One of the many ways to celebrate Black History is recognising the work and achievements of people of black heritage. It’s a time to celebrate those whose actions in the past have made a difference, as well as those who continue the struggle for racial equality today. A writer who is truly at the forefront of her field is Aja Barber. Anna Boyne dives into Barber’s inspirational work in the fashion industry.
Barber is an American-born writer, stylist and consultant currently living in London. She describes her own work as building ‘heavily on ideas behind privilege, wealth inequality, racism, feminism, colonialism and how to fix the fashion industry with all these things in mind’.
She writes micro-blogs on Instagram and daily posts on Patreon. She also leads sessions and speaks at events on sustainability, intersectionality, fatphobia, colonialism and the fashion industry.
Barber gives her readers the hard truth in a way that is serious yet relatable
Consumed: On Colonialism, climate change, consumerism and the need for collective change was Barber’s first book, published in September 2021. It is perhaps one of the most important pieces of work discussing fast fashion. The book examines how the injustices in the current textile industry are deeply rooted in colonial history. It looks at issues of wealth distribution, cultural appropriation, and exploitation of women in the supply chain and the role of the consumer.
Williams reminds us of the importance of intersectionality and learning from the black experience
Barber gives her readers the hard truth in a way that is serious yet relatable and accessible. She demands collective change and personal responsibility without being patronising or unrealistic- a hard balance to strike. Like many others, Barber is a self-confessed shopaholic turned ethical fashion advocate, meaning she comes from a non-judgemental standpoint. She describes her own book as telling her ‘story as a cautionary tale’.
In his review of Consumed, Jeremy Williams writes ‘I’ve read plenty of books on consumerism, and while they will dive into psychology, ethics, economics and the environment, I’ve not read one that talks about race and colonialism. But then this is the first book on consumerism that I’ve read by a Black author, and that is clearly no coincidence. Williams reminds us of the importance of intersectionality and learning from the black experience.
Her other tweets also examine the system as a whole and the culpability of big fast fashion brands
Aja’s Instagram boasts 254k followers. As well as microblogs and regular #GetDressedWithMe, she often reposts her own twitter threads. One such thread discusses the importance of slowing down consumption, rather than seeking to immediately replace fast fashion with ethical alternatives.
This particular tweet discusses the personal role of the consumer and offers helpful advice to those looking to become ethical in their shopping habits. Her other tweets also examine the system as a whole and the culpability of big fast fashion brands.
Whether its writing for magazines, tweeting, speaking at events or posting on Instagram, Aja Barber is a leader in the conversation surrounding the fashion industry. Intersectionality is at the heart of her work, and she is certainly someone to celebrate during Black History Month and to learn from all year round.
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