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Pop Up Stories: Ethical Fashion

One of the main issues of today’s society is climate emergency and sustainability. Fast fashion makes shopping for clothes more affordable, but it comes at an environmental cost. The fashion industry is the second-largest polluter in the world just after the oil industry.  This has serious consequences on our health, our planet, and garment workers’ lives.

Fortunately, there is an increased awareness of this problem and there are some brands within the fashion industry that are putting big efforts to change this situation.

Melke is one of those ethical fashion brands that is trying to shift this trend.

Founded by Emma Gage in 2020, Melke Popped Up to launch its first collection, “an eco-friendly gender-fluid clothing line based on individualism and authenticity” at our charming boutique on 173 Elizabeth Street.

Parasol Projects - Pop Up Fashion Exhibition at Nolita - Melke by Emma Gage
Melke Fashion Pop Up @ 173 Elizabeth

Emma is a young fashion designer based in New York, with a focus on “designing and creating awareness around sustainability and ethical fashion”. She also cooperates closely with organizations providing assistance in children’s education, combatting human trafficking and is a tireless advocate for garment workers’ rights.

Through Melke, she is able to blend both nonprofit work and fashion together to create artistic expression for people as well as economic empowerment.

Emma decided to set up a Pop Up shop with Parasol Projects in September 2021 with the goal of increasing visibility on a brand that focuses on “ensuring the materials are all-natural, while also making sure they cause no harm to the planet at the end of their life cycle.”. Their mission is to be completely sustainable and they know that to achieve this goal “a brand must do more than recycle. It must fight for economic, social, and environmental sustainability.”

Parasol Projects - Pop Up Fashion Exhibition at Nolita - Melke by Emma Gage
Melke Fashion Pop Up @ 173 Elizabeth

We had the pleasure of doing a quick but enjoyable interview with Emma to get to know more about Melke and her thoughts about the fashion industry. Read on!

Parasol Projects: Do you think most people are aware of the issues created by “fast fashion?” How was the reception of your message through your Pop Up?

Emma: I’d like to say most people are aware, but based on how popular stores like Shein are, I’m sometimes not sure. I think there are two fighting sources, one where people want to do better and another where mass consumption takes over. It’s hard because sustainable products are expensive so we have to focus on a mental shift of purchasing less and buying something more expensive that will last longer and is better for the planet. During the Pop Up, people really enjoyed seeing sustainable products that were unique and fun. They also were really encouraging of the amount of work I had done behind the scenes to focus on sustainability.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for consumers to help fight the problems caused by “fast fashion?”

My main advice would be to buy what you can afford, buy what you need, and treat it well. By saying this, I don’t want to turn a blind eye to the fact that most sustainable products are more expensive and can sometimes be hard for people to buy. If you can afford to buy a sustainable shirt, do that instead of buying a shirt because it’s cheaper. However, if the cheaper option is the best you can afford, do that and treat it well and care for it sustainably. The major recommendation is to not buy more than what you need just because it’s there. Think of it as a buffet, sometimes your eyes are bigger than your stomach and you end up wasting a lot of food. Buying clothing is the same.
Parasol Projects - Pop Up Fashion Exhibition at Nolita - Melke by Emma Gage
Melke Fashion Pop Up @ 173 Elizabeth

You find inspiration in nature. This first collection was inspired by a family fishing trip. Are you working on the next collection? What will be the theme?

A lot of my inspirations come from nature and from literature. The first collection was inspired by a fishing trip with my grandparents, the second was inspired by a book by Anne Carson called, Autobiography of Red, and my most recent collection is inspired by a trip I took to Ashford Castle in Ireland and got to experience falconry. The theme follows the symbiotic relationship of two predators working as one, man and falcon, the balance of nature as it works towards a common goal. Take a look at the video Melke’s AW22 collection, Falcon’s Fame, which I recently showed at NYFW as a new interim member of the CFDA.

What are your plans and dreams for the future of Melke?

Every day, I want to learn more about sustainable fashion and continue to do better. My goals are to have a line of clothing that constantly does better for those involved in the process and to be a positive change in the industry.
Parasol Projects - Pop Up Fashion Exhibition at Nolita - Melke by Emma Gage
Melke Fashion Pop Up @ 173 Elizabeth

How was your experience Popping Up with Parasol Projects? Would you repeat it?

I would definitely repeat the experience! Overall, the whole team was amazing and the setup made things so easy! The location was incredible and in regards to marketing, it was great to have a street presence. So many rental places only let you book for a minimum of a month, and as a new brand, it’s really hard to afford that. Having a day to day or week option was really helpful.

Melke video


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Melke Contact Information

Website: melke.com
Instagram: @melkenyc
Facebook: @melkenyc

Get to Know Other Pop Up Stories

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Love Yourself, with Fanny Karaman – Rue du Paradis
Promoting Women Artists, with Marcia Lorente – Surfergirl Gallery
Good Vibes Only, with Mary Kathryn – LOVEMKM

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