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Monday, February 26, 2024

Queen of Raw Takes Action in Textiles: Reimagining a Sustainable Fashion Industry

Portrait of a woman with long dark hair, sideways, holding up a piece of black lace that covers the top half of her face.

Christina Benedetto, founding father of Queen of Uncooked

Picture © Queen of Uncooked

After apparent offenders in power, transportation, and agriculture, do you know that one in all the most important polluters on the earth is the textile trade? Their factories eat thousands and thousands of gallons of water every day in bleaching, dyeing, and rinsing fibers and materials, and this contaminated water is just not at all times disposed of responsibly, difficult the welfare of the panorama, animals, and human beings. The trade additionally discards almost 100 million tons of waste cloth every 12 months.

The corporate Queen of Raw, primarily based in New York Metropolis, combats these points by linking designers with suppliers by means of a web-based market that carries solely sustainable materials. Via this invaluable software, designers have entry to high-quality uncooked supplies and leftover cloth that may in any other case be despatched to landfills, saving each side cash within the course of.

Queen of Uncooked made an look on the 2022 Smithsonian Folklife Pageant’s Earth Optimism × Folklife program with Around the World in 80 Fabrics, a nonprofit that celebrates range whereas elevating consciousness for the setting, local weather, human rights, and well being by producing new materials with reused nature-friendly fibers.

In founding Queen of Uncooked in 2018, Stephanie Benedetto, a former lawyer working in vogue, media, and leisure, made the selection to collaborate with corporations that bought ethically sourced textiles and materials. However she knew this may not be sufficient, as even these corporations had been creating giant quantities of waste. Utilizing synthetic intelligence software program and every firm’s manufacturing knowledge, Benedetto started serving to her companions mitigate wasteful practices.

“They often discover waste they might not even know they’d,” she mentioned, waving her fingers excitedly.

Two people pose, holding up piles of worn looking fabric. Neither is smiling.

Benedetto was launched to textiles by her great-grandfather, who in 1896 settled in New York Metropolis’s Decrease East Aspect, an space as soon as generally known as the Jewish garment district. “I was very lucky to develop up very near my great-grandfather, and I might hear tales of his journey and the old-school method of doing enterprise,” Benedetto mentioned.  Her grandfather would find unused materials that new immigrants introduced with them on ships. Repurposing the supplies, he created vogue clothes, promoting them to native prospects and shortly constructing a worthwhile household enterprise.

When Benedetto began her personal enterprise, how did she select the identify Queen of Uncooked? Leaning again in her chair, she laughed and appeared comfortable that I requested. “I used to be raised in a predominantly feminine family, and I went to a ladies’s faculty for 13 years.” Surrounded by ladies, she discovered the ability in embodying confidence—like a Queen.

Now, why Uncooked? Turning into extra critical, she defined she needed her model identify to transcend the definition of sustainability, a phrase which means a number of issues to totally different individuals. She needed an organization identify that mirrored her direct method of presenting and attacking issues. “We needed to get again to the foundation of issues. What’s uncooked, what’s actual.” 

From the beginning, Benedetto directed her consideration to the manufacturing course of and water use: “We’ve saved over a billion gallons of water so far, and we’re simply getting began. It’s sufficient clear water for 1.4 million individuals to drink world wide for 3 years. Which means the style and textile industries have the ability to unravel the water disaster—if we rethink how we do issues.”

Advertisement with a photo of an arm outstretched, pouring a glass pitcher, but instead of water, a white textile pours out. Text: Sell your unused textiles. Every yard sold saves 700 gallons of water. Queen of Raw.

Benedetto advised me with urgency that if corporations proceed with the present tempo of textile manufacturing, by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s inhabitants will face freshwater shortages and potential publicity to hazardous manufacturing chemical compounds. The textile trade makes use of carcinogenic chemical compounds similar to formaldehyde for dyeing, and when these chemical compounds contaminate freshwater our bodies that people use daily, the chance for most cancers will increase.

Earlier than the pandemic, producers and makers despatched about $120 billion in scrap textiles to landfills annually. Within the interval of the pandemic starting in 2020, the trade has suffered over $288 billion in misplaced income, continued Benedetto. Queen of Uncooked works to counter these losses by repurposing cloth whereas decreasing waste and growing effectivity and model loyalty. Their work has caught the attention of NPR, The New York Occasions, and Forbes, and Benedetto earned the 2020 Inc. Feminine Founders 100 and the NASA/NIKE/IKEA/DELL LAUNCH.org Innovator awards.

In a partnership with the Wildlife Pleasant Enterprise Community, Queen of Uncooked labored with Aveda and Stella McCartney to guard the setting and wildlife. Queen of Uncooked permits artisan communities world wide free entry to its market, permitting them to promote their merchandise on a worldwide scale. Their work, which consists primarily of materials, beadwork, and different adornments, is created with pure dyes and natural cotton, introducing minimal waste and negligible toxins to the setting. Benedetto pledges a portion of her firm’s proceeds to like-minded not-for-profits, as she needs to assist not solely artisans however to construct a extra sustainable trade.

On the Folklife Pageant, Earth Optimism contributors showcased methods of residing extra sustainably. Guests to the Across the World in 80 Materials tent acquired a strip of cloth to weave right into a vertical, makeshift loom, producing a repurposed communal quilt over the course of the primary week. As they contributed to the spiraling art work, guests might see that reusing even one scrap of cloth strengthens a extra sustainable trade.

A person in green tank top and jean shorts sits in front of a vertical loom, several white parallel white strands, with scraps of pink, green, and blue fabric woven into it, the start of a spiraling shape.
Intern Margaret Morrison oversees the Across the World in 80 Materials sales space and collaborative weaving mission on the 2022 Smithsonian Folklife Pageant.

Picture by Mark C. Younger, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

“Don’t be afraid to take motion, even when it’s only one strip of material,” Benedetto mentioned. By seeing every little thing come collectively, both by a loom or by means of conjoined efforts, challenges can flip into alternatives to vary the world for the higher. After I requested her what she hoped individuals would take away from the Pageant exhibit, she answered: “Don’t be afraid to exit and alter the world in any method you possibly can.”

Benedetto stays hopeful as future generations function an inspiration to proceed defending and advocating for the Earth. She needs to assist create a ripple impact and move down studying by means of the generations. Simply as she discovered from her great-grandfather’s expertise and began an organization, we’re all able to doing one thing that quantities to an enormous push for change. 

A significant motivation to maintain pushing, for Benedetto, is her youngsters. “I have two sons, and I would like them to have clear water to drink, garments that aren’t poisonous to put on, and a planet to stay on, and I’m not stopping ’til I do. I would like to go away them a greater world.”

Clearly, her affect has already trickled down. When her six-year-old was studying about place papers, he wrote in regards to the significance of recycling—“how if we don’t recycle, we’re not going to have any room for individuals and houses as a result of the landfills are going to take over the world. The truth that he was pondering of this world problem and the little actions he might take at college simply spoke volumes to me about how we are able to and can change the world.”

She added shamelessly, “You realize, if a six-year-old can get it, so can different individuals.”

Mioko Ueshima is a Katzenberger intern on the Smithsonian Heart for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and a rising junior at Georgetown College majoring in American research with a minor in Japanese. 

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