With all of the problems in the world today, it’s nearly impossible to figure out if what you are doing is actually making an impact. Climate change, politics, and mental health issues can all feel really overwhelming if you’re not sure your contribution even makes a difference. Angela Luna, Creative Director of conscious clothing brand ADIFF felt similarly as a senior at Parsons University in 2015. At the time, utilizing fashion to discuss social, humanitarian, or political issues wasn’t common — but that was something she knew she could change.
During her senior year, the refugee crisis was in full swing. “I wanted to find a way to apply my coursework and chosen career to what was actually going on in the world,” she recalls. “Coming from a background in design, it didn’t seem like there was much I could do to help, but I decided to apply design thinking to some of the daily, life threatening problems we were witnessing.” Her thesis project focused on addressing key issues that refugees were facing, and from there ADIFF was born. Launched immediately after graduation, ADIFF came from the phrase “making a difference,” as that was the ultimate goal Luna wanted to achieve for her brand.
As a socially-conscious brand, ADIFF aims to challenge both the systems within the fashion industry while also changing how society views its impact.
This means focusing on the environmental and human-related impact the industry has on the world and making sure everything it does is ethical and sustainable — and then actually following through on those ideals.
“There’s a lot of green-washing happening in fashion because customers are finally demanding ethics from the brands they support,” says Luna, pointing out that it can be incredibly frustrating to see other well-known brands start to get credit for being environmentally conscious when, in reality, they’ve been a part of the problem for ages.
Oftentimes, says Luna, brands aren’t actually doing the work to be more ethical or sustainable, they’re just doing the work to appear that way. “What sets us aside is that yes, we talk the talk, but we also walk the walk. We do our homework, put it into action, and will be the first ones to say ‘we could be doing this better.’”
Indeed, ADIFF walks the walk in a handful of different ways, but the main two are surrounding climate change and refugee displacement. In particular, their most recent collection grew from the industry-wide need to reduce environmental pollution. To combat this, they upcycled discarded tent and life vest materials to make their pieces. “Since we’re so invested in upcycling and utilizing sustainable materials, quite often our material sourcing informs what the product will actually be,” Luna explains. “However, we’re always focusing on creating pieces that are a marriage between function and style.”
One of ADIFF’s core philosophies is the concept of circularity, which is essential for the future of fashion. Circularity means there’s a closed loop system where they reuse clothes and products that aren’t being used otherwise. Luna notes that circularity and sustainability also have an effect on refugee displacement. “With our mission being to support refugees and displaced persons, to do that in a way that is environmentally harmful would be counterproductive to our mission,” states the changemaker. “It’s why sustainability and circularity contributes so much to our brand identity.”
With all of the work that ADIFF does, many might be surprised that the brand’s team is still quite small. They work directly with their suppliers and tailors so there aren’t any issues with communication. They source materials directly from suppliers, although they hope to eventually have every single part of a collection made entirely from upcycled post-consumer fashion waste.
“It’s a process,” says Luna. “But we are clinging to our intentions and mission every step of the way, and taking each collection as a learning experience.”