What Authenticity in Fashion Looks Like to Us

by Karina Shivdasani

When I started Common Assembly, I knew what I had was special—and I also knew it needed to be protected and nurtured. If it were simply a fast fashion brand, it wouldn’t require that. But because we strive to be an authentic brand, and to support the women who shop with us as well as those aspiring to break into the industry, the responsibility level is high.

This raises the question: What does it mean to be authentic in the fashion industry? There are a variety of definitions floating around, but to me authentic brands are open and transparent. They stand by their convictions no matter what. And what they say lines up with what they do. Here’s what that looks like for us.

Keeping It Real

Our brand is for everyday women, not for photoshopped images of perfection. So that’s who models for Common Assembly — women of all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. Women are beautiful regardless of body shape, height, skin color or age, and we want the images you see on our site to reflect that. We don’t photoshop the images we take; we let real women shine in all of their authentic glory. Our goal? To make real #realcommon.

Social Responsibility

Fashion has the capacity to be exploitative on the manufacturing side, and this is where we categorically put our foot down. We use only vendors who sign a contract to pay fair wages, adhere to labor laws and create a safe environment. We also use biodegradable packaging and sustainable fabrics whenever we are able to. We believe in being a conscious fashion company, ensuring that our actions line up with our beliefs. So that no one has to feel guilty (or break the bank!) for outfitting themselves in clothes they love.

Fashion in Its Proper Place

It’s no secret that fashion can send negative messages. Sometimes those messages are that size matters — that beauty is equivalent to a number on a tag or that fashion is necessary for a woman to be whole. Ugh. 

But bodies are not problems to be solved, and fashion isn’t a place to find your true identity. It’s not something to build your self-worth on. It should be fun and a means to express yourself, but it shouldn’t complete you. At Common Assembly, we work to avoid the kind of language and mind-set that promote these false ideas, and instead focus on honoring women for what makes them real and authentic.

In a world where society tells us to look a certain way, be a certain way and believe a certain way, authenticity can be very hard to come by. When the fashion industry say “wear this and you’ll have confidence and status,” it’s difficult to reprogram our thought patterns. That’s why I started a brand that hopefully reminds women of a basic truth: You are enough.

Kindness Culture

Part of our identity as a brand is a commitment to kindness. Like so many other women, I’ve been through my fair share of trauma. This led to figuring out my place in the world and reinventing myself, but my aha moment was realizing that all women have this in common. We all go through the same things and feel similar emotions. Our situations may be different, but our emotions are the same. We have more in common than we think, and it just takes a little compassion to respect each other’s journeys and perspectives. This is why kindness is in Common Assembly’s DNA. From finding ways to remind women to love themselves to empowering them to spread kindness to those around them, the company has heart and passion to spread this message.

Like all brands, Common Assembly has a history and a personality — but it also has a belief system. The belief system is our compass and the driving force behind every choice and decision we make. We strive to be an authentic brand that builds women up, is socially responsible and champions kindness. Roll all of this together and you have our brand identity. Perhaps in the fashion industry, this makes us an outlier — and I’m happy with that.