It’s about that time of year again, where Fashion Week takes over the streets of New York. This year, virtually, that is. Missed out on the shows? No worries, we’ve got you covered, as always. We’ve been keeping an eye on all of the upcoming trends in fashion all week long. And this year’s biggest trend? Ethical fashion, of course, which is specifically how new contemporary brand Epimonia caught our attention.
Epimonia’s mission is to support refugees through the use and deployment of ethical fashion. Specifically, they’re working to make refugee support more accessible, and to change the narrative of refugees in the media by erasing the negative stereotypes surrounding refugees in the U.S. and around the world. Now, you’re probably asking yourself, how does that have anything to do with fashion? DRL’s got the answers.
We connected with Willow Sylvester, vice president of the brand, to get the inside deets on Epimonia’s role in the ongoing trend of ethical fashion. In our conversations, she let us know that “supporting refugees through fashion allows [Epimonia] to use a very human element–art–to shed light on something that is often seen as purely political. Fashion allows us to remind our customers that refugees are human. We are excited to be a part of a movement to make supporting refugees a human problem, not a political one.”
Epimonia’s collection, which debuted in NYFW this past Thursday (February 18, 2021), was inspired by the brand’s desire to place supporting refugees on a more accessible platform through fashion, and to change the narrative around refugees in the general media. “We hope that our products will be received as inspiration to support refugees for anyone who sees our NYFW video and subsequently purchases our products or looks more into our store,” said Sylvester.
One of the most iconic images of refugees in the media today is a shot of refugees in life jackets landing on a beach in Europe. Taking the life jacket association and turning it into art is just a part of what Epimonia does on the daily. “All of our life jackets are collected from beaches in Greece by our nonprofit partners overseas and sent to us in Minneapolis, where we prep the material to be used in our products. The other parts of our products such as t-shirts, crewnecks, caps, etc, are sourced from ethical wholesale suppliers in the US,” Sylvester told us. And that’s frankly amazing. Not only is the brand producing clothing using ethically-sourced materials, but when you wear their signature orange patch, you’re literally wearing a piece of history.
At Epimonia’s Minneapolis studio, the brand employs refugees to create products as a part of their mission to help with refugee employment. Many of the products have product-specific campaigns that allow customers to choose which initiative they want to support. Sales of the Red Citizenship Bracelet allow Epimonia to donate to cover citizenship application fees for refugees through the International Institute of Minnesota. Sales of the Reflective Bracelet allow the brand to further donate to an organization conducting sea and air rescues for refugees stranded in the Central Mediterranean. For any products not associated with a specific campaign, a portion of the proceeds is divided evenly between the brand’s non-profit partners committed to supporting.
Epimonia is also always looking for ways to hold themselves accountable as a mission-driven organization. “One of our goals in progress for 2021 is to move our manufacturing 100% in-house so that we can have full transparency and control over the environmental impact and sustainability of our manufacturing. Right now we make efforts to only use US-made products, and 100% of the life jacket material we use is upcycled life jackets that would otherwise end up in a landfill or stay as litter on a beach. Although they haven’t shown up in products yet, we avoid discarding any of the unused parts of the life jackets with plans of incorporating them into future products to avoid bulk waste coming from our manufacturing,” Sylvester noted.
Going forward, Epimonia hopes to continue partnering with public personas and organizations to expand its impact on refugee support in the US and around the world. Sylvester notes that “Epimonia believes in the importance of sustainability in fashion, and we hope to see a rise in the prioritization of sustainable fashion as well as mission-based fashion brands such as our own. We’re excited to be operating in this time and climate, and we are sincerely humbled by and grateful for all of the support that we’ve received.”