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The Latinx changemakers at the forefront of DC's sustainable fashion movement

Collectives that promote sustainability education are opening conversations around intersectional environmentalism within Washington's emerging fashion space.

By Caroline Cliona Boyle

CircleVibe DC creators Juliana Jaramillo and Paola Estia. Photo courtesy of Juliana Jaramillo.

In Washington, D.C., Latinx women are spearheading the sustainable fashion movement. These local changemakers promote a circular economy through grassroots efforts that engage the community to buy second-hand and to support the communities of color exploited by the fashion industry.

Communities of color are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards, according to the EPA. The systems in place to dissolve environmental disparities are still overwhelming white, Green 2.0 measured. The consequence of green white-washing is best illustrated by the Biden administration’s February announcement that race will not be considered a factor in the policy framework to mitigate the effects of climate change, The New York Times reported.

At the forefront of Washington, D.C.’s conversation on intersectional environmentalism within the fashion industry is stylist Juliana Jaramillo. Jaramillo is the founder of Circle Vibe DC, a fashion collective that promotes sustainability education. In addition to styling consultations, the group holds montly events that promote second-hand fashion, including swap-shops and workshops that educate locals about the exploitation of garment workers and the effects that fast fashion has on climate climate.

Juliana Jaramillo, founder of Circle Vibe DC, a fashion collective that promotes sustainability education, is at the forefront of environmentalism in Washington’s fashion industry. Jaramillo’s collective holds montly events that promote second-hand fashion including swap-shops and workshops that educate about the exploitation of garment workers and the effects of fast fashion on the climate.

Gabrielle Cleary, co-founder of the sustainable fashion think tank Tribute, said “intersectional environmentalism should be the starting point.” Propelling discussions of intersectional enviromentalism to the forefront of the eco-conscious fashion initiative is integral to uplifting the communities that the fast fashion industry affects the most.

“You see people around the United States, and these groups that are in a conversation about intersectionalism, but they’re not having a larger conversation — it has become deeply divided in that way.”

Community-action organizations in Washington that relay sustainable habits locally are important, Cleary said. The smaller groups that are “having these deeper conversations are really where change is going to happen.”

Jaramillo’s niche in D.C.’s sustainable fashion industry is unique to her experience immigrating from Colombia to the United States. While her interest in eco-conscious fashion developed out of a growing concern for the climate, Jaramillo expressed that shopping second-hand was initally the most economical option to purchase clothing when her family moved to the U.S.

“I came with my family through the very classic Latin American immigration patterns where you start working from day one. So, thrifting and second-hand became the easiest way for me to buy clothes,” said Jaramillo.

There is a certain privilege to be able to purchase second-hand clothing that is sustainable, said Yeleny Rivera-Flores, curator of the vintage label Happy Flores. There is still a stigma attached to purchasing second-hand clothing, for some it is a negative representation of one’s social class, Flores said.

“Within my own culture, there is a fear of buying second hand because it means you’re not doing well. Being in a mindset of survival and then making it, it’s like ‘why would I buy second-hand when I can afford these things now,” said Flores.

Events such as the clothing swaps held by CircleVibe, can combat the stigma around thrifting and people can learn about environmentalism there.

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