Ethical fashion is personal fashion. And few people know this quite so well as Eliana Gil Rodriguez. The Venezuelan-born, Los Angeles-based creative director was a former designer for American Apparel, before deciding to start her namesake line of sleek basics. Aside from making elevated essentials, which are designed to be worn on repeat – everywhere from dinner to dance class – Gil Rodriguez is a reaction to everything the designer was frustrated with in fashion. Namely: overwhelming newness and a lack of transparency around working conditions.
By choosing to manufacture her timeless bodysuits and leggings locally in Los Angeles, Rodriguez has not only been able to shift this fashion conversation, but also to maintain supply chain visibility. Which is critical in an industry where the supply chain has traditionally been opaque and the working conditions at second or third tier suppliers have largely been out of sight, out of mind.
With a purpose-driven design ethos and an enviable personal style – which revolves around responsible vintage and enduring design – Rodriguez prompts us to question where our clothes come from and how they have been made. From streamlined basics to conversation-sparking vintage, she shares with RUSSH her mission to slow down the system.
Do you agree that ethical fashion is personal fashion and that people should shop to reflect their own lifestyle and set of values?
I think more and more people are shopping to reflect their values, as they should. We know too much about the environmental and social cost of the fashion industry to turn a blind eye at this point. It doesn’t mean you have to be a saint, but if we all make conscious shifts towards a more sustainable way of consuming, the industry is forced to adapt. The impact of that collective shift is enormous.
What are the core values behind Gil Rodriguez and how do they reflect your own personal ethics?
I believe in taking things slow. In the past [few] years fashion has been ever increasing in pace (and therefore waste) – but it’s reaching a breaking point, both for brands and for the consumer. Put simply, no one needs that many new clothes. A slower paced, less-but-better approach to fashion is the future, at least the only future in which our planet might have a chance to sustain us. Gil Rodriguez aims to reflect that reality.
"We’re proud to play a small part in that shift."
Why do you believe it is so important to be transparent with your customers about who made their clothes?
As more and more brands provide transparency in regard to their manufacturing practices, customers are beginning to expect it, to use this knowledge to make more informed decisions, and finally to demand it from the brands they shop with. In a time where the consumer has access to so many choices, this new expectation for companies to provide transparency and uphold a certain social and environmental standard is already causing an industry-wide shift towards a future that’s kinder to people and to our environment.
"Human decency needs to be the rule, not the exception."
Why are fair working standards so important to you as a designer?
Fashion sells a fantasy, an idea of glamour, but there is nothing glamorous about exploitation. No matter how beautiful the clothes, I don’t believe a company can truly be modern or relevant if they don’t take on the responsibility of ensuring adequate conditions for the people making the product.
Finally, why do you feel that we need to slow things down in fashion and how do you achieve this through Gil Rodriguez?
We simply don’t have a choice but to slow things down. The current pace isn’t sustainable, period. Nor do I think is it desirable. Fast trends are tacky. You shouldn’t look back at a photo of yourself from a few years ago and feel embarrassed about what you were wearing. I don’t believe in buying clothes that will inevitably look dated, and I certainly don’t believe in making them.