Hoda Katebi Wants to Take On Fast Fashion by Taking It Down

The year we started, one of our members got a call that her uncle and his eight-year-old son were killed in bombings in Damascus, Syria. We asked her, “what do you need in this moment?” We stopped production to go on a walk with her, and to build care around her. So we were very behind on our production and we lost that client. At the end of the day, we live in a capitalist world. We can’t create a utopia — so the question is, how can we create the best of what this can be, even if it’s flawed?

I’ve noticed that you tend not to use the word “refugees” when describing the Blue Tin team, though others do.

For me, the class part is more important than the identity part because I hate identity politics. And “immigrant” and “refugee” have become catchphrases in the fashion industry. People are like, “Aw, a cute sewing circle of immigrant women.”

The team didn’t want to be framed by their trauma. We’re trying to completely reimagine the fashion industry and build garment worker power, so brands should work with us because of these incredible skill sets and backgrounds, not because they feel bad. Oh, sure, go for the P.R., I don’t care. But really it’s the beautiful clothes, and them bringing art and craftsmanship back to fashion where it belongs.

What’s everyone working on now?

Right now they’re in “panty purgatory,” as they call it. They’ve been making underwear nonstop, for a big client. I think that’s finally done, but we’re basically panty entrepreneurs now.

How did your consciousness around these issues take shape?

A lot of my values come from Islamic values of divine compassion and divine mercy. Those don’t sound radical, but it actually is a radical demand that we instead live in a world of compassion and mercy.

So I’m all for an assault on empire and capitalism. But some nurturing is required, too. You have to hold both at the same time. I guess you throw your Molotov, but you also give someone a hug.

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