Green Light

With an eye on the future of fashion, a local designer is changing the way the Cape gets dressed. Sophie Bergquist investigates the eco-conscious ways of local boutique Fisherman’s Daughter.

written by Sophie Bergquist // photography by Paul Blackmore

An experienced veteran in the retail industry and daughter of a local commercial fisherman, Taylor Brown has been running her own business for fifteen years, since the time of her high school graduation. Starting with a focus on headbands which she designed with local clammers in mind, Brown has spent years learning the intricacies of the industry that she felt such a strong connection to for so long. Brown was one of the few in her class to graduate from MassArt with a major in fashion design and with a concentration in surface design.

During her time at MassArt, Brown applied for a travel grant in Vietnam, where she had retail connections. Enthralled by the colorful culture that she was suddenly immersed in, Brown outstayed her fellow classmates who had traveled with her, as she stayed behind to gain a better understanding of Asian culture and the fashion industries of Thailand, India, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Coming home for her graduation from MassArt for a brief amount of time, the aspiring fashion designer soon returned to Vietnam, where she became a valuable asset to one of the most well known and reputable fashion houses in Vietnam at the time.

“I really got a sense for quality control when I was there,” says Brown, “I could tell what things were worth.” After her time spent in the Vietnamese fashion industry, Brown tells me that she had a new worldview, in which she could see how massive of an environmental impact that the fashion industry has on the world's health. One of the top five polluting industries in the world, fashion takes its toll on our environment. Run-off from the production processes involved in the dying and manufacturing of fabrics is known to seep into bodies of water, poisoning our environment.

From her travels, Brown was exposed first-hand to the extreme measures that producers are willing to go to in order to satisfy a faced paced industry, which consumes 65% of the world's farmed cotton. She tells me that this is especially an issue in India, where cotton farmers suffer from respiratory diseases and other health issues as a result of their exposure to harmful pesticides used to support their crops. Not only is the health of the farmers compromised, but they are kept in an oppressive state of poverty as they must purchase costly genetically modified cotton seeds annually in order to meet regulations and have a harvest large enough to satisfy the high demand for cotton. Barefoot and unmasked, the cotton farmers in India are exposed to fertilizers and pesticides banned in most other countries for their harmful effect on the health of humans and the environment. Forced into an overwhelming cycle of unmanageable debt, the people who are the backbone of one of the most economically crucial international industries are, in many cases, driven to depression. India is experiencing its highest suicide rate among cotton farmers in years, from 1995 to 2014 approximately 270,000 Indian cotton farmers have committed suicide. While this situation is removed from everyday life on Cape Cod, it is important to remember where our materials come from. It is very likely that the majority of Cape Codders are clothed in garments that were manufactured in an unsustainable way- contributing to the environmental harm of the fashion industry.

With this in mind, Brown returned home with a refreshed determination to do her part in lightening the footprint left on the world by the fashion industry. Her boutique, Fisherman’s Daughter, is located on Main Street in Chatham, where she features the work of over fifty eco-conscious and low impact designers, including her own collection. Finding a balance between what she believes in and what she is economically able to support, Brown has pledged to buy and feature garments that are made with “[fabrics] grown sustainably without pesticides and herbicides and [designers] that are mindful of nature and who use non-toxic, low impact dyes and inks.” Sourcing, as she calls it, is an integral part of her business plan and moral ethics, in which Brown spends time finding sources for sustainable fashions from the U.S. and internationally.

Emphasizing that the fashion industry doesn’t have to pollute in order to be successful, Brown appreciates the high quality of organic materials, and their outlasting quality that goes unparalleled by cheaply manufactured products. Through educating her community and customers, the local designer is making a wave in the Cape’s fashion market, her dedication to preserving the beauty of her home and her world an inspiration to those who have the opportunity to hear her story. The feminine elegance and comfort of her featured collections successfully translate the casual lifestyle and beauty of life on Cape Cod into an environmental and fashionable statement. What this local establishment emphasizes in its presence in the Cape’s fashion scene, is that no matter where you live or who you are, it is always in style to be conscious of the environment.