by Karina Shivdasani
When you think of the fashion industry, a lot of things likely pop into your head—kindness is probably not one of them. Competitive? Yes. Cut-throat? Most definitely. But kind? Not so much.
Let me back up…
When I was in college, I had the idea of creating a company to make people feel good. It wasn’t lost on me that fashion brands usually did the opposite. I had friends (myself included) that tied their self-worth to a letter or number on a clothing label: “I’m usually a medium and I had to size up to a large…did I gain weight?” So I envisioned a brand that would overwhelm the customer with positivity — from powerful, inspiring quotes on the wall to garment tags with words of encouragement: “You are beautiful; size is just a number.”
It may sound simple, but there was and is a greater mission in the works: When people feel good, they are inspired to do more good. We are doing this work in the fashion industry to battle all of the negativity fashion creates — and there are several ways we’re making it happen.
We all know that on the manufacturing side, fashion can exploit. At Common Assembly, our commitment to kindness stretches into every area, so our vendors sign a social responsibility contract. It’s a legal document that ensures they pay fair wages, adhere to labor laws, dispose of waste responsibly and create a safe work environment. Our perspective? Social Responsibility + Trends = Kind Fashion. We’re offering up a fast-fashion alternative that doesn’t sacrifice style for substance (and that your wallet will love, too!).
Real Women, Real Bodies
Common Assembly is for the real-life working woman who loves fashion and wants trend in her life, but who appreciates making good, responsible choices. Her aesthetic values trends, her heart values authenticity. Our models are women of all shapes and sizes, and we don’t retouch their photos. We let their natural, authentic beauty shine through in living color — no need for a photo editor. That way, you can see yourself in every photo.
Collaboration Over Competition
I was lucky when I started my business to have a ton of support, and now I’m in the place where I want to pay it forward. That’s why Common Assembly has a designer outreach program, where every quarter we partner with a design school or aspiring designer. A portion of our proceeds go to that person in the form of a loan to help build her business and make her dream of succeeding in the fashion industry a reality. Women should be in the business of supporting one another, not tearing each other down with needless competitiveness, so we want to help women build their dreams.
Kindness is a powerful thing. It has the ability to connect us. And it has the ability to impact lives for endless, ongoing good. But it has to start somewhere. It won’t just manifest by itself; the intentional choice to lead with this mindset must be made. That’s the driving force behind what I do. It’s my way of combating all of the potential negatives of the fashion industry and turning them into something good. This is more than just lip service; it’s a philosophy of operating that leads to real results. So if more confident women, more supportive women, more dream-building and goal-realizing all come about because we don’t merely talk the talk, but walk the walk, then our efforts aren’t for nothing. And that, at the end of the day, is a pretty good business to be in.