I sat down with Celine Petrossi and Mikayla Bergamin, Co-Creative Directors of The Politics of Fashion, to get a deep look into their up and coming business. The Politics of Fashion is a growing business that celebrates the intersections between politics and fashion. It’s a platform that discusses current movements in fashion and politics, challenges the social expectation of what fashion can be and demonstrates the influence politics has on everything. I want to acknowledge both Celine and Mikayla for their role in the creation of this article, and thank them for granting me the opportunity of writing this personal and introspective piece about their business.
Let’s begin by telling the readers a little bit about yourselves.
Celine: I am Celine Petrossi, a fourth-year Political Science major. I am the President and a Co-Creative Director of The Politics of Fashion.
Mikayla: My name is Mikayla Bergamin. I am a fourth-year English major, additionally working towards a Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. I am the Vice President of POF and a Co-Creative Director.
What inspired you to start the organization, “The Politics of Fashion”?
Celine: I have always enjoyed engaging in politics and current events/issues, alongside keeping up to date with what is going on in the fashion industry. I myself could see many instances of overlap between politics and fashion, so one day I decided to research for any overlap that has already been covered. I googled the politics of fashion and nothing came up so I thought to myself: if no one is going to cover this information then I want to.
Why do you both want to work in fashion and what does fashion mean to you?
Mikayla: Interestingly enough, when we first began discussing undertaking this project together, we learned that many people in our families have a background in fashion. Cel and I have always been interested in fashion and invested in the fashion industry from a young age because we both grew up in the city. Whether it is high fashion or finding streetwear accounts on Instagram, we are constantly exploring the different realms of fashion. To me, fashion is an extension and expression of who you are, how you are feeling and what you want to become. It is something personal and a way to feel comfortable and confident. Whether I am wearing a black blazer or a baggy sweater, each piece is really just a part of me. As corny as this sounds, putting on a staple in my closet, such as a black blazer, makes me feel powerful. I want to work in fashion now because of POF. I really wasn’t thinking too much about fashion before Cel presented me with POF. I always loved clothes, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t know that I was going to want to have a career in it so badly. Now there is no going back!
Celine: I would agree with Mik, that fashion is an extension of my personality. I’d say that I am an outgoing person but I’m generally quiet. I’m not going to be the first person to speak in a group, so if I get to wear a loud t-shirt to do that for me, instead of speaking, that is my way of showing who I am. I’m just going to wear loud clothes instead of being loud with my voice. As I mentioned before, my aunt used to work in fashion as did my mom, she used to model, so I guess the easiest way to put it is that I want to resemble the powerful women in my life. I can just remember growing up and buying all those little design books about how to make a dress and things like that. Fashion never seemed like a real job to me growing up. To be completely transparent, it was always a dream but now that we have founded The Politics of Fashion it has made it a tangible reality.
What are the values of POF and how are these values reflected in your brand?
Mikayla: We came up with our brand values together because all of these concepts are things that we believe in, standby and want to see others support, especially right now. To sum up POF’s values in words would be equality, fairness, representation, and one of the most important ones that we have been discussing recently, especially with respect to fashion, sustainability.
Celine: We realize that if we are going to step into the fashion industry, we don’t want to participate in it in a harmful way. We wouldn’t want to add to the current environmental issues as a result of fast fashion. We are trying to educate ourselves more on sustainable fashion and find sustainable vendors and fabrics, ensuring that we are not contributing to the pollution that the clothing industry produces. We are constantly mindful of leading in a way that is going to be sustainable in the industry.
Mikayla: Alongside all that, we want to challenge what fashion means, what it should look like and the redundant concept of who should be wearing what because there is no limit when it comes to fashion. In fact, that might be another way to describe POF. We don’t believe in the boundaries of fashion because to be quite frank, we don’t think there are many.
Celine: We want to put out clothing that is sustainable with the resources that we have available to us right now. As well, we try to ensure that every post we make is mindful and considerate of our audience. We are never trying to spread anything harmful, negative or hateful any more than social media does already. We are extremely conscious of the posts that we are putting out into the world and will continue to be moving forward.
What does success look like for POF today and in the future?
Mikayla: It’s so exciting to think about that because obviously, it is something that we want badly, but we are trying to determine what that means for the both of us and it does mean the same thing. However, we can’t really give you an answer because we don’t want to cap our success. We can’t tell you we need x, y, z to happen in order to deem ourselves successful because the way we work means being open to ever-changing possibilities every day. Honestly, if we had to put an explanation to what success would look like it would be this: if we are able to change a few lives or educate a few people on the intersectionality of these global factors known as politics and fashion, then we will consider ourselves extremely lucky and successful. Our ultimate goal is to open a healthy conversation and to allow people to express themselves without judgment or any negative gaze! Do what you want to do, be happy and be free. If we can make people feel like that, then we would feel successful.
If any, what obstacles are you working through?
Celine: Just being a student is such an obstacle itself because finding time to have a life outside of school is something that I struggle with. So, finding the time to run a business on the side is a little crazy. As well, finances as a student. Mikayla and I come up with all of these great ideas and laugh because we are unable to move forward with them just yet due to funding. Funding is definitely to come, but those are our major obstacles right now, hopefully, that changes soon.
Where do you both see POF five years from now?
Mikayla: Straight up, on your timeline and on the clothing on your back. The dream would be to have an office in Toronto or even New York City. I talk to Cel about this all the time, and I might even annoy her with it, but I constantly tell her to watch The Intern with Anne Hathaway and Robert DeNiro. If we keep at this and we collect a group of open-minded, passionate, caring and compassionate people who share a love for fashion and for people, I believe we could make it happen. We just have to keep working!
Celine: We hope that POF can become more than just a clothing brand or just a blog; we want it to be all of that together. Between Mikayla and I, I want her to be writing articles about the things that I want to be making clothes about. We want it to become a platform that encompasses both the education aspect, the clothing aspect and the pure creativity behind whatever we want to do. I see POF making documentaries in the future. I see POF being an online magazine. All of it and more. Anything can happen.
Mikayla: Our hope is that it will become a multimedia platform. It is not just dropping a collection with four t-shirts to choose from. It would be dropping a collection with four t-shirts to choose from, a thirty-minute video on the production, two articles written by people who work for us and another written by the individual who provided the fabrics. It is an extension of the entire process and we want POF to be that multi-media platform where we have no choice but to look for writers, marketing managers, designers, videographers and photographers. We need everyone and we are so happy about that.
Celine: Being a politics student, I can understand that sometimes this stuff is straight up boring so I want to present it in a way that is interesting. I want to say to the world: look at this sick t-shirt but then engage the minds of people so that they want to be educated on the cause behind the production of the t-shirt that they see on Instagram!
Why is POF important? Who or what benefits from your brand?
Celine: I think that POF is important because your fashion, whether you realize it or not, says something about you and therefore is something that affects you every day. And politics, whether you like it or not, affects your everyday life too. So, when both of these things come together something does happen and I feel that it is important to recognize these connections. This intersection greatly encompasses the way we treat others and the way we treat women and men in society. It is important to take a step back and to realize that a t-shirt says more than you think it does.
Mikayla: The time of seeing someone walk into a room and using this invisible urban dictionary that you have in your head to define another person for wearing a certain article of clothing, is over. There is no more time for that. If people want to wear something, it is because they like it and feel great in it. We want our brand to represent equality and be a safe place so everyone can benefit from this. If people are willing to start a conversation with us, be open to learning about the overlap between fashion and politics and its present-day effects, and simply be open-minded about the history of this overlap then anyone is welcome!
Celine: With the t-shirt that we released earlier this year we donated the proceeds we made to the Black Lives Matter Organization. We also hope, on a greater scale, to help benefit organizations or causes that are needed at the time.
Mikayla: Absolutely, I think that alongside POF being multimedia, we want to be as philanthropic as possible. We want to give back. There was no greater honour than realizing that we could actually, as students, donate as much as we made from those t-shirts and help our world take a step in the right direction.
What is coming up next for POF? Any new launches that we should be looking out for?
Celine: Mikayla and I have decided to call our next launch The Baby Collection! It is going to feature sweaters that, we think, represent people we know or see around us; essentially, it is a collection of sweaters that celebrate the different types of people we know and the vibes they give off. You can be a happy baby, a stoner baby, a sad baby, a pretty baby, a boss baby… you just pick your sweater baby.
Mikayla: It is going to be a really fun collection. It will be super complementary. We have ten sweaters that will be launched in increments!
Celine: We want the sweaters to represent personalities that we see in society!
Mikayla: And just have fun with it. We are going to continue working on our Instagram, our website and we are also working with VCFS this year, which has been so fun thus far! We are always open to collaboration and having conversations with people.
What are the biggest takeaways that you both, individually and collectively, have taken since starting POF?
Celine: My parents always used to say, “if you find what you love, you will never work a day in your life,” and I never believed it. I always had the mentality that a job is a job and it will always suck. Now, I genuinely wake up with a drive to work on POF. There is nothing like doing what you love and I really realized that through this experience with Mik.
Mikayla: Working alongside Cel has made me realize that there is nothing better than a healthy collaboration. Our friendship has blossomed because of this opportunity and as she said, we’re so excited to actually get to work on POF and make a difference. The whole point of this is to have an effect on people and honestly, without even realizing it, we surprised ourselves. We make each other stronger; we need one another for POF.
Celine: I always tell Mikayla, and vice versa, that this would not be possible without her. POF wouldn’t be POF if it were not for the both of us. I was nervous about creating the Instagram account for POF because I was worried about what other people would think or if it would fail. One of my biggest takeaways from all the work these past few months is to take a leap because why not?! Someone out there is also going to love your idea and you will find your community.
Mikayla: Exactly, there are no stupid ideas. There are seven billion people in the world, you can’t really think that not one person will agree or find interest in what you see. You need to believe in the power of your ideas. Cel is much more into the craft and creation of the clothing than I am; she is much more skilled in that regard. What’s interesting is how much of a different reaction I have when I find a piece of clothing that I like when online shopping in comparison to when Cel makes something. When I know what went into making that particular piece and why she wanted to create it, I feel an attachment to it. It’s almost like a relationship between myself, the piece and the creator. When you actually know what went on behind the scenes you are that much more inclined to be like ‘you know what I respect that, I am going to throw it on my back and now I have a story to tell.’ It’s an honour to wear the pieces she creates.
Any final thoughts?
Celine + Mikayla: We want to thank everyone who has supported us thus far. There have been so many people at Queen’s and friends from home who have been so supportive and sharing our posts. It really makes our day and the support from our community is a beautiful thing. If anyone just wants to talk or has any questions, that is what we do and what we want; our Instagram DM’s are always open. You can follow our Instagram @thepoliticsoffashion.