This is my first two part post, because the story of each founder of this gem is worth telling alone in tribute to their cause, and to their incredible integrity and bravery. I will start with the story of Drakshan, because, as it happened I spoke to her first, although I met her sister and partner Afshan initially.
The two sisters had visited Pakistan as their roots are Pakistani while growing up and would go to the villages. They vividly remembered meeting artisan women who did exquisite embroidery but were paid so little for work that took days or weeks to finish, even when it was sold to big fashion houses in Lahore, because middle men took the bigger cut more often than not.
In 2013, Drakshan and Afshan made their intention and mission a reality by starting a fair trade and ecologically friendly modest clothing brand named Purple Impression. They felt passionately about the causes at hand and how they are so aligned with islamic values. A tall order? As it turns out, yes, in so many respects, but not that it has stopped this steadfast, resourceful and sincere duet.
So here are some of the challenges. One, is that the industry of modest clothing is not an established one and goes between two extremes of ultra luxury or forever 21 type fast clothing brands. Added is the fact that Muslims have yet to talk seriously about sustainability and fair trade in fashion. Then, there is the issue that marketing is so dependent on influencers that generally don’t live by the same values Purple Impression adheres to as they are immersed in the mainstream fashion industry that celebrates trend without real regard for the labour that goes into creating it, or the cost to the environment. I just wanted to mention here that it may very well be due to them not understanding the magnitude of the problem. I certainly didn't until I spoke with Drakshan.
Drakshan went on to speak of how it was hard for a brand to be both fair trade and ecologically sound as it would drive the price up. Imagine that!!! We live in a world where our wardrobe has to be full, teaming with choices and trends to the point where we are unwittingly causing so much harm. I guess this is a good place to talk of the counter movement and what I think is it’s brilliant name hehe.. slow fashion. Yes, let’s all slow down.
I want to slow down and my first priority is not to buy so much and start with cutting down on the items that I know affect the health of the workers. It is my goal in the long run to make sure I buy something made with dignity and that was paid for fairly and with no negative side effects on the environment. Honestly, I felt overwhelmed for the longest time, as we are so distant from the origin and process of how and who makes our clothes. Because of that, someone else has the power of our choices and dollars.
I made the intention years ago to take steps towards more ethical and humane choices, one step at a time. And, thanks to Drakshan and Afshan, I now know one place to start is to buy only eco-jeans and if I never see a faded jeans in my lifetime again that will be too soon. Why? The chemicals involved in creating that look are so harmful, that the lung life of someone who works with it is four years. What does someone’s life have to be like for them to knowingly make such a choice?! A part of my heart has been crying ever since I heard that. We can’t claim ignorance when information is the currency of our time and we are talking about artificial intelligence as part of everyday life. There is no excuse that I can make for myself to not make these simple, if inconvenient, choices. I want to pay more for less clothes, so I can pay tribute and show my gratitude to those who made my clothes, to the Earth that nurtures my life and most importantly to God who Created us all and Asked that we tread upon the Earth with love and mercy in His Name.
If this hasn’t sworn you off regular jeans then there is a documentary that may very well succeed by the name of River Blue. There is hope though, as there are brands making sustainable jeans. Let’s find them and make them successful in thanks for offering us a viable humane alternative.
Another fabulous counter trend that I noticed in my last trip to the US was the advent of the locally made boutiques. It has been such a pleasure to go into concept stores that boast the title. It means that the labour that went into making any item was fairly compensated. I’ll take it and use it as it makes me feel as empowered as they are! We can demand more transparency from the brands we buy from by voting with our dollars. Playing their part, Purple Impression has collaborated with a designer based in Oakland under a venture called nomad. I love it when global brands meet local ones.
Drakshan went on to explain how the issues she was speaking about are deeply connected to women, as women make up 80% of the workers in the textile industry across the world from Nepal, to Africa and Pakistan.
In addition to helping millions around the world, an exciting part of their journey was to be chosen to participate in an accelerator program that supports social sustainable businesses. They were one of 16 projects chosen in the US. The experience helped them to clarify the direction they wanted to take Purple Impression in and helped narrow their focus in order to create an overall marketing plan. Now, they have simplified and are striving to provide every day wear that is practical and affordable.
They have also decided to branch into shoes and I am so looking forward to seeing the first of their line! It would be amiss of me not to mention their organic fair trade cotton scarves. They are a delight to wear. They also have more elaborate embroidered scarves that have been a joy to gift to loved ones. Their tops come in natural textiles that have just the right touch of artisan handmade embroidery.
The challenges don’t stop there though as every woman has a different approach and standard to the way she dresses modestly. I have learnt that one of the ways to address the diversity in modesty standards among retailers is to pre-order and customize. This was among the many insights I gained from talking to Drakshan. My heart filled and overflowed with hope and admiration. I am routing and voting for Purple Impression to go all the way and make its impact echo and create sustainable change for good.
DISCOVER Purple Impression
Purple Impression believe in the positive power of connecting the makers & buyers. By adding a face and a name to every piece they make, they take you on a journey across the globe. When you see a face, it prompts you to think deeper, adding meaning to your wardrobe. Often times more than how something looks, what matters is how it makes you feel, that sense of connection is what we are trying to create.
WATCH River Blue - A documentary
Can fashion save the planet? Through awareness, we evolve - Following international river conservationist, Mark Angelo, RIVERBLUE spans the globe to infiltrate one of the world’s most pollutive industries, fashion. Narrated by clean water supporter Jason Priestley, this groundbreaking documentary examines the destruction of our rivers, its effect on humanity, and the solutions that inspire hope for a sustainable future.
READ Drakshan’s recommendations of ethical brands to buy from
To Purple Impression for the contribution of images and videos