ENAT: Creating Consciousness & Kindness
A few years ago, I remember watching a video clip from “The True Cost,” a documentary focused on the lack of environmental and social sustainability in fashion. The clip indicated that the average American throws away approximately 80 pounds of textile waste each year. That totals to about 11 million tons of waste for the United States alone. Most textiles aren’t biodegradable, which means they sit in landfills for at least 200 years, releasing harmful gases into the air. However, textiles can be repurposed into a number of different things and about 95% of textiles can be recycled. Instead of focusing on the negative environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry, I’m re-directing the spotlight onto ENAT, a line of life-ready leather goods and jewelry, consciously and sustainably produced in Ethiopia. Their mission is to make sustainable, recycled and upcycled products the new norm.
The average American throws away approximately 80 pounds of textile waste each year. That totals to about 11 million tons of waste for the United States alone.
In search of finding cool every-day pieces at prices they could afford, best friends Eliza and Olivia started ENAT in 2015. They created a valuable collaboration with small business owners in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, who have the expertise and understanding of the local economy, which also allows ENAT to bring more visibility to their incredible quality and craftsmanship. Being best friends since preschool and growing up with parents who are environmental scientists operating multiple worm farms, Eliza and Olivia have been surrounded by the green movement their whole lives. In a pocket of time in the middle of a busy travel schedule, Olivia was able to give us a little insight on sustainable fashion and the drive behind the mission and values of ENAT.
Fashion is a large industry and a vast business. As Olivia puts it, “The fashion industry is one of the largest employers in the world, and well over half of the workforce is women.” With the introduction of the fast fashion industry, humans have become the number one asset being compromised. To meet demand, workers (some even underaged) are working long hours for low wages. Olivia strongly believes that the fashion industry is a place where modern day slavery exists. “What the industry chooses to do is directly correlated to the health and happiness of humans and the planet.” With a strong value of fair treatment of people and the environment above all else, Olivia shares how ENAT incorporates ethics into their mission: “ENAT works with small business owners who have their roots deep in the local economy. We carefully vet our partners through lots of time spent together (lots of shared meals!), regular visits to the workshops, and conversations about sustainable wages.”
ENAT’s products are sustainably, consciously and fairly made from local materials, vegetable tanned leather, and leather scraps. “Our future is in giving customers the ability to put their money where their values are and tackling real world problems and injustices through the purchase of everyday items.” Unlike fast fashion that focuses on speed and low cost pricing, ENAT’s partners set the price and production schedule, which ensures that they’re not forced to compromise in any way. ENAT also picks partners who have low employee turnover, as they’ve found this to be a solid indicator of a fair work environment.
“ENAT works with small business owners who have their roots deep in the local economy. We carefully vet our partners through lots of time spent together (lots of shared meals!), regular visits to the workshops, and conversations about sustainable wages.”
The consequence of fast fashion goes beyond textile waste. It encourages the disempowerment of women, trapping a generation of young women into poverty at a very young age. Olivia says, “We’re adamant that working in [slow fashion] (or building a social impact company generally) isn’t just about feeling good but about being part of a greater shift.” ENAT believes true sustainability comes from growing alongside business owners and entrepreneurs in the places in which they work by working directly with producers, as well as getting to know them, their workplaces, and the people they employ. A great mission for small brands like ENAT that can add a layer of transparency into an otherwise opaque industry. “At scale this will look different, but it’s only through education, through organizations like Dressember and mission-driven for-profit companies like ours that the average person will learn about what happens and the simple choices they can make to start to change things.”
At Dressember, we choose to partner with brands who go above and beyond to weave sustainability and social responsibility into their business. It is an honor to share ENAT as a resource for the conscious consumer. If you're on the hunt for the perfect bag, look no further than ENAT. Follow their logo below to shop their collection, and feel good knowing that your purchase is empowering communities in Ethiopia.
About the Author
Gaochen Xiong recently graduated with her Master’s in Public and Nonprofit Administration. As a first generation born Hmong American, who is dedicated to paving the way for her children and future generations, she is excited to expand her knowledge and fight for justice through Dressember. She’s an avid reader, lover of all things arts and crafts, and enjoys experiencing new adventures and traveling with her family.