Meet Aditi Mayer, a sustainable fashion blogger, photojournalist
and creative consultant whose keen eye for photography convinced us to instantly hit the "Follow" button. But upon reading what Aditi shares on her Instagram page and her blog, ADIMAY
, we quickly learned that Aditi wasn't just your typical fashion blogger. In fact, she is one of the key spokespeople for an inclusive and intersectional slow fashion movement. Frustrated by the lack of representation and intersectionality within the movement, Aditi frequently touches on topics such as social and environmental justice in fashion and minority representation. As a multi-hyphenate who inspires us to no ends, we were so excited to chat with Aditi and ask her about how she stays grounded, what her journey into sustainable fashion looked like, and how her sense of style has changed over the years.
First things first, who is Aditi Mayer?
Ok, let me go in third person real quick… Aditi Mayer is a visual storyteller looking to combine artistic expression with social action. She’s the sustainable fashion blogger behind ADIMAY.com, a sustainable fashion blog that explores the intersections of style, sustainability, and social justice. She uses her work as a site to observe larger systems of injustice while simultaneously serving as a site for unapologetic identity reclamation. She is also a photojournalist and filmmaker. Her current on-going journalistic work is exploring sweatshops in Los Angeles, and its ties to the undocumented community.
Can you describe your personal style for us? How has it changed over the years?
It’s funny— I was never someone who had the typical ‘passion for fashion’ motivator to starting their fashion blog. My first love was photography (established at age 12).
My style has always been informed by elements I found most in line with my photography style— earthy toned, interesting silhouettes and movement oriented. However, after learning so much about the process behind clothes— from the materials used, to techniques derived from artisan led/slow fashion, I’ve found myself drawn to airy, natural fabrics from linen to hemp, balancing minimalist pieces with statement pieces that are reminiscent of South Asian identity. I’m blessed to belong to a culture that has been a mecca for so many crafts that are tied to identity… and I feel like India is definitely experiencing a craft renaissance and revival of sorts.
Having my blog double as a journal of personal style has allowed me to reflect on recurring elements in my wardrobe. I truly believe that a strong sense of personal style is a major pillar in sustainable living, granted that the sustainable fashion industry is anti-trend.
What are the first four things you do when you wake up in the morning?
It’s a bad habit, but the first thing I do is grab my phone and check my notifications— Instagram, emails, etc. After brushing my teeth, I make myself chai— I pick fresh tulsi and mint leaves from my garden. I usually paired that with a typical Punjabi breakfast of ajwain parathas.
I usually eat breakfast sitting on the manja (Indian cot) in my backyard. Now that I think about it, it’s all quite reminiscent of nostalgic Punjabi life haha.
Our generation is called the burnout generation. How do YOU keep yourself grounded and prevent yourself from burning out?
I’ve come to terms with the fact that there will be ebbs and flows in my productivity and motivation. I’m careful not to overexert myself at these times— you know you’ve internalized capitalism when you equate yourself work to your productivity.
All that said, engaging with the community I do this work for always pushes me, and I think that’s why the photojournalistic side of what I do is so much more important to me now. We can’t solely entrust corporations to do the work of social justice; the power lies in the people.
What has been the greatest lessons you have learned since beginning your career?
You can't solely rely on brands to deliver sustainability. Greenwashing is rampart in this day and age; so many brands are co-opting the language of “ethics” and “sustainability” for their own commercial gain. I’ve learned that one of the most important things I can do is reorient my focus to the heart of the movement— workers— and centering their voices.
How did you first become interested in sustainable and ethical fashion? Why is it important to you?
Before I began college about 5 years ago, I learned about the Rana Plaza factory collapse. It was a time where I began critically engaging with my work as a photographer— who happened to be interested in getting more involved with fashion photography. I saw it an opportunity to explore whether my love creating had to come at the expense of justice.
So my sustainable fashion blog was more so an avenue to explore my relationship to the fashion industry. From there, it was a combination of my identity as a woman of color and political coming of age that really led me to see the disproportionate effects of this industry on people of color. In many ways, the fast fashion industry has recreated systems of patriarchy, colonialism, imperialism in its practices.
As a result, engaging in the sustainable fashion industry allows me to engage my creative side, interrogate my own sense of identity, and push my efforts towards creating a more equitable future.
Can you tell us how you became a freelance photojournalist? What do you love or hate about your work?
I studied Journalism during my undergrad, and the more I got involved in the sustainable fashion industry as a blogger, the more questions I had about the structures that surround the industry. As bloggers, we’re usually exposed to the brand side of things— which brands are doing things right, for instance— that we lose sight of the realities of the traditional fashion industry.
I began using my longform journalism workshops to cover issues that were important to me— sweatshops in LA, for instance. I discovered that too much of the discourse around sweatshops is that they are an overseas, distant abstraction. However, people fail to see how identity is weaponized in our own borders. Here, it’s undocumented folks who are systemically silenced; if they try and speak out, they are threatened with deportation from their employers.
From there, I saw photojournalism as a great way to bring nuance to the discourse of sustainability. Sustainability isn’t just something we buy our way into; it demands we look at overriding structures. And that’s why I love photojournalism— it gives me new insights on there realities of industry, potential solution, and re-orients my understanding of why I do what I do.
There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in the fashion industry, but has there been any progress over the past few years that gives you hope?
I always see the approach to addressing fast fashion as three prong: consumer education, corporate accountability, and worker’s empowerment. I think we’ve seen the growth in all three, but most extensively in consumer education. I feel like the growing consciousness in consumers is a big win; the next step after knowledge is action, and I’m happy to partake in a field where I can help facilitate those steps.
How do you like to practice sustainability in your day to day life? Do you have any sustainable goals you’re working towards?
I’ve become more conscious of degree of plastic embedded in our day to day lives, so I’m taking small yet important steps that anyone can take: always traveling with my own cutlery, steel straw, water bottle, etc. I’m also cultivating my own garden with fresh fruits and herbs. Lastly, I’m buying way way less; being a fashion blogger means that I already belong to a territory where I get new clothes constantly to do the work that I do. So if I am making my own purchases, I’ll be sure to make them secondhand/local.
We LOVE your article on sustainable fashion’s race problem. Would it be possible for you to condense the article in a short paragraph for our readers?
The fashion industry is built on the oppression of black and brown women, an institutionalized form of racism inherited from a colonial past. In the same way that colonized nations provided cheap sugar, chocolate, coffee, and fruit to the West, “developing” nations now provide cheap semi-disposable clothes to the West and global economic upper classes. Modern Western culture has tried to introduce solutions to sustainability, but those often miss the point. Just look at the discourse of who gets to be 'experts' on sustainability. When mostly white authors, who have never stepped foot in a factory or asked the women who make our clothes what is needed to improve the industry, write a 200 page report about the state of the industry, what we get are sustainable solutions that bet on technological innovation and closed loop systems, instead of giving more care and attention to the human lives that are impacted. It’s interesting that while the press now bemoans fashion’s diversity problem on the runways and magazine covers, there is scant attention as to why the funders, advocates and spokespersons leading the sustainability conversations are so non-diverse? In the same way transparency champions declare an “if you can’t see it, you can’t fix it” ethos, the industry must pass the mic back to the black and brown women who bring our clothes to life and ask her what is needed. Yes, technological innovation, transparency and circularity are important in creating sustainable solutions. But in an industry where it is becoming increasingly popular to advocate for feminism and racial equality, we need to put our investments and decision-making powers towards initiatives that actually leave black and brown women better off in the long-term.
What are your favourite things to do in L.A.?
LA is full of diverse landscapes. I love exploring on foot via hikes— one day it can be canyons, one day it’s beaches, one day it’s the mountains. It doubles as location scouting for me too, as I always try and incorporate the outdoors in my imagery. I joke that my studio changes every day.
If you had to recommend one place that readers should travel to, which would it be, and why?
Nepal. You get everything from the madness of Kathmandu to the stillness of the Himalayas. There’s a feminine energy that surrounds the place. Colors look like their saturated to a point I’ve only seen on photoshop. It’s all magical.
What's your horoscope
I’m a Leo-Virgo cusp!
What makes you the most excited about your work?The growing presence of women of color who are redefining what sustainability looks like & means in practice. What are your favourite instagram accounts to follow?@Girlgaze features female and non-binary photographers in order to work against the male gaze, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with them in the past. @BrownHistory provides stunning archival images and gems of history from South Asia. @Orientistan provides noneuropean history framed in a postcolonial lens. What was your first job everI was a tutor during my high school years up until mid-way through college. I absolutely love teaching.