fashion justice 

The modern fashion industry is one of the most exploitative industries in the world of both people and planet. It has been designed to create wealth for a select few, while many others pay the price. tonlé is leading a new circular fashion ecosystem designed to protect and support the people who work on our clothing, and the earth we all depend on. 

Sreyoun at the remnant textile markets in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

fashion isn't just. 

The fashion industry—much like the capitalist system it is a part of—operates on a model of exploitative extraction that is rooted in the long history of colonialism. Colonial power dynamics and inequity persist in the modern fashion industry in many ways, from unfair pay structures to reinforcing harmful stereotypes. Such dynamics bolster an unfair balance of risk and reward across the “supply chain,” where people at “the top” become extremely wealthy by exploiting the people at “the bottom.”.

The fashion industry is producing at an ever-increasing rate, with new garments being released every week instead of every season. Fast fashion is only the most recent industry development that increases wealth for a few at the expense of the planet and of human lives. Rather than working to improve a destructive system, we at tonlé believe it’s time for a radical rethink of what fashion can— and should— look like.

fashion justice is about people and planet. 

Imagine if the fashion industry looked more like a circular, reciprocal ecosystem, rather than a top-down supply chain. In this ecosystem, sewing, weaving, dying, and mending can be a form of sharing joy. In this ecosystem, everyone’s contributions are valued, and makers are centered as creators and leaders. Imagine a fashion industry where clothing is created in a way that enriches—rather than destroys—the planet we all live on. Imagine buying clothes that you can truly feel good about wearing, knowing that you are a partner in co-creating a more sustainable future. This is the future we strive for at tonlé.

Our workshop is structured more like a sewing circle than an assembly line. Team members exchange expertise on designs and learn the full process of making each garment. Collaboration is core to everything we do: We believe skill sharing and mutual support helps us grow together.

We make all of our products from remnant textiles that other larger factories consider waste. We've diverted thousands of pounds of textiles from being sent to landfills and incinerators, and have turned them into beautiful garments and distinctive homewares. Since we want these products to be used and loved as long as possible, we strive to create designs that transcend seasonality. We also educate our customers on how to best care for their garments to ensure they last. To keep wearable garments out of landfills, we are working on a resale platform where customers can trade and sell their tonlé pieces. 

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While we can’t create widespread systems change on our own, we hope to inspire others and collaborate with them to build a fashion industry where everyone benefits and thrives.