Photo via Kestrel Jenkins
Kestrel Jenkins is a leader in the ethical fashion movement as the founder of AWEAR World, and host of the Conscious Chatter podcast. On her show, she interviews experts who play a role in the global supply chain, and they discuss where our clothes are made, what they’re made of and who made them. After you peruse our interview below, I encourage you to check out her podcast for some eye-opening anecdotes and advice on how to navigate today’s fashion industry. Happy reading!
What is your background that led you to get involved in the fashion industry, and dedicate your work to ethical fashion & sustainability?
I have degrees in Global Studies, Women’s Studies and International Journalism from college. My global studies background especially helped me understand the complexities that surround a product, a person, or an idea when they move around the world. One thing that was front of mind after I graduated was the idea of working somehow in a job related to fair trade. After moving back home for a brief stint, my mom suggested the idea of fashion – she’s brilliant. Clothing has been such an integral part of who I am and styling has always been my primary art form. This led me to finding People Tree, where I had the opportunity to intern. From there on, I was engulfed in this world.
You’ve built an inclusive, socially conscious community in AWEAR World. Can you speak more to your mission and what you’re doing now?
The idea of AWEAR World was spawned from a project I did back in 2010 after interning with People Tree in London. I made a year-long pledge to only purchase clothing that respected people and the planet in its supply chain. After completing this project, I wanted to find a way to bring more people into the conversation, and to showcase their style as well. Conscious Chatter, the podcast, is a recent addition to the AWEAR World project – after launching just over a year ago, I feel pretty unbelievably proud of the guests we’ve had and the inspiring conversations that have graced these episodes.
What is one of your favorite gems you’ve gleaned from your interviews on your podcast, Conscious Chatter?
There are literally SO many. I feel so fortunate to have the chance to connect with such innovators and changemakers in the space – to pick their brains and learn directly from them. One gem that stands out to me right now arose in a recent chat with Dechel of Galerie.La. We talked a lot about personal style, and how we are losing it nowadays given that so many outfits, styles and looks are nonstop fed to us on Instagram. And in turn, we look like everybody else, instead of creating our own vision for our personal style. I love how Dechel brought up the idea that fast fashion is feeding this phenomenon and hindering us from finding our own personal style. So basically, less fast fashion = a more unique, personal style.
What is your advice for those just beginning to explore ethical fashion, or how would you recommend navigating the growing industry?
It’s a complex mess, and even when you get into it, it doesn’t get clearer – it almost gets more blurry, because when you learn more, there are more questions to explore. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s overwhelming. The best way to dive into it is on your own time, and by looking into ideas that resonate the most with you. For instance, if you’re interested in fair trade, listen to a couple episodes of Conscious Chatter like our chat with Safia Minney of People Tree or episode 59 with Patagonia. Start finding bloggers that speak your language and follow them to learn more about products and/or ways to live a little less impactful life. There are so many more resources today which is so exciting!
Do you have a few brands you consistently turn to when you’re in need of new clothes?
Tradlands – they make the best fitting shirts ever. I’m a layering queen, so they are perfect for me. If I need a fancy dress, it’s hard to go wrong with Reformation.
What is one thing/misconception you want people to understand about sustainable fashion?
One thing that has consistently been a struggle for me is to let people know that “sustainable fashion” is just fashion. It shouldn’t be this entity put over in a side column or separated because it’s not “fashion”. I am a big believer that more and more brands are changing the game and I hope that the idea of “sustainable fashion” can disintegrate so fashion can just adopt better practices for people and the environment.