It’s Time for Garment Workers to Stop Carrying Fashion’s Economic Burden


The following post is in collaboration with Nomi Network — a nonprofit working towards a slavery-free world where every woman can live up to her full potential. 

When we contemplate the frontliners of COVID-19, we typically list the doctors, nurses, bus drivers, or even our pizza delivery person. But we often overlook the garment workers making the masks we wear every day.

After COVID-19 dried up the apparel market, millions of garment workers have faced the economic brunt of fashion’s supply chain shutdown. In response to the low market demand, big-name retailers have hastily canceled both completed and in-progress orders with their manufacturers. Some brands have even refused to pay for orders that were shipped out pre-COVID.

As a result, manufacturers were unable to pay their employees for work leading up to the shutdown, and many had to let their garment workers go, often with no advance notice and no severance pay. 

In an industry of 75 percent female workers, this economic toll only widens the financial disparity between women and our male counterparts. 

Maribelia Quiroz, an LA-based garment worker, stated: 

Since COVID-19, I have been stuck at home, feeling desperate with anxiety. There has been work in my factory, but I’m afraid to go because it’s all [paid] under the table, and people are working without six-foot distancing. The pay is the same as before the pandemic: 12-hour days, $280 a week.”

But for female garment workers living in manufacturing hubs with fragile economic infrastructures like Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Cambodia—one missed paycheck can determine whether or not they can send each of their children to a school that month. Even if this woman is married to a working husband, one income usually isn’t enough to support the average 4-5 member household in Southeast Asia. 

[Read Related: Hasan Minhaj’s ‘Patriot Act’ Highlights the Woes of Fast Fashion]

In Cambodia, where we fight human trafficking through economic capacity-building and fashion skills training, more than 150,000 garment workers have lost their jobs. Sophen, a home-based Cambodian tailor who works for one of our fair-trade production partners, says that losing her income has put her and her six-member family in a vulnerable financial crisis. Her husband’s construction worker salary alone is not enough to cover all of their food, medical, and utility expenses. And when she needs formula for her daughter, she has to ask her other relatives for the money. Sophen’s biggest concern is that she has no savings for unexpected medical emergencies, especially for her baby and her parents, who would be most prone to infection if the virus were to pick up more rapidly.

Sreymom is another fair-trade artisan in our network. She told us that while her employer covers up to 50% of her monthly salary, she cannot afford her increasing financial needs. While she’s thankful she can cover her rent and daily expenses; she has nothing left over. Sreymom is unmarried but lives with her aging aunt, whom she can barely support now. Sreymom also has a physical ailment and is unable to afford her medical treatments. She tells us that while she is hopeful for the future, she doesn’t expect to get back to work until early September, as her boss promised. She is still unsure how she will cover her expenses between now and September, and she feels unprepared for an emergency. While COVID-19 cases remain low in Cambodia, Sreymom still practices social distancing by staying home and seeking other creative ways to generate the income she needs.  

Sophen and Sreymom are in difficult situations, but since they work for well-vetted, fair-trade certified manufacturers in our network, we’re aware that their circumstances are better than most. In recent months, thousands of women have protested outside their employers’ offices, demanding their last wages and severance checks. These women would be lucky to receive 50 percent of their monthly wages that Sreymom gets from her employer. 

When a woman living in Cambodia—a country ranked third in the world for human trafficking—suddenly loses her job, she is forced to seek immediate, alternative forms of employment. While financially necessary, this makes her and even her children more susceptible to traffickers’ deceptive lures of “stable” or “high-paying” jobs.

When retailers neglect their contract terms with their suppliers, especially suppliers in economically fragile, developing countries, they aren’t considering the ripple effect of their actions. And they are so far removed from the realities of these economies that they either don’t see or care how their actions push millions of Southeast Asian women deeper into poverty and at higher risk of labor exploitation.

Retailers’ indifference towards their supply chain is nothing new. It’s just one of the many forms of negligence that garment workers face. 

Year after year, Southeast Asia’s garment hubs rank highly for “extreme risk of forced labor, occupational health and safety, and child labor.” Human rights violations in Cambodia’s workforce have remained so intact that the EU has withdrawn part of its tariff preferences under the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme. While the EU’s stance is noble, withdrawing tariff preferences hurt garment workers even more. As Cambodian export costs increase, Cambodian manufacturers will have a harder time sustaining their international retail clients. And when client orders decrease, so does the manufacturers’ capacity to provide stable jobs. The NACC has already predicted that the loss of trade access will result in 43 percent of Cambodian garment workers and 20 percent of footwear workers losing their jobs.


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So what’s the solution?

Since March, thousands of garment workers have protested demanding wages from their final pay periods, but manufacturers have refused, blaming the retailer clients who canceled their orders. 

In April, the Cambodian government proposed that brands and manufacturers would contribute 40 percent of the minimum wage ($114/mo) for suspended workers, while the state contributes another 20 percent, but this promise was never kept. After it became apparent that manufacturers wouldn’t uphold their end of the bargain, the government issued $70/mo to laid-off workers instead of the original “40/20-percent” proposal. 

The $70/mo allowance is 37 percent less than the current minimum wage. 

[Read Related: The $1 in My Pocket: Let’s Talk About Socioeconomic Diversity]

On a lighter note, COVID-19’s impact has spurred a great deal of media coverage for workers’ rights. International grassroots labor advocacy groups like Clean Clothes Campaign and Fashion Revolution are spreading needed awareness of the recent labor rights violations, pressuring major retailers to uphold contract terms with their manufacturers. Hundreds of institutional investors have urged companies to maintain respectable supplier relationships and make timely payments. Also, petitions like’s #PayUp campaign are demanding that retailers promise to pay suppliers for all orders that were canceled or paused as a result of the coronavirus. 


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As part of our COVID-19 response, we are fundraising to distribute grants to our fair-trade manufacturing partners in Cambodia, helping them provide stimulus checks to their employees—many who are either survivors or women at high risk. Partial funding will also provide direct relief to their employees—covering food, rent, and baby formula expenses.

But as an NGO who strives for holistic transformation and lasting systemic change, it’s hard not to get discouraged and label these efforts, and even our own COVID-19 response as short-term “band-aid” solutions to a seemingly larger than life issue. 

While #Payup petitions and strikes are needed and necessary, the reality is—it will take years for all brands to value their ethics as much as their profits. While the slow fashion and fair-trade movements have taken massive strides, a large portion of the industry still utilizes cheap, unethical labor sources. 

And while Cambodia’s limits on governmental aid seem negligent, the government relies heavily on two major industries for tax income—textiles and tourism—both of whom have taken substantial hits from COVID-19. The World Bank estimates that Cambodia’s poverty rates could increase “anywhere between 3 to 11 percent among households involved in key sectors like manufacturing and the garment industry.” The persistent strikes can keep the issue at the forefront of government officials’ minds, but the government’s capacity to provide adequate relief still lacks.

It feels morally wrong to watch millions of female workers remain reliant on fragile economic infrastructures and flawed money-hungry industries that haven’t served them historically. 

But just like the fall of the Khmer Rouge, our current BLM movement, and every other lasting systemic shift, real change takes a two-pronged approach, combining short-term and long-term solutions.

For the last five years, we’ve fought human trafficking systemically by supporting fair-trade businesses in Phnom Penh’s burgeoning fashion sector. In addition to supporting production with sales through the NOMI brand, we also encourage global brands to support ethical supply chains by placing wholesale orders through our network. Our investment in Cambodian manufacturers helps them expand their workforce capacity and provide more safe, stable, and distinguished jobs to trafficking survivors and women at risk. 

But the post-COVID reality has pushed us to more rapid, innovative program restructuring.

[Read Related: Essential Skincare for Essential Workers: Quick Tips in the Time of COVID-19]

At our NIFT (Nomi International Fashion Training) school in Phnom Penh, we have added training in savings, client servicing, and budgeting to our class schedule. We are also hosting virtual forums where manufacturers can strategize post-COVID business solutions with one another. As we continue our online fashion training courses, our teaching staff is available to consult local designers and producers as they navigate the current economic uncertainty. 

As we prepare to launch our new program in Poipet, we are integrating our Nomi Network Fashion Incubator (NNFI) job creation experience with the trauma-informed, economic empowerment program that we employ in India. 

As we expand and reach more marginalized women in Cambodia, we will support them with job skills training and connections to ethical, fair-trade employers. But beyond that, we will help them foster financial literacy, entrepreneurial savvy, and self-agency needed to reach financial independence and rewrite narratives for themselves and future generations. 

While cultivating financial literacy and access to fair-trade jobs won’t resolve a global supply chain slowdown or decades of economic instability, it plays an essential role in this collective fight. 


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We believe it’s okay to admit that we don’t have all the answers. But somewhere between the spikes of conscious consumerism, tenacious protesting, and progressive philanthropic solutions, we can fight this fight together—advocating for women around the world who have faced the brunt of the supply chain’s shortcomings for far too long. 

Nomi Network’s vision is to see a world without slavery, where every woman can know her full potential. You can learn more about our mission and donate to our Cambodia Relief Fund here.

By Nomi Network

Nomi Network is a 501c3 organization that envisions a world without slavery where every woman can know her full potential. … Read more ›

Meet Fashion Blogger and Media Star Dolly Singh

Dolly Singh
Dolly Singh

Dolly Singh is a content creator who is from South Delhi. She earned a bachelor’s in political science from Delhi University. Singh then attended The National Institute of Fashion and Technology. She even had her own blog called “Spill the Sass.” Fashion is a true passion for Singh as she made her outfit of the day debut on Netflix’s Bhaag Beanie Bhaagon. She has even appeared on Modern Love Mumbai Edition! Singh was awarded Cosmopolitan Blogger Award in 2021 and IWM Social Media Star in 2022. Continue to learn more about Dolly Singh’s journey!

[Read Related: Fashion Influencer Ritvi Shah on how to Nail Content Creation]


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What parts of your childhood pushed you into the world of content creation?

I have always been an introverted-extrovert kind of person. During my early teens I wouldn’t speak much at home but in school I was quite the talkative showgirl. When I look back it seems so paradoxical, almost as if I suffer from a split personality. Somehow my earliest childhood memories are of my loving to be on stage. I remember when I was in the 12th grade, I cajoled my teacher to include me in a singing competition since I had never ever sung live on stage and I was persistent in my effort for over 4-5 years and eventually she gave up and she said ‘okay its your last year why don’t you go do it ‘and of course in the process I realized what a bad singer I was. But just the sheer joy of being on stage, performing to a live audience and entertaining people is what stirred me at a deeper level. I think on the other hand my reserved side allows me to study people and their nuances and store all those observations in my memory data bank which helps me create great content. I wouldn’t speak much at home, but you know when I did, it was just 2 punch lines and everybody would either laugh or get awkward. I think I always knew that I was born to entertain, and it was my destiny’s calling. I would always get jealous seeing child actors on newspapers and television and I was like ‘oh my God, I am a child, and I could be an actor, living my dream life but I’m still stuck here’.

Do you feel what you do can inspire and impact the world? Please elaborate.

Of course, I think anybody with a decent following on social media has the potential to positively impact the community. Content creators enjoy a certain reach and it’s so important to handle that responsibility meticulously and the kind of message that you’re putting out needs to be respectful of certain socially expected parameters and mindful of the basic laws of the universe. It’s better to say nothing, then to say something stupid something that is going to just bring out the worst in people or send out misleading signals. I feel like the amount of content that audiences are consuming these days can trigger positive change if it’s done in the right manner. I feel strongly about a lot of topics, and I make sure that my platform is a reflection of that in some way. With content creators as opposed to film stars and celebrities, there is a direct engagement with audiences and a more one-on-one connection and hence content creators stand at a more leveraged position to influence audiences positively. I love body positivity as a topic.

Who were your fashion icons growing up?

Any fashion events that you envisage yourself at in the future to represent the brown renaissance? I think a lot of my inspiration came from the indie pop movement of the 1900s and the 2000’s. I started watching Hollywood movies and a lot of my inspiration started coming from the Bollywood Hollywood section in glossies and I made cutouts of the media, the models, the people. Then came Disney Channel and FTV and I used to watch those when my mom was away at work. I would love to represent India at the Paris, New York and London runways and walk for Indian designers who are using sustainable fabrics and indigenous designs and helping skilled artisans make a living in India. I love Madhu Sapre, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Cindy Crawford.

As you started a style blog in college, what were some of your favorite pieces of clothing in your early years?

Yeah, it was called Spill The Sass. I love blogging on T-shirts because there are so many ways that you could style a basic white T-shirt. Another blog I enjoyed back in the day was 5 ways to style maxi skirts. If I had to choose two pieces of clothing it would be a T-shirt and jeans!

How has your style evolved over the years?

It’s evolved from minimalistic and pocket friendly to being experimental and qualitative. The more I visited fashion weeks and events, the greater I experimented with outfit ideas that I curated personally. Over the years, I’ve started leaning more towards keeping it classy, chic and comfortable.

Tell us about your favorite online character since you make a bunch of them?

My favorite online character of mine would be Raju Ki Mummy because it’s based on my own mother.

If you could collaborate with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

I would love to collaborate with Jenna Marbles. I love her to death. I discovered her few years ago and I would love to meet her in person. I mean she’s just a person who if I meet, I will just start sobbing like a child.

[Read Related: Malvika Sitlani on Content Creation, Entrepreneurship and Womanhood]


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Have you faced adversity in your field? How have you risen from it?

Adversities are just an everyday fact of life but I like to believe my dreams and goals are bigger than my fears and setbacks. I know at the end of the day I want to be something; I want to give back and quitting isn’t the solution. Every time I face a creative block, I just tell myself this ‘get up and get to work, there are many who look up to you, you can’t disappoint them’. Also, the support from family, friends is nothing less than therapeutic especially when you’re having that typical bad day. I run towards therapy when I hit rock bottom, which happens quite often. We often feel burnt out, exhausted, tired, and just sad. I’ve been taking therapy for the last two years. It’s been beneficial. I’m not saying all my problems have vanished; that’s not how it works. It’s a continuous journey and a continuous process, but I think therapy is my mantra.

You recently turned into an entrepreneur with your own line of candles. Tell us more on what drove this decision and are there any other lifestyle products you will be launching?

As a creator I think it’s just natural to want to extend your brand trajectory to newer realms and not be stagnant in your growth path. It’s hard to gauge the shelf life of any creator considering there is stiff competition and there will be a sense of redundancy that seeps into the algorithm at some point. It’s always beneficial to expand your forte and explore multiple revenue streams is what I’ve gathered from so many interactions I’ve had with my industry peers over the past few years. There were many opportunities where people wanted to create merchandise of mine or partner on a fashion and accessory line but I wasn’t very mentally ready given my hectic schedules. I was a customer of Rad Living and after the pandemic I went into this zone of binge buying so much self-care stuff and you know candles was one of them. So when this came about I think I was ready to experiment and expand and was looking for an avenue to invest my energies on something enjoyable. I had already made a content piece on candles before this offer came my way so I had a list of quirky candle names, taglines for fragrances, matching the fragrance notes with the names. I think with this inning the whole ‘Creator’ part to me really came to use here as well and that’s what was exciting about this and it was funny because it was such ‘a life comes to a full circle’ moment for me. My mom was into candle making because Nainital at that point was known for its candles and she used to make such variety of candles, 100s of types of candles and all my life I mean the first 16-17 years of my life I’ve just seen my mom make candles at home and our house were full of wax and everything was just candles. My father used to sell candles and it was my family business. Let’s just say that I’m taking forward the family legacy and I’m very excited to go home and to my father’s shop in Nainital and put my candles there and sell them!

Will there be any lifestyle products you’ll be launching?

I was so nervous about this candle launch as I never wanted to mislead my audiences and have them indulge in something that’s mediocre. I really invested my heart and soul in this venture, and thankfully the response has been beyond phenomenal. Courtesy all the good word of mouth publicity, I’m thinking of maybe launching my own beauty and fashion line in about 2 years!

What have been your favorite content pieces that have you worked on this far?

I love most of my content pieces as I’m very particular about each one of them so it’s hard to pick a favorite. One of them is a mini film called Aunty Prem Hai and it’s about an orthodox lady finding out that her nephew is queer from his ex-boyfriend, and this is a first time reveal since the nephew has never come out of the closet. There’s also this series called How Aunties Talk About Sex, and I’ve given a twist to how old-timer desi Indians broach the topic of sex based on how I’ve seen my mother interact with her friends, post dinner conversations amongst relatives, and how it’s more like a taboo.

What are your favorite social media trends?

Anything that emits positivity and gratitude. It’s important that social media trends invoke a sense of intellectual enhancement. Anything that kind of teaches you something that enriches your existence or makes you want to live life more wholesomely. I also enjoy throwback trends, something to do with special memories and nostalgia, because I feel old school is always timeless.

Do you feel people are so trapped in social media that they forget about the world around them outside of their laptops, phones, and tablets?

Yes. Personally it’s been a task for me to get detached from technology and balance the real and the reel. In the last couple of years, I have consciously cut down on my screen time, even though it’s all work and no play for me. Social media is so omnipresent and it’s sometimes scary to see this crazy social media obsession where people forget there’s a real world out there with real people and you need to forge real connections that are deeply rooted in authentic exchanges. It’s scarier to see how social media trends have now become rules to live by for a more meaningful existence for many when on the contrary that shouldn’t be the case.

[Read Related: Filmi Nights: A Love Letter to Vintage Bollywood]

How do you feel about the term content creator?

It’s a word that invokes a sense of pride in me because for me it’s all about being innovative, authentic and self-made. Influencer on the other hand is something that doesn’t resonate with me because there’s no real job description. I’ve always maintained my stand of not being an influencer as I create content and make a living out of being creative and curating an audience for myself over the years.

As you’ve worked with Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Aayushmann Khurrana, and others do you hope to be more involved in Bollywood? Tell us about your acting projects.

Of course, I would love to be more involved in the film industry not just in India but globally too. I think there is so much scope for the South Asian community to make a mark in world cinema and it’s time we pick up more Oscars and Grammy’s in the coming times. Anyone who is a creator is also a film star at heart. 90% of creators who make sketches and skits are facing the camera 24×7, making original content, improvising on scripts and all of that stems from that innate ability to be great performers who can keep an audience engaged. I would love to someday have my own podcast where I interview film personalities and get into their skin. I love the dance and song sequences in Bollywood films, and I think I’d be great doing that as well! I’d love to see how I can get out of my comfort zone and do something that doesn’t directly relate to my online alias in the future. I got a lot of offers during the lockdown and shot for a film in 2022 which sees me in a leading role and I’m excited for it to launch later this year. I’m working on some writing projects as I would love to script a documentary or a short film.

Lastly, what do you hope to take away from this interview with Brown Girl Magazine?

I think the questions have been great. The questions have been answered in a way that I feel so confident about myself right now, and I feel so proud about myself and that says a lot. I would like to thank Brown Girl Magazine for taking time out to interview me. I hope this inspires the brown community across the world!

Photo Courtesy of Dolly Singh

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By Brown Girl Magazine

Born out of the lack of minority representation in mainstream media, Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South … Read more ›

South Asian Creators Claim Their Space at the Cannes Film Festival

Ever since we can recall, the Cannes Film Festival has been a merger of movies and glamour. On one side, there are hand-picked films — ready to premiere and make their mark in the world of entertainment — and on the other, audiences and paparazzi alike are served epic moments in fashion.

The festival, aimed to preview upcoming films from all over the world, invites a wide variety of guests that span the film fraternity, of course, but more recently, has opened its doors to many digital content creators, including renowned South Asian creatives.

With a more vast guest list comes a more recent debate: Cannes is a film festival and not a fashion showcase. Kickstarting the debate this year was none other than ace Bollywood director, Nandita Das, who in an Instagram post shared:

Sometimes people seem to forget that it is a festival of films and not of clothes!

In short, Das wants Cannes’ narrative to continue to focus on films.

[Read Related: Cannes Film Festival 2022: Red Carpet Representation at its Finest]

But of course, there’s been a paradigm shift in the guest list over the last few years; this shift has allowed talents from various industries — including lifestyle content creators, entrepreneurs, etc., who showcase their work in fashion and beauty like fine masterstrokes — to walk the carpet and represent their craft, making space for others in their industry.

Influential names like Dolly Singh, Kaushal, Diipa Buller-Khosla, and Shivani Bafna — all of whom made a raging impact on the red carpet this year — weigh in on the significance of representing South Asian artists/influencers on the red carpet, and how they feel they’ve been part of this paradigm shift at Cannes Film Festival.

Diipa Buller-Khosla

I believe that each step we take at events like Cannes sends a powerful message of diversity, cultural richness, and artistic excellence. Representation matters, and the presence of South Asian creators on the red carpet at Cannes helps broaden the narrative of beauty, talent, and creativity. It allows us to showcase our unique perspectives, narratives, and contributions, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive industry. By actively participating and making our presence felt, we help create more opportunities and spaces for South Asian creators, encouraging others to share their stories with the world.


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Since 2015, the first time I walked the red carpet, till this year I have always been invited by L’Oreal Paris, one of the main sponsors of the event. It has always been such an honor to be invited to the festival through the makeup brand that I have been using for almost two decades, and, before my social media career began. Personally, I feel a sense of acknowledgment from such a prestigious brand, and its head office teams that sponsor Cannes Film Festival, and value the work I have done and continue to do as a South Asian content creator within the beauty space. Makeup, hair, and beauty will always play a big role within the film industry and it’s something I have always created my content around which is why I am proud to attend.


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Dolly Singh

This is a proud moment not just for me but also [for] my peers and the entire content creator ecosystem given that we have reached such new global stages and presence. Of course, as you said, such film festivals, once considered as an exclusive hub for a congregation of the finest acting talents have, in the last few years, opened their arms to more people from the entertainment industry.

This is not just a sudden phenomenon with a burst of Indian creators at the festival this year but there is increased participation from non-film and non-South Asian celebrities across various spectrums from different sides of the world. Along with the many filmmakers, actors, producers, etc I also met some amazing influencers and entrepreneurs from other sides of the world. It’s amazing to represent India and celebrate and champion the advent of the digital ecosphere on such a prominent platform.

The confluence of actors and creators signified the amalgamation of traditional cinema and new-age digital influence, highlighting the transformative power of creative expression and how festivals like Cannes have become more forthcoming and progressive in their approach.

Cannes, like any other prominent festival, boasts of a red carpet that is synonymous with fashion and glitz, and I wanted to use this opportunity to represent all the amazing Indian fashion designers on the carpet besides, of course, attending the screenings. As someone who is just not an influencer but also an actress, I thoroughly enjoyed all the red-carpet screenings and meeting like-minded film talent from around the world at the event. At some point in the future, I would like to be attending Cannes for a film I’ve featured in.


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Shivani Bafna

Creators are often placed into boxes of where they belong and the rooms they can be a part of. Being on the red carpet dismantles the ideology that there’s a cap on how far we, as creators and as a South Asian community, can go and what we can achieve.

The Cannes Film Festival has always been viewed as the epitome of a glamorous event — everyone who attends looks like they’re living their best lives. I used the platform to share an authentic message of what the experience felt like for me. To represent all of us who doubt our potential, experience imposter syndrome, and are nervous to find their place, yet continue to push through to achieve their dreams!

As the first Indian American influencer to walk at Cannes, I hope I can inspire young women to confidently ask, ‘Why not me?’


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There’s no doubt that the Cannes Film Festival is centered around films, and continues to be a unique space for the global film fraternity to bring their art and showcase their aptitude. But, creators like Bafna, Singh, Buller-Khosla, and Kaushal — a special shoutout to Raja Kumari for being instrumental in paving the way as well — have their own set of responsibilities to fulfill upon their invitation to the prestigious event. Their will to represent their South Asian identities, celebrate their industries, and continue to hold space for their peers makes their presence at Cannes more than just clothes.

All images in the featured photo are from the influencers’ Instagram feeds.

By Sandeep Panesar

Sandeep Panesar is an editor, and freelance writer, based out of Toronto. She enjoys everything from the holiday season to … Read more ›

Ace Designer Anita Dongre Goes Vegan

Making conscious decisions can, and should, go hand in hand with wearing fashionable pieces of clothing. Fortunately, South Asian fashion is making huge strides in the sustainable fashion department, and ace fashion designer Anita Dongre is at the forefront of this change; she’s so dedicated to making environmentally friendly choices in her collections.

Brown Girl Magazine has previously had the honor of featuring her Grassroots Collection; today, we sat down with Dongre to chat about her new vegan luxury line.


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Her love for animals is parallel to her love for fashion and she does not sacrifice one or the other. From handcrafted purses to belts, the new collection is made of recycled materials and leaves a smaller carbon footprint.

[Read Related: ‘A New York Minute’: Brown Girls Get Real About Their Roots with Anita Dongre Grassroot’s Collection]

What inspired you to “go vegan” both personally and product-wise?

I have always loved animals. When I was 13 my best friend talked me into being vegetarian and there was no looking back – Sangita and I continued to work together and since then we have both also turned vegan. When I started my business, I wanted the brand to be an extension of my personal philosophies so being a vegan brand was a forgone conclusion. My personal philosophy is to live a mindful life with kindness. This philosophy extends to respecting all life [so] we have chosen not to use leather for our line of accessories. For years I have wanted to create a vegan line of accessories that was high on quality, fashion, and kindness, and technology has only recently caught up with that desire.


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Why is now a good time to launch accessories?

Women have always expressed themselves through what they wear. In today’s time, carrying a bag that reflects their core personality is the default, and yet until recently, there hasn’t been a leather replacement that is cruelty-free and kind to the environment. With material sciences finally having the answer it was imperative to design an accessory line that women, like myself who care both about fashion and a world of kindness, could carry with pride.


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What material is used in this new line? Why did you choose it?

With MIRUM® we found a partner who creates this beautiful, plastic-free material that mimics the touch, feel, and age of leather without cruelty. The line also features bags made out of recycled glass beads. We’re careful about delivering high quality [products] and both these materials deliver to that benchmark while being plastic-free.


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How many pieces does this new line have and what is the importance of the animal symbols of each?

This collection is inspired by nature, my eternal muse. The Swan mini grab bag draws from a swan’s graceful silhouettes; the birds of a feather cross body bag borrow bird motifs that you see across my collections; the haathi belt uses my favorite — the Indian elephant, [which] is a symbol of strength and humility — every piece in this line of accessories is an elegant statement in conscious luxury living. The Anita Dongre brand has stood for elegance, timeless classics, and sustainability. We have always stood for handcrafted luxury while being mindful of the purpose it serves. These same principles extend into this collection of conscious, plastic-free, vegan accessories. While the shapes of these bags are distinctive, they are also functional – a design approach that extends across all Anita Dongre products.


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How to promote sustainability in India versus let’s say New York City:

India’s lived culture is based on the practice of sustainability. From clothes that would be passed down to siblings and then cousins to eating seasonal fruits and vegetables, our practices until recently have always defaulted to conscious consumption. It’s exciting to see the rest of the world adapt to that way of living and [it’s] a good reminder for us Indians to go back to the way we were raised.

Anita Dongre allows her consumers to choose ethically-sourced pieces while letting them embrace sustainability as a part of luxury fashion. Soon enough, such cruelty-free products will be synonymous with India’s (and the world’s) top fashion couture brands. This is definitely not a step, but a huge leap forward.

Photos in the featured image are courtesy of Anita Dongre.

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By Shezda Afrin

Shezda Afrin is an aspiring physician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the age of four, it was quite normal of her … Read more ›