An Industry Insider Takes the Shine Off Fast Fashion Jewelry Production
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Every day, I wear my wedding ring and a simple gold band that belonged to my great-grandmother. On the rest of my person, orbiting around these constants are an alternating cast of earrings, watches, bracelets, and necklaces. I like to think I’m immune to fashion trends, but I used to wear tiny minimalist earrings, and now I’m sporting gigantic ones — so I’m definitely fooling myself about my resistance. Jewelry can embody many feelings: commitment, fun, decadence. It can dress up an outfit you’ve worn many times or remind you of a family member long gone. Adorning ourselves in this way is an ancient ritual and obviously isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But like apparel, jewelry has been swept up in the acceleration of production and trends led by the fast fashion industry. And it’s the effects of this acceleration that led Jackie Dacanay to leave her job as a sales stylist at Henri Bendel in New York and found a conscious fashion and wellness house called THE ART OF FATE.
Turned off by what she had learned as a fashion industry insider, Dacanay quit her job, moved home to Rhode Island, and went back to the basics. Her career at Bendel helped her determine what not to do — the unsavory issues of traditional fashion stood in sharp contrast to what she wanted THE ART OF FATE to be. Not wanting to risk exploiting others, she started designing, marketing, and selling jewelry she made herself. But then she learned yet another hard truth that set her on a path to, well, her fate. Dacanay is upfront about her mistakes along the way and what she’s learned since those first days as an entrepreneur. She confesses, “There are things that I didn’t know I was contributing to in the beginning. I was buying beads from Michaels to make bracelets — that was something I was totally ignorant to, and I did not understand that that's terrible. The dye used to process those beads ends up getting thrown into the local waterways in China.” (The country is one of the biggest manufacturers of semi precious stones like the ones available at arts and crafts retailers like Michaels.)
I asked Dacanay to help me understand the flaws hiding beneath the gleam of the jewelry industry. She explained, “The problem with creating new jewelry is in the process of extracting the material from the earth. This process requires both mining and toxic chemicals like mercury and cyanide to extract deposits of gold and silver. Small-scale gold mining produces 15% of the annual gold production. The evaporation process yields highly dangerous mercury vapor — inhalation can cause potentially fatal damage to the lungs, as well as kidney failure, seizures, and permanent brain damage.” The waste can also contaminate the water, soil, and air around the mines. And according to Dacanay, “Small scale artisan miners in [developing] countries don't have the luxury of healthcare or worker protection and often use this chemical process over the same stoves they use to cook for their families.”
Consumers have a vague aversion to “conflict” diamonds and ore mining, but conscious interest in fashion jewelry is limited. Dacanay explains, “The fashion jewelry industry is just as bad as textiles because of the resources and the waste involved, the massive production, and how cheap it is.” Armed with this new information, she was searching for a better way to source jewelry when fate intervened again.
“I would say like ninety-five percent of the people we meet have no idea what deadstock is. If they do, it’s about textiles.” Dacanay was sitting in a local coffee shop working on THE ART OF FATE website when a man inquired if she was in the jewelry business. Through their conversation, she learned that he sells deadstock jewelry at wholesale. Deadstock is merchandise that was never sold to or used by consumers before being removed from sale by the original merchant. Some of it is outdated, some of it is from now defunct brands, and some of it simply didn’t sell during the hyperactive trend cycle it was a part of. Dacanay was curious to learn more and went to the man’s studio to take a look. She was astonished to find boxes of jewelry stacked floor to ceiling — much of it very good quality. She recalls, “I was shocked because it was very on par with what we were selling in New York, obviously for way higher prices. It motivated me to learn more about why there was this excess and why no one was talking about it.”
Seeing a more sustainable way forward, Dacanay selected some pieces and showed them to her best customers who eagerly asked, “Do you have more?” She then began selling deadstock at pop ups and events in Boston, where she’s now located, and embarked on a mission to educate consumers. THE ART OF FATE is now reappropriating that deadstock, bringing it to their customers, and keeping it out of landfills with this second economy of demand. Dacanay says, “Our dream is to carry more products that inspire people to live more consciously and to change the way we look at waste.”
Dacanay has plans to expand THE ART OF FATE beyond deadstock jewelry and wellness products while keeping to her original goals. When I ask her what’s different about her conscious brand, she says, “I’m always trying to set ourselves apart, and I think that we can always do more. I don’t look at us like a marketplace, I look at us like a movement. I want to make sure we are focused on independent, socially conscious entrepreneurs within the US. I want them to feel like there’s a community out there that represents their work.” As a mission-driven business, they focus on six key factors while vetting new brands:
Brand Mission: As a socially-conscious business, they partner with other brands who were founded with a similar intention in mind — narrowing in on zero-waste, womxn-owned, and businesses committed to inclusivity and giving back.
Product Design: They don't follow market trends, so a great design is timeless, versatile, and complimentary.
Quality: All of their clean beauty and wellness products must be derived from 100% natural-based ingredients.
Founder Story: All of their brand partners are independently based in the US and their products are also manufactured in the US, often out of their own homes. They are musicians, activists, moms, writers, and these partners’ stories continue to inspire them to build a supportive community for emerging social entrepreneurs.
Functionality: Every product is tested by Dacanay and members of her team to ensure it passes their standards.
Packaging: They request their vendors use plastic-free packaging materials to ensure they don't transfer the burden of waste to the consumer.
Another way that THE ART OF FATE sets itself apart from other brands is their intentional inclusivity. Dacanay explains her decision to consciously represent all womxn: “Looking at the numbers, obviously you see that there’s a huge problem in the fashion industry. There is no reason why in 2018 that womxn of color, plus size womxn, aged womxn, should represent less than a quarter of models at fashion week. That to me is a disgrace.” Being inclusive is something that Dacanay has centered from the beginning. They curate a gender-neutral wellness section that was inspired by a brand called Woke Teas, founded by Pittsburgh-based musician, editor, and activist Andrew Fox (coincidentally, the only male-owned brand they carry). His "Terrestrial Deodorants," labeled gender-neutral and 100% additive-free, caught her attention. She says, “We often don't consider the lack of options in the clean beauty industry that cater to non-binary people, which made me more conscious of the efforts we needed to make to fill that space. We're continuing to make every effort to ensure there are no groups left behind.”
This effort has continued through their latest editorial campaign, Inclusivity for All Womxn, which was purposefully about those women who have been left behind. “Every single model that was represented was a womxn of color. This is what people want. This is what the industry needs to move towards. There are a lot of womxn that look at fashion today and don’t feel like they see themselves, and that’s a big problem. It’s not that they don’t want to support sustainable fashion, it’s that they don’t feel a part of the movement, and that’s what we are trying to spark a conversation around.”
As items that are worn close to your body and under your control, jewelry choices are deeply personal. We have the power to avoid brands that exploit and plunder the earth for the latest trends — we just need the access and knowledge to do so. With help from THE ART OF FATE, we can reclaim what conventional brands deem waste and bring it back into fashion for everyone.
Shop THE ART OF FATE here. Get 20% off your first-time order of their jewelry collection with the code SELVABEAT.
✨ Photography and set styling by Magdalena Antuña. ✨