino-American living in Paris, Ruby sees herself as a fashion changemaker on a mission to empower women and advocate for diversity. Her writing and travels to discover fashion makers and trendsetters have opened the doors to the workshops and showrooms of women of color around the world who make the clothing and accessories we wear.
Ruby promotes creative talent and diligent hands who uphold ethical production. She is a personable motivational speaker at forums and an ambassador in the TV and print media advocating positive change for women. Her work is skilfully shown in “Wear I’m From”, an original web series she created and co-produced on the topic of style and cultural identity for NBC Asian America.
INSPIRELLE spoke with Ruby to help us understand that conscious fashion is an important women’s issue, which more women and men are adopting as a major fashion statement. She tells us how we can choose what we wear and even suggests a simple app that tells you if your fashion choice is as ethically good as it looks.
Ruby, as someone who loves and writes about fashion, how did you become interested in sustainable fashion?
I began my career as a poet/writer who wrote pieces that intended to empower women to love and believe in themselves. As an Asian-American woman who didn’t grow up with many representations of myself in the media, I aspired to be a voice that my sisters could relate to. By sharing my voice, I hoped that it would inspire them to find theirs.
When I discovered that 80% of the 75 million garment workers around the world were women primarily from Asia, I realized that advocating for a more ethical fashion industry was, in fact, a women’s empowerment issue, and it was also directly affecting Asian women.
If I were truly committed to empowering women’s voices, I knew that I also had to care about the women whose voices are disempowered every day on the factory floor. Like us Western women, they are fighting for equal pay, freedom from sexual harassment and the right to live their most inspired lives. It is clear to me that the two movements are directly intertwined, and I couldn’t care about one without caring about the other.
For the average person, conscious or sustainable fashion is not a household expression. Can you help us define it?
Sustainable fashion is the kind of fashion that is consciously made with both human and planetary impact in mind. It is the kind of fashion that is made ethically, with eco-friendly practices.
Many people don’t realize that the fashion industry is actually one of the most polluting industries in the world (only coming second to oil!), and it also violates human rights by employing over 75 million people in the world at low wages and unsafe working conditions. In 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing over 1,138 people, and injuring 2,500 others. Tags from global brands were found among the rubble. This is one of the worst industrial disasters in history, and it could have been avoided if more attention and effort was given towards caring for the people making our clothes.
What kind of women are making waves in this field today?
Given our current socio-political climate around the world, millennial women are much more ready to think about how their lifestyles are contributing to the world around them. The more sustainable fashion is becoming part of the larger fashion conversation, the more people are embracing the kind of fashion that represents the values we are advocating for. Young activists like Aditi Mayer, Dominique Drakeford, Kestrel Jenkins, Krithika Reddy, and Andrea Plell are infusing diverse perspectives into the sustainable fashion conversation.
Ayesha Barenblat from Remake is my role model in this space, and I am grateful to learn from her and to work on the movement alongside her.
Lastly, Meghan Markle wore sustainable fashion brands during a recent royal tour, so that’s a great boost to the movement!
What are some of your favorite clothing pieces or accessories that represent conscious fashion?
Some of my favorite brands are Reformation (from LA), because they make very fashion-forward collections that are made sustainably, as well as French sneaker brand VEJA. I also love shopping vintage, which gives already made clothes another life, so it’s a form of recycling! In Paris, we have the luxury of finding “Made in France” vintage pieces, which are really the cream of the crop. My favorite find thus far is this vintage cape, which I found in a small vintage store in Montmartre. It is a timeless, classic piece that I consider as one of my favorite treasures. I love that it is both elegant and ethical, a mix of old world and modern glamour.
It seems as if behind every sustainable fashion piece there is a story to be told. What is your favorite story?
My favorite sustainable fashion pieces come from those who approach it from a heritage standpoint. One of my favorite bag brands is Banago, which employs Filipino artisans who were victims of Typhoon Haiyan. The internationally-distributed brand allows this traditional weaving craft to stay alive by modernizing it through bags that are relevant to today’s woman. Not only are the bags beautiful, but they also support a meaningful cause. I believe that is the definition of today’s luxury – to be able to support products that have a purpose behind them.
At the last Paris Fashion Week and during a conference in Amsterdam, you participated as a Remake Ambassador. Why is it so important to connect the dots between what is seen on the runway, in the shops and how clothes are made?
Fashion is a glamorous industry, and it is easy to talk about how beautiful the clothes are. But behind the glitz, is a lot of not-so-pretty truths, and those realities are directly affecting pressing world issues, like climate change and gender equality.
Today, feminism is a major trend in fashion runways – you see many feminist slogans used by various designers. While this is a great message, can all brands say that their clothes were made with women truly in mind? Feminism is more than wearing a T-shirt, after all. If fashion truly wanted to support women, they would think about ALL women involved in their process, not just the end consumer. Because without this, activism is reduced to empty words, void of real action. We are living in a crucial time where we need to think about how our daily choices are affecting our future, and every little bit matters.
As we shop, we need to think about the ways in which we vote with our dollars. What are we actively supporting via our choices? As we’ve learned from these past mid-term elections, every vote counts.
How can each and every one of us become more conscious of our fashion choices and make a difference today?
1. Start by buying less and choosing better. One painless, immediate thing you can do is to download the Good On You app to your smartphone. The app rates brands according to their ethical and environmental initiatives, and within seconds, you can look up to see if your favorite brands are doing good. If they’re not, the app suggests alternatives.
2. Instead of buying disposable, trendy items that won’t last, choose higher quality items that you can see yourself wearing in the long-term. A good rule of thumb is to ask if yourself if you commit to wearing an item least 30 times before buying it. It’s a good filter for better shopping choices.
3. If a clothing item costs less than a cup of coffee, it’s a good idea to walk away from it. Clothing items generally go through 100 pairs of human hands before it makes it to the store – if it costs less than $5, chances are, people weren’t paid fairly.
For more tips on building a sustainable wardrobe, check out this piece I wrote HERE.