At 6:30 pm on Wednesday, the entrance to Hotel Americano was a hot mess. I could barely scrunch my way through to the coat check, almost knocking a glass of champagne out of someone’s hand.
Which is how you know it was a hot, hot event.
I was at Mercado Global’s annual benefit, which seeks to raise money to further the fashion accessory company’s support of Guatemalan women. Mercado Global is a line of bags and accessories made with handwoven textiles by traditional, master, female artisans in Guatemala. The aesthetic is fun, bright, and well crafted–I see them as perfect compliments to a West Coast or Southern outfit.
I managed to corner the gorgeous actress Kelly Rutherford to ask her about why she was chairing the event.
“On my website every two weeks we promote a charity that supports women or children, and I thought they were wonderful. They saw that and reached out to me to ask if I wanted to be involved with this event.”
Does she wear sustainable fashion? I asked her.
“I try. I wore this bag out the other night and everyone was like, ‘Oh my God, where did you get it?” You just have to wear it! You have to get it on celebrities,” she said.
(Fun fact, Rutherford actually worked for the sustainable stylist Jill Heller when she was a young, aspiring actress. Heller whispered that tidbit to me while Rutherford thanked a Mercado Global artisan for her wonderful work.)
Also at the event was Zady’s Soraya Darabi, who moderated a panel discussion about sustainable fashion.
Co-founder and Executive Director Ruth DeGolia told the audience about her first trip to Guatemala in 2004 when she was a student at Yale, after the civil war had ended, and the women she met. “They were fighters, but now their families were starving. What really moved me was how unnecessary it his was, because these were some of the best weavers in the world, and all they needed was access to a market.”
Also in the panel was the sustainable fashion advocate Sass Brown. “It’s about constantly striving to do more,” she said. “It doesn’t stop, it’s a process. Another danger is that we don’t replace mass consumerism with mass conscious consumerism. Consumerism is part of the problem.”
We don’t want to be so focused on the minutia,” said Anh-Thu Nguyen of We See Beauty and MAKE Color. “There is a need to improve all aspects of fashion but we can’t perfect be the enemy of good.”
“It would help tremendously to have more certifications,” DeGolia added.
When asked by Darabi how we could learn from the food movement, Brown had some words of caution. “The food movement took a long time to mature–30 years to get to that level of marketing sophistication. But farm-to-table is a much simpler paradigm than fashion. There are so many players involved, a retailer might not know who manufactured the garment because the factory’s subcontracted to another.”
In summary, it might be a while before we can trust what we see in stores. In the meantime, retailers like Mercado Global can fill the gap.