Sunday, March 16, 2008

Change Begins with CROW

If you haven’t noticed, change is “in.” It’s the hottest word since “hope” became synonymous with optimism. Everyone wants it from our presidential candidates, to social activists and now to fashion designers.

damali ayo (lowercase is intentional) not only wants change spoken but she wants it worn too. The conceptual artist has recently added fashion designer to her titles to demonstrate the power of change. Her introductory label, CROW features a line of casual glam – all gender hoodies, a 3-way shirt, and tiebreakers – communicating real world issues.

As CROW's tagline suggests “it’s more than what you wear. It’s who you are.” CROW offers its customers a complete lifestyle. On the CROW Web site, you can find out about social issues, health and fitness, get a second opinion from a naturopath, learn how to compost, and even how to join the textile workers union. All CROW clothing is tagged with a vow card customers sign and return to be counted among those who are committed to engaging this new lifestyle where we “enter into a relationship with our world and the people in it.”

What does this new CROW world where social change is no longer segmented, but integrated world look like? Clay, a shade of grey formed when two opposite colors on the color wheel are mixed. That symbolism, or I should say “realism”, is CROW’s signature color projecting a world beautiful in all its complexities.

A portion of all sales of the Portland, Oregon-based label goes to artists creating work that engages social change, through ayo’s Now Art Grants program.

What distinguishes CROW from other social responsible business models is its progressive formula of economics, social justice and the environment. The CROW customer can name its price in a sliding scale on all garments. Love the CROW Hoodie? Love it at the price you choose, from $40 to $75, as suggested by the site; now when was the last time you saw that offered by a retail clothing company?

ayo plans to enlist the services of seamstresses through its nest-egg program. “We believe that even social justice business provides an opportunity for financial gain and independence, not just for us, but everyone who works on our product,” ayo says.

The label equally promotes environmental sustainability and fair labor practices. ayo uses a variety of soft on the earth fibers such as soy, organic cotton, lyocell and hemp to ensure sustainability of resources. This stance extends to its unique line of “scrapology” garments, one-of- a-kind garments made from leftover fabrics. To offset its transportation carbon emissions, items are shipped through Uship, a partnership with

Sadly, not everyone believes in change. Change must be seen for a conversion to occur. ayo has built a business model on transparency unlike its predecessors in the fashion industry.

“We want our customers to trust every thing we say and everything we sell,” ayo says. “In this era of corporate distrust, CROW will emerge as a leader that ‘breaks the mold’ when it comes to how a company is run and how it views the bottom line(s) which include not only profit but cultural impact and the growing of relationships and resources at every step in our process.”

ayo’s own acceptance of change began at birth. Her innate skill and talent for cultivating change has earned praise from the social justice community. In 2005, she followed her critically acclaimed web-art-performance with the book version, How to Rent a Negro, which received awards and favorable media attention. When ayo is not designing her CROW Clothing collection, she directs her Now Art Grants, a program that combines small donations of a large number of individuals then grants that money to artists engaged in social change.

My Signature Look is one of eight "advisory birds" throughout the country that support ayo in her approach to creating change through fashion. Her ambitious business model has raised the bar for ethical fashion, proving co-opetition can bring real change for all those who participate.