Even in 2020, ethical swimwear is hard to come by. In order to create suits that are truly, capital-S sustainable, brands need to come up with radical solutions to move the needle forward — and OOKIOH has long been a leader in that race. Ahead of 2022, the year it's pledged to completely eradicate pre-consumer plastics by, the brand is releasing its most mindful drop yet — and it comes in good company. The Rachael Wang x OOKIOH swim capsule combines the stylist, designer and inclusive fashion advocate's cultural edge with OOKIOH's fully-regenerated materials. The result? A trove of on-trend silhouettes that raise the bar on ethical creation, from model casting to packaging.
In order for Wang to enter the design realm, it had to be a total fit. "I’m a perfectionist. I care a lot about details. To me, it’s not just about slapping my name on whatever and pushing it out," Wang tells TZR. "It inherently had to be a reflection of me, my aesthetic and my values. And the brand was really supportive of that." In order to do so, the two began by working backwards — making sure to think critically about the final stages of production from the start. This began with the manufacturing: everything had to take a unique approach to sustainability, from the packaging to the garment itself. Each piece is made from recycled nylon and plastic bottles — which starkly reduce carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions. When the goodies arrive at your door, they're enveloped in 100% compostable sustainable packaging, including tissue paper, stickers and cards that are acid-free, FSC certified, and use soy-based ink.
While OOKIOH's goods are usually made 100% in Italy, Wang felt it was important to interact meaningfully with garment workers in LA, which houses the largest network of sweatshops in the U.S., for this line. Each piece is manufactured in a minority and women-owned garment factory, where all workers are guaranteed fair wages and safe working conditions. "The injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are connected. We can't talk about sustainability in fashion without talking about who is on the receiving end of the climate crisis, which is here and now and happening," says Wang. "Garment workers who make our clothing live in cities that are often the most oppressed by climate change." For that reason, the collection has committing 10% of its proceeds to Intersectional Environmentalists, which works to dismantle systems of oppression in the environmental movement.
Beyond championing women and minrities through the production process, the actual garments, naturally, had to share the same goal. "It was very, very, very important to me for the collection to be as size-inclusive as possible," says Wang, who helped OOKIOH expand its current offering to an XS - XXL for the very first time. The collection's focus on inclusion doesn't stop there: "My casting process also always comes from that same mindset — I wanted to show that the suits look great on different bodies. I would have loved to show many, many, many more body shapes and sizes ... but alas, there are always limitations in budget, time [allotted], and, now, shooting during COVID." In order to execute the socially-distanced shoot, Wang took pictures, styled and creative directed, photographing each of the three models (who had quarantined prior) in separate intervals. "I would have loved to show many, many, many more bodies," she shared.
When asked what it feels like to create with representation in mind, especially now in this sweeping moment of racial reckoning, Wang's answer is simple. ""The reason I create is to represent. Growing up I didn't see myself represented. I was 'other'-ed for the majority of my childhood, so my work has always been and will always strive to be truly inclusive," says Wang. "I make sure that people who have felt excluded can feel safe and empowered by my work."
To shop key styles from the drop, continue ahead:
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