Rachael Wang has dressed everyone from Shailene Woodley and Kristin Davis to Padma Lakshmi and Hunter Schafer. And every look is created with sustainability in mind—necklaces with recycled materials, shoes made from byproduct leathers, shirts with 100% deadstock fabrics and denim garments produced in mills that use 75% less water.
As a Chinese American stylist and creative consultant, Wang has dedicated her career to making fashion more inclusive and ethical.
“Growing up mixed race gave me an outsider’s perspective,” Wang says. “As a child, I was very aware of the exclusivity of mainstream media, so when I started to find myself in positions where I had power and a voice, it was important to me to encourage representation and to discourage tokenism.”
But getting to that point wasn’t easy. Without wealth or fame, she had to prove her value in a notoriously pretentious industry. Wang worked at fashion magazines in New York City for about a decade—“I had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet because the most glamourous positions often pay the least,” Wang adds—and then, in 2017, she founded Rachael Wang Studio.
She was 32 and felt that she had more to offer the industry and wanted to start asking the hard questions around where clothes come from, who makes them and what happens to them when they inevitably fall out of style.
“I was learning a lot about the connections between social justice and environmental justice and saw a hole in the market for someone with fashion industry cachet that could also speak to the major issues that plague the fashion industry,” Wang says. “I wanted to use the knowledge I had gained to become an ally to brands to help them on their journey to becoming more conscious.”
A year before launching her brand, Wang participated in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in North Dakota and became even more aware of issues surrounding “environmental racism.” Coined in 1982, the term describes the racial discrimination inherent in environmental policy making, the deliberate targeting of communities of color for toxic waste facilities and the history of excluding people of color from leadership roles of ecology movements, Wang explains.
“Marginalized communities are disproportionately exposed to the effects of climate change and pollution due to their low socioeconomic status and lack of political status,” Wang says. “The best way that I know how to address environmental racism is to talk about issues like wages and working conditions with my clients.”
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Emily Silber is Millie’s executive editor.