Ethical influencer profile: Aja Barber 

We speak to Aja Barber, a writer and fashion consultant with expertise in race, intersectional feminism and sustainable fashion. A strong believer in holding corporations and organisations to account we talk to her about fast fashion, the impact of Covid  and more….

Could you tell our readers what you do and how you got into it?

I’m a writer, stylist and consultant. There’s no clear cut path to where I am today and it was made that much harder by the inherent privilege that exists within the framework of the fashion industry

The best explanation I could have is that I wrote for free, a lot, on the internet. Which is a privilege within itself. Even when working in other jobs, I was writing on the side. But if you can do that and hang on for 10+ years… just kidding it shouldn’t have to be that way. It’s somewhat unfair and my position feels like a fluke when all the barriers were set out against me.

How do your ethics come into your work?

I feel like I’ve worked too hard to be at this point, to compromise what I have to say and do. The truth is on Instagram (where I write) there’s a lot of beautiful imagery but only in the last few years have folks started to speak truth to power. It’s tricky territory with sponsorships and brands but for me, it just seemed better to not get tangled with payment and brands if it meant I couldn’t speak about wrongdoings and things like racism and colonialism.

What do you think is most problematic about the fashion industry?

That all of our systems are built on colonialist systems which are harming the Earth and exploiting marginalized people. We have to start to rebuild in a major way.

With the pandemic, fast fashion seems to be more in the spotlight than ever before. Do you think this will lead to permanent changes to the industry?

I think a lot of people are slowing down and thinking about the way they’re consuming.  And that’s so important. I hope that people will not only think about their individual impact but also the impact that major corporations are contributing to climate emergency.

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You’ve talked about class and privilege when giving up fast fashion - can you explain this to our readers?

As the world gets more interested in sustainable fashion, the traditional barriers start to lessen. When more companies start to do things the right way, pricing becomes more competitive and there’s more accessibility for everyone. 

I do think people need to wrap their heads around the idea that a £20 dress and a £5 T-shirt isn’t fair to anyone who’s made the garment. We’ve been paying too little for our clothes and that’s got to change. 

I also think someone who’s plus size will currently have more barriers than someone who’s not. I think a single parent will struggle to dress their children in only sustainable garments currently. 

But I also think the vast majority of people who continue to participate in the fast fashion cycle (which makes it one of the world’s most profitable industries) are the ones who should make the change. Meaning if you can afford to get three dresses in one month from one fast fashion maker, maybe try getting one dress instead from an ethical or sustainable company.

What tips would you give to someone learning to love the clothes they already own?

The biggest tip is to find your personal style. So many people don’t know what it is they actually like and wait for a brand to sell them an idea of who they are. Once you understand your personal style, you should be able to walk into a store and decide in a minute whether or not there’s anything for you there. It means everything you take home feels like a win. Mostly I just want you to feel excited and satisfied with your wardrobe.