As environmental activism gains ground across the globe, corporations have attempted to cash in on positive attitude towards sustainable brands by marketing their goods as environmentally friendly. But some of those businesses have also come under fire for greenwashing — a term coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld in the 1980s to describe the practice of falsely advertising products as eco-friendly.
Over the years, multiple companies, such as Chevron, DuPont and Nestle, have been subjects of controversy for spending millions of dollars on misdirecting the consumer away from their unsound practices under the guise of being environmentally conscious brands. In the fashion industry, greenwashing has been on the rise — with multiple fast fashion companies like H&M also facing criticism for ignoring the effect their mass production has on the planet.
Enter Sally Condori. Two years ago, the 25-year-old Peruvian American, who studied product design at the Parsons School of Design, started working on Dare To Know — a streetwear label whose name is based on the popular Latin phrase used during the Enlightenment sapere aude. In an effort to encourage consumers to do their own research on real, sustainable brands, Dare To Know claims that it is fully transparent on how it operates.
“I really wanted to solve the transparency issue because I feel like there’s a lot of gatekeeping with transparency in the sustainability, eco-friendly market,” Condori told In The Know. “Right now, a lot of the times, you’ll go to a high-end retailer that does sustainability quite well, but that information is often withheld to only their customers themselves, which unfortunately excludes a lot of low-budget shoppers who might want to be sustainable but unfortunately can’t afford it.”
As a small business, Dare To Know sources cotton from Southern California and relies on small family-owned shops in Los Angeles for its garments and screen-printing. Condori added that the brand strictly works with partners who pay their employees fairly and is focused on promoting renewable water use in the fashion industry.
“When I think of cotton, it’s such a natural fiber and fabric that we’ve been using from the beginning of the time of humans, and it’s so familiar to us and it’s so naturally soft.” she said. “And while it does use up a lot of water, it’s taken into account and the industry has been learning new ways to recycle that water.”
For Dare To Know’s part, the brand hopes to have enough money to purchase organic cotton, which uses less water. In the meantime, it currently provides support to an indigenous rights nonprofit that is fighting for clean water access for all.
“One of the important things for me with our first launch is creating a carbon footprint specifically in California,” Condori said. “So I could then, in turn, give back to California indigenous lands.”
With Dare To Know’s website set to open for preorders on Dec. 21 at 9 a.m. PST, Condori is also aiming to reel in customers by being honest with her price breakdowns, which aren’t common in the fashion industry.
“I experienced firsthand the development process going into building any type of garment or accessory,” she said. “And with that, I noticed, you know, markup prices and the prices from wholesale being like four to nine dollars. And then, those prices just left a wholesale price and ended up being on an e-commerce site for 600 percent markup value, which was insane to me.”
On the other hand, a hoodie on Dare To Know’s website, for instance, retails for $92, but a breakdown reveals that the clothing’s manufacturing cost is $43.12.
“I want free access to this information for everyone, because whether or not you can afford a beautiful, 100 percent cotton-fleece hoodie, you might be able to take action now by learning that there are other ways to filter your already fast fashion goods,” she said.
As one of the few business owners of color in sustainable fashion, Condor understands that the work she is doing — from committing to an eco-friendly manufacturing process to educating customers on price markups (or breakdowns) — is especially important since the fashion industry has been both greenwashed and whitewashed.
“I want to say, as a consumer, you have more power than you think you do,” she said. “But to further that, I think there is power in bringing more BIPOC voices to the sustainable conversation.”
If you liked this story, check out this L.A. -based sustainable clothing brand that wants you to buy less and wear longer.
More from In The Know: