Benita Robledo describes herself as a proud mestiza, meaning she is of both Latin American (Colombian and Mexican specifically) and European descent. Filmmaker, entrepreneur, and ethical fashion advocate are a few titles she holds, though her Instagram covers a myriad of topics. Over the years she has used her platform to support companies doing good, to raise awareness for slow living, and to carve out space for the underrepresented people of color within conscious spaces. I spoke to Benita via email about her personal style history and the future of fashion.
How does your cultural background inform your personal style?
I was raised in a culture that values looking put together no matter who you are or what you’re doing. Even if you’re just going to the grocery store, you better look good. This upbringing means I’ve always thought about clothes as something important and meaningful. Learning about the ethics behind clothing production has only made clothing even more important to me. Also, I love color! Give me all the color all the time.
How do you feel the intersection of the Latinx community, fashion, and sustainability has been overlooked?
Latinx people have always been at the forefront of sustainability, it just wasn’t considered cool when we did it. We first practiced it as indigenous peoples, because our entire culture was based on veneration and stewardship of the land. We didn’t need to be told we should take care of the Earth, it was just common sense. And then because of the economic destabilization of Latin America caused by US interference and white supremacy within the US, Latinx people had to make do with less. Making your clothing last, clothes swapping, buying second hand, these are all vital parts of the Latinx experience. The fact that the love of fashion and doing it sustainably is embedded in the Latinx culture from the beginning has been completely erased.
Cultural appropriation is a topic you've touched on before in regards to the fashion industry at large, but I'm interested to know your thoughts on its effects within the ethical and sustainable fashion community. What is the biggest lesson that this community still needs to learn about cultural appropriation?
If you’re going to buy something that is from another person’s culture, buy it from a company that is OWNED by a person from that culture. It’s not enough to buy from white owned companies that “support” communities of color. That’s just continuing to center white people. When you purchase from companies owned by people of color, your dollar stays within their community longer and creates a greater economic impact.
How do you hope to see this movement change as it grows?
It needs to be more inclusive. Both in style (not everyone wants boxy neutrals) and in who ethical fashion is serving. There’s a real gap in the market when it comes to inclusive sizing, adaptive clothing, and options for men.
Any badass women of color you want to shout out?
Yes! @celinecelines, @ajabarber, @sustainablystylish, @dominiquedrakeford, and @kameachayne