This is the idea that blossomed into Natalie Grillon and Shahd AlShehail's #BUILTBYGIRLS Project JUST, a company that tells the stories behind our clothing. Project JUST, which launched around Black Friday, is a digital platform that serves as a forum to learn more about the clothes we wear and buy. The end goal is to hopefully inspire - or, as Natalie describes it with more oomph, "empower" - girls to make more socially and environment conscious purchases.
Project JUST has assembled information on a slew of brands to reveal the good and bad behind their production processes. The site is also a forum, where anyone can become a contributor if they have knowledge on a certain brand. Natalie, Shahd and their team will review posts, but the idea is for the information to be "crowdsourced."
"The platform is a collection of brands and stories. JUST brings a lot more transparency to the stories behind the clothes," Natalie says. "We're putting these positive stories online and highlighting the beautiful work being done by artisans around the world. Through Project JUST, social media and blog posts, we're helping brands better engage with their shoppers and inform about the positive actions they're taking behind the scenes, so we can really empower shoppers to embrace the value of ethical and sustainable fashion."
Natalie and Shahd come from backgrounds in social impact and international development, and both had encountered farmers, makers or designers in developing countries that inspired them to want to share the accomplishments of the talented individuals they'd met. But they found it hard in a consumer culture where saving money is sometimes valued more than the skill and quality with which an item is made
But schooling consumers is only part of their mission - Natalie and Shahd also want to broaden the conversation to female makers and entrepreneurs, which truly aligns them with our #BUILTBYGIRLS mission.
"It's sort of like fast food - this food is fast, this food is yummy, but it really has this terrible effect on us," Natalie says. "I think it's the same thing with fast fashion. When we're buying a T-shirt or a dress for $10 and it falls apart in your hands after you wear it a couple times, it's just not something that is good for us or good for our planet or good for the people who make stuff for us. To a certain extent, we need to have a conversation about how can we re-style items. How can we shop vintage, how can we think about investing in a piece long-term? In turn, making something that is really fun, appealing and cool in terms of your personal style. We can make it cool to know the stories behind our clothes."
With Project JUST's hard work, maybe cheaply and unethically produced clothing will finally become a thing of the past.
"We're also trying to empower the makers of the clothes, which in many cases are women themselves, to tell their stories and have more of a role in connecting with the shoppers who buy our clothes," Natalie says. "A lot of the makers in fashion, whether fast fashion or slow fashion, are women. So we think a lot about the focus on women and having that conversation. It's so exciting to me as a young woman entrepreneur and someone who is also focused on business and development to bring that conversation to fashion because it hasn't always been a part of it."