Korina Emmerich, is a designer, artist and founder of EMME a small slow fashion clothing line based in New York City. Her family is originally from the Pacific Northwest coast Salish Territory Puyallup tribe on her father's side.
This week we saw Korina speak as part of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit as part of the Global Agenda’s Real Talks segments. Korina delivered a personal call to action for radical sustainability, an awakening for all us, and a commitment in sustainable representation of Indigenous people. She spoke from the heart and called for action and accountability.
When Emmerich was initially contacted to share a message as a part of the summit, she said she was taken a back and wondered what role she would be filling in the summit grass for inclusivity, and for someone who has been passed down the responsibility to be a Protector of our lands this was an opportunity for her to step forward and call for accountability.
Emmerich highlighted that many of the industries were just yelling into an echo chamber with this pat on the back mentality for creating sustainable initiatives without also taking responsibility. The more she has learnt by working within this industry the more problematic and toxic it has become, learning that exploitation seems to be the only way to succeed in this industry. We've created a white supremacist centred industry built on the backs of people who have very few rights, very poor working conditions, and unfair pay. Our excessive demand to buy things cheap comes at a human cost, and if we continue to view people as numbers on a cost sheet we are participating in the violence and destruction of our own humanity. If we continue with harmful production practices we are participating in the violence and destruction of our own lands.
The name of the summit this year was changed from redesigning growth to redesigning value, because as Emmerich points out, growth is an inherently unsustainable practice, so how do we create genuine value?
It's not simply about products anymore, it's about the stories and the people behind them. As designers we are storytellers she says, our words and actions hold power and we have to create a standard, a value for every creation, every person, every word, and every action that we take.
Indigenous people are the stewards of our lands and we have a responsibility to uphold that commitment.
For Emmerich, it means getting down to the root of her presence as a being, and what and how she contributes to this world, is her form of radical sustainability. But her commitment does not stop there. Emmerich believes in the sustainable representation of indigenous people in all arenas, as indigenous people are the stewards of our lands and they have a responsibility to uphold that commitment. Emmerich highlights that Indigenous people make up 4% of the population of the world yet they are protecting 80% of the world's biodiversity. This is not a heroic statistic, it is loaded and violent. She asks that we all stop looking at the Earth and its people as resources for extraction. What the Earth provides does not solely belong to us; we have to recognise and participate in our own Global ecology and acknowledge the inherent balance of all forms of life.
While the fashion industry has started adopting the concept of circulatory in response to the monstrous effects of industry and colonization, credit needs to be placed with credit is due she says. Circularity is an inherently indigenous concept that has existed since time immemorial, it is not a new idea, and it certainly should not be our next buzz word. In the authentic Global sustainability movement we are innately aware of the need to diversify the spaces we occupy, to take actionable steps to amplify the voices of black and brown people; the original stewards of the land, in order to work towards restorative and regenerative solutions.
Circularity is an inherently indigenous concept that has existed since time immemorial, it is not a new idea, and it certainly should not be our next buzz word.
In an industry that is currently more focussed on the commodification of diversity, rather than giving up your seat at the table, she is here to demand that we start listening to each other with respect and gratitude. Inclusivity is not a trend, it is an action. Now is the time for us to start dismantling the systems of oppression built up around us and start working together to create radical change from within this industry. This is the only way to move forward and to truly create lasting Value.
Image credit: Korina Emmerich, Vogue.
EMME is a New York based clothing and accessory brand founded by Korina Emmerich.
Korina Emmerich has built her Brooklyn NY based brand, EMME, on the backbone of Expression, Art and Culture. Leading the charge to embrace art and design as one and weaving it into her brand story. Her colorful work is known to reflect her Indigenous heritage stemming from The Coast Salish Territory, Puyallup tribe.
With a strong focus in social and climate justice while speaking out about industry responsibility and accountability: Emmerich works actively to expose and dismantle systems of oppression and challenge colonial ways of thinking.
She serves on the Board of Directors for The Slow Factory Foundation and is a speaker and panelist at sustainable literacy events and global conferences discussing: slow fashion, sustainability, dismantling white supremacy, environmental racism, Indigenous sovereignty, climate and social justice and combating systemic racism.
Emmerich has cultivated a loyal following and successful path as a truly unique contemporary fashion designer and artist.
Items are made-to-order in our Brooklyn, New York studio located on occupied Canarsie territories. Most items are made from upcycled, recycled and all natural materials giving respect to the life cycle of a garment from creation to biodegradation. Supplies are limited. Please contact for custom orders and reorders of items out of stock.
Watch her message Here
Real Talks by Korina Emmerich
The Global Fashion Agenda