Each month, The New Fashion Initiative invites a leading voice in the sustainable fashion revolution to answer 17 questions about themselves, both personal and professional. It’s our green and socially conscious spin on Vanity Fair‘s beloved Proust Questionnaire. This month, our interviewee is designer, artist, and organizer Tabitha St. Bernard. She is the co-founder and designer of Tabii Just, a zero waste womenswear clothing label, and co-founder of LIVARI Clothing, an ethical clothing label. Tabitha is also a founding organizer of the historic Women’s March On Washington and serves as the Director of Community Engagement.
Photo of Tabitha by @Pamela_Hanson.
1. What is your favorite article of clothing?
Right now, it’s a red midi long-sleeved dress from The RealReal. It fits over my pregnancy bump but still looks cute, which is my criteria for success at this point.
2. What’s the most wonderful thing about the fashion industry right now?
We’re having real conversations about how white supremacy is manifested within the sustainable fashion space, and that gives me hope for the future. I celebrate when I see a diversity of voices within the great work we do, be it diversity in race and ethnic background, socio-economic status, immigration experience or role in the industry. Sustainable fashion seeks to be a better element of the industry, and we need to strive for improvement in all areas, including those that continue to fit into society’s definitions of what beauty and living better look like.
3. What’s the most shocking thing about fashion today?
The disconnect between the real industry and the marketed industry always shocks me. People can walk into a store and purchase an item of clothing with the mental and psychological association of glamour and beauty without an association with the factual reality of how clothing is made and the experience of the garment workers. Not only is this disconnect inaccurate, it also is detrimental to people’s relationship with their clothing. When people don’t consider the makers, they’re more likely to make decisions about their wardrobe based solely on how it looks and the price. Glamour certainly has its place, and I love a well-styled photoshoot, but we definitely need to do a better job peeling back the layers and marrying the reality of fashion with the glam.
I celebrate when I see a diversity of voices within the great work we do, be it diversity in race and ethnic background, socio-economic status, immigration experience or role in the industry.tabitha st. bernard
4. What’s your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to?
I’m going to cheat and pick two. I love going back home to Trinidad. I love seeing my friends, getting all my favorite foods and feeling the vibrant energy of the island. it soothes my soul. I also love Lake Como in Italy. We visited last summer with my family, and it was such a quaint, delightful place that is somewhat untouched by the rest of the world.
5. What is your favorite indulgence?
I don’t know if it’s an indulgence, but my pregnancy craving is not-quite-ripe mango. I eat it several times a week. It also happens to be one of my son’s fave snacks so we share begrudgingly.
6. What makes you happiest?
My son and my husband make me the happiest. Every night, around 2 a.m., my son climbs into our bed so I wake up every morning with him cuddled up next to me, and it’s my favorite time of day, no matter what else transpires. I never knew a love like this was possible. It’s the most vulnerable, mind-blowing, silly, delightful love I’ve ever experienced.
7. What environmental or social problem are we overlooking?
I honestly don’t think adequate attention is being paid to any environmental or social problem. As a society, we tend to only notice problems after a tragedy, when lives have already been lost. But if I had to narrow in on one, I think the one that needs the most attention is the human impact of our choices in relation to the privileges we hold. In the sustainable fashion space, there are lots of discussions about shopping better or shopping less, but there is little discussion about how these suggested habits may be applicable only to those with privilege. We don’t often hear stories in the sustainable fashion space about people who exist below the poverty line and still want to look cute and be sustainable. Or those who are struggling to put food on the table but also have a job interview that they need to dress for while also wanting to be a more ethical shopper. We talk often about shopping better and shopping less without considering these stories. We also leave out the psychological implications of being an immigrant in this American culture that is focused on consumerism but that contains markers of liberation for many people. I remember buying H&M for the first time and feeling like I was finally dressing like an American. How do we create ethical solutions for people without privilege, who can’t afford that $250 ethically-made dress? This is something I struggle with constantly when making clothing ethically and trying to pay fair wages.
How do we create ethical solutions for people without privilege, who can’t afford that $250 ethically-made dress?Tabitha St. Bernard
8. Are you more introverted or extroverted?
I’m definitely an introvert. I spend lots of time by myself recharging my batteries from all the social interacting I do.
9. What do you do first in the morning?
I’d love to say that I do something healthy like meditating or drinking water, but every morning, I roll out of bed, walk into my son’s room, get his clothes for the day and get him dressed and ready for school. When he’s out of the door, then I focus on myself.
10. What was the happiest moment of this past year?
The happiest moment of the past year was the moment I found out I was pregnant with our angel baby, Beau. It was a Monday, and I had just started a really exciting prospect professionally. We had been trying to get pregnant for about 10 months and I took about five pregnancy tests that all came back positive. I was living on cloud nine. I was so happy. Sadly, we lost Beau at the end of that week. Losing him didn’t change how happy I was to carry him for that week, so I will forever cherish that time I spent with him. Since then, we’ve gone on to get pregnant, again, and it’s made me appreciate the miracle of this little life even more.
11. Best professional moment of your life thus far?
That’s a tough question because I’ve since pivoted markers of success to be focused around the type of mother, wife, friend, sister, etc that I am, and the extent to which I am able to contribute to the world around me. But if I have to think professionally, it would probably be winning a Glamour Woman Of The Year award in 2017 with my fellow Women’s March sisters. Very few parts of the work of activism are glamorous, and I remember that night, we all spent a little extra time on self-care, and we were together celebrating, which we hardly ever did. That night is very special to me.
I’ve since pivoted markers of success to be focused around the type of mother, wife, friend, sister, etc that I am, and the extent to which I am able to contribute to the world around me.TABITha st. bernard
12. What was the last outfit you wore that made you feel amazing?
I have this fitted, knitted long sleeve black dress made by Theory that I got from The RealReal. I feel incredibly powerful in it. Black is always my fave color, and it lets me show my bump, which I love celebrating in all its glory.
13. Favorite movie?
14. How do you recharge?
I meditate; I read; I spend time with my son.
15. What three words describe you best?
Passionate, committed, thoughtful.
16. What makes you laugh the hardest?
My son is at an age where he can tell jokes. He tells really silly jokes and seeing him laugh cracks me up. His joy is so unfiltered and delicious and contagious.
17. Favorite book?
Anything by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’ve read all her fiction books. I rediscovered my love of reading because of her. I love the way she celebrates blackness in her books. It makes me feel seen in a really profound way.