What if we coveted hearts the way we’re coveting clothes? 

Logistically speaking, I am as ‘fashion girl’ as they come. I graduated with a degree in fashion. I have worked under some of the most prominent companies in the industry, and finally, founded a fashion company of my own this year: The Kindly Coveted

I have always felt that what I do has required a disclaimer: “I am not vain. I am not shallow. I don’t care what you’re wearing. I am not judging you. I am intelligent.” 

What started for me as ambition, the desire to lead, a distinct aesthetic, an inclination to inspire people, an impulse to bring value, and pure hunger to create impact— was diluted with the interpretation of this industry. I wish I could write misinterpretation, but it just wouldn’t be true. 

We did this to ourselves. We value clothes over the people wearing them. We sacrifice the precious hands of factory workers for the number concluding our income statement. We tell young girls that sexiness is reliant on something other than their heart and their brain. We tell size 0 it needs curves and size 12 it needs to be a single digit. We are suffocating self confidence and replacing it with hang tags and advertisements that read, “make him fall in love with you with this little black dress.” Holy sh*t! I would prelude what I am about to say with, “can I be honest?"— but I hate when people say that. What are they being the other 99% of the time that they aren’t prefacing with that question? 

Let me start with this: I share this industry with some of the kindest, most beautiful people. There are people, like myself, who want to use their platform to produce generosity, their expertise to instill confidence, and the integration of their company to create sustainability. In the last few years, we as an industry have made incredible and noticeable strides. I often think of companies such as The Giving Keys and Nisolo, as well as works such as The True Cost, for exemplifying this. 

We must be careful not to generalize the whole for the majority of its parts; however, we must evaluate why the majority exists. Let’s look at the facts. 

In the 2012 Free2Work report on Apparel Industry trends, there is a focus on India. A global hub for textiles and manufacturing, there are a multitude of instances of child and forced labor in this industry. As the report points out, “In Tamil Nadu in southern India, young women are kept in what can amount to labor bondage through a practice dubbed the ‘Sumangali Scheme.’ The girls, some younger than 14, are paid less than the minimum wage for one to three years. After this work term is finished, the employer pays the withheld wages to the family as a lump sum to be used as a dowry.” 

The fashion and textile industry employs some 250 million children, as young as 5. Working this young means one thing: they’re not in school. Forced to work instead of being able to go to school creates an evident disadvantage to their future. As female education is an integral part of sustainable development, this is detrimental to the global economy. It has been shown that an educated girl will reinvest 90% of her future income in her family and in effect, community. (Brones, Pratt Institute). 

I can imagine that the idea of putting girls into schools instead of factories sounds like a vital solution for most of us; however, in order for this to happen, we as consumers must take notice to where our clothes are coming from, and we as industry professionals must take a strong stand for implementing integrity. For this reason, The Kindly Coveted is committed to the education of girls. We have partnered with a nonprofit called, “She’s the First,” which sponsors girls in low-income countries into becoming first generation graduates and next generation global leaders. 

Now let’s talk about self confidence and the fashion industry’s effect on it. According to a 2012 study conducted by the Model Alliance, 68.3% of models admit to suffering from depression or anxiety. These are the faces and the bodies we see everywhere, and in turn, judge our own appearance. If 68.3% of the people who society considers ‘the standard’ or ‘perfect’ are developing self worth deficits, can you imagine the effect of the majority? 

There is a narrative here that needs to be rewritten. We must begin to love the people we dress more than the clothes we dress them in. We must be the protectors of young girls who are learning how to love themselves. We must take the standards upon which we strive towards and ask ourselves why. We must treat the production of our clothes made in Bangladesh or India, as if it were in our own home, sewn with our daughter’s hands. We must use our advertisements to sell the beauty that already exists, not to suggest its incompetencies. 

TKC was created to be a company that provides a new conception of the fashion industry. I want the young people who choose a career in fashion to state what they do without a need for disclaimers. I want the industry that stands for beauty to become beautiful. Who of you will stand with me? 

Jenna Todey

Founder, The Kindly Coveted