by Faye Lessler
Jenn Velez is the founder of Around, a sustainable fashion brand producing Fair Trade certified t-shirts made from organic cotton and recycled plastic bottles. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Jenn became fascinated by fashion when she first began traveling and challenging her perspective of the world. After living in 5 different cities, from California to Spain, Jenn finally settled in New York to put her fashion studies to work. Jenn is a gang member of the Milo Tricot studio because of her commitment to ethical and sustainable fashion, and because of her passion for educating others about why she does what she does.
"Our company is founded on the idea of “what goes around comes around.” I do not work with people who don’t care about sustainability because our mission is to provide a great product that also creates a positive impact in the world. We make sure to always support good working conditions, create less waste, and promote female empowerment. Even the messages on our t-shirts are focused on travel, positivity, and unity because we want our t-shirts to help create awareness. That is the most important aspect for me with Around - even if we only impact just one person, I consider that a win."
Before founding Around in 2017, Jenn spent 5 years working in the fast fashion industry in New York City. It wasn’t until she watched the documentary The True Cost in 2016 that she realized the negative impact her work was having on the planet and on people around the world. Just a year after learning about how exploitative and wasteful of an industry she was in, Jenn decided to launch her own clothing brand that would do it the right way - sustainably and ethically.
“I realized that I wasn’t happy with the job I was doing and that I wanted to make my life count by helping people and making a difference. That is why I was immediately moved when I watched The True Cost and I began to do more research. After that it was like I could not close my eyes again, so much that it was hard for me just to go to work and to do my job. I could not stay there anymore knowing what I knew then.”
So Jenn took all of her experience and knowledge in fashion and began to build her brand. She saw that t-shirts could make a big impact, since they are the second most used item of clothing (underwear is the first), with over 2 billion of them being sold each year. Now, her t-shirts are made from a blend of organic cotton and recycled plastic bottles, are shipped in recycled packaging materials, and are always made ethically with Fair Trade certified factories in India. In addition to being made in the most eco-friendly and fair way possible, the designs that Jenn emblazons on her t-shirts are meant to inspire.
"I have always thought of t-shirts as billboards that you can use to express yourself, and they make great icebreakers for conversations. I make colorful and cool designs to grab attention so that our message of social and environmental responsibility can be shared. I am so grateful that I have challenged myself to make this company and that it has given me so much opportunity. This year I even got to go to speak at an event in my home country of Puerto Rico, and ever since that talk I have so many people who are emailing me and saying how much they learned and were inspired. Getting to hear that, especially from people in Puerto Rico, it makes me so happy."
Above was founded first and foremost with the intention of educating others, of raising awareness for the problems that fast fashion causes for people and planet. Jenn’s experience as a traveler and in the fashion industry has caused her to change her perspective, and she is hoping that her work will help others to do the same. She is not afraid to do things a little bit different because Jenn’s mission is to make sustainable fashion the norm.
“I think that to a lot of people, guerrilla may be like a bad term, but to me I really like it. The idea of guerrilla fashion is to create a community to empower each other in the sustainable fashion industry. To do things differently is what I always wanted ever since learning about the true cost of fast fashion, and I like guerrilla fashion because it means to work together to create a different industry that is better for everyone, and that is very important to me.”
Get your Milo Tricot Guerrilla Tee created in collaboration with Around Eco exclusively in our shop. Go to the link here
Actor Juan Caballer, Milo's Creative director Mireia Lopez and, Jenn Velez at Around Eco. Together supporting women's rights and equality for all.