By John Deckers
Being fashionable is easier today than ever. Companies produce clothing at an alarmingly fast rate for little cost to the consumer. The traditional four season cycle of fashion has expanded to new fashion lines being released monthly, giving rise to the fast fashion industry. How can clothing be so cheap and readily available? Well, like all things, nothing comes without a cost, and while consumers of fast fashion may not see this cost in the stores, there is growing concern and awareness of unethical practices in the mainstream fashion industry. This is where Fashion for Freedom comes in, raising awareness of issues in the industry and alternative ethical fashion practices.
Saloni Shrestha is one of these fashion designers whose designs are both aesthetically pleasing and ethically produced. Saloni is the co-founder and designer at AGAATI, a sustainable ethically conscious fashion brand. AGAATI has a zero-waste philosophy, trying to maximize the use of all materials. The company creates clothing lines that are limited edition. Saloni says that she and others at AGAATI work hard to ensure that their product is ethically sourced and produced. Saloni herself sources her materials and manufacturers ensuring that the makers of her garments are treated fairly and that the environmental impact of the garments will be minimal.
“I love being out in the field,” Saloni says. Saloni travels to both India and Nepal and works with artisans to ensure those making her designs are paid a fair wage and treated fairly. She works a lot with female artisans and garment workers finding it essential to emphasize female empowerment.
Saloni also believes it is important to be environmentally conscious. AGAATI uses natural sourcing of all its fibers. They use non-toxic dyes, aim for zero plastic use, and manually attempt to reduce waste. Saloni says that she works to reuse fabrics within her fashion lines and gives away any unused fabrics to companies such as one that uses the fabric to stuff pillows.
Saloni says that her designs try to “inspire sustainable lifestyle, with design at the core of it.”
Saloni has always loved fashion and design. As a kid, Saloni recalls that she loved designing for others and herself. She is a native of the Himalayas and says her upbringing inspires her. She remembers the “pure air, not really sure what pollution was, and beautiful culture.” She lived in an environment that valued the importance of the environment and human life. These considerations stayed with Saloni into her adult life.
Saloni says that in her designs “you will see nature, culture, and people.” She says that her work and how her work is produced are representations of how people coexist with nature, how there can be harmony.
Saloni and AGAATI work to counter excessive consumerism and waste. They encourage consumers to stop buying fast fashion and be more sustainable. Saloni wants consumers to “be curious about ethical fashion” and learn more about it.
This is one reason AGAATI has decided to team up with Free the Slaves and help sponsor their 2018 Summer Fashion for Freedom event and campaign. “Dollars create impact,” Saloni says, “clothing that costs 10 dollars is cheap clothing, you could wear 200 different pieces of clothing every year, but there is a greater cost to this - the human and environmental costs.”
John Deckers is currently a student at The Catholic University of America studying media and communications as well as politics. Interests of his are LGBTQ rights, human rights, and media polarization. John graduates from Catholic in May of 2019.