woman in denim jacket covering face with fingers

This Model and Activist uses Fashion as a Communication Tool

woman in denim jacket covering face with fingers

Today ee are speaking to Jeannie Jay Park, an activist, model, creator. She is an Asian-American woman and founder of Sanitation Nation, a brand that combines fashion and activism with a focus on building intersectional solidarity, is also co-organizer for Warriors in the Garden, a nonviolent protest group working against all forms if white supremacy in NYC. Park dresses with a purpose and chooses to support sustainable-made AAPI-owned and POC-owned businesses. All of the brands are incorporated into her incredible sense of style.

What does your style *actually* look like right now?

It’s unpredictable and experimental. It’s about finding new patterns, textures, colors, and sustainable materials. I have been working to dismantle the myths and stereotypes that are imposed on us Asian Americans. This has led me to deconstruct my closet. My style is also trying to be long-lasting and sustainable. I value quality more than quantity and people over trends. I have a lot of clothes that I love and recycle them. They are the clothes that represent me through my life. I love upcycling clothes I’ve outworn–deconstructing them and finding new life and beauty in the old. {Isn’t that what life is all about? Clothing is more than clothes in this sense. They are a great vessel to help us discover who we really are as interconnected people and to communicate the values we hold.

Day 1

Chill me. I’m not careful. If I had to wear this bag on a sunny day in NYC, it would be what I would use. The Mother bag is always there, no matter what occasion. Reversible, the Mother bag is made ethically from recycled Italian wool knits. I wanted to create a bag that was practical, ethical, and multipurpose that could be used day and night. It would also be unique and colorful. The bag is a symbol of how fashion must evolve and adapt to the changing world. It was designed in New York City by local Asian women artisans to help protect Asian women. The Mother bag’s profits will go to, an action-oriented network that works to protect marginalized AAPI elders and women. It also drives social, political and economic change for AAPI youth and women.

On par with our core values behind the creation of the Mother bag, I love supporting POC-owned, sustainable and ethical businesses. My top is made ethically in NYC by a Korean friend. The shorts are my absolute most repeated bottoms of the summer: upcycled vintage rice bag shorts from a friend’s vintage Filipina-American-owned brand. Ironically, I’ve been seeing this rice bag trend a lot lately, and I think it’s so telling of the post-racial era we’re in, where it’s now trendy to wear the very same rice bags that I grew up hiding in the pantry every time my friends would come over (along with any sign of my Asian-ness) after being made fun of for my Korean lunches throughout my entire childhood. These shorts make me feel empowered and show how Asian Americans can tell their own stories. I also have the flannel, which is one of my favorite pieces right now, from, founded by Chris Leba, a Vietnamese designer. Their bold designs and deconstructed style is what I love about them. Phillip Lim 3.1, a Chinese-American designer, designed the shoes. He has made incredible progress for our Asian-American community despite hate. My friend’s brand, Phillip Lim 3.1, designed the sunglasses. She is a Black woman CEO and independent designer who strives to make luxury accessories more affordable for youth POC. None of these pieces I wear are mass produced. Every piece of clothing is a part of my story. It shapes how I present myself to the world, how I communicate who I am and what I stand for. Today, I made the decision to stand up for my Asian-American community and BIPOC solidarity. I’m loud and unapologetic.

If I had to choose one outfit, it would be repeating and reusing. I am a big outfit repeater and don’t feel ashamed about it. In fact, I would like to make it more common for people to repeat outfits. We need to think about how to extend the life span of clothing in these times of fast fashion. Layering is one of my favorite ways to repeat clothing. It’s possible to wear the same item multiple times in one day, but if I layer it differently it feels fresh and exciting.

Day 2

The Tae Park boyfriend shirt is oversized and perfect for any occasion. This shirt is versatile and easy to wear. It was paired with the Mother bag in the Lee colorway, named after my mother. This bag is versatile enough to be worn around the house, or out on the beach. You can even reverse it to take it with you from day to evening. Every piece of clothing I own is important to me. Who made it, how did they get there? It’s not like you would pick someone from the street and immediately start dating them. This is how I feel about clothes.

I was bullied most for my eyes growing up. My childhood was filled with bullying and I found it difficult to embrace my unique beauty. I used to pound my face with too much makeup and wear tons of eyeshadow to cover my eyes. Clean beauty is my new obsession. I prefer a simple, no-makeup look that reflects me and highlights the beauty that I have discovered in my eyes.

Day 3

It was designed by a Chinese-American designer who modernizes traditional Chinese-style dress and uses digital printing to create a sustainable solution. It has been worn many times. This dress is always there to help me feel strong, even at my lowest points. It had been a long-sleeved dress for almost three years. I finally decided to remove the sleeves and add garters. This gave me a new sense and purpose. This dress is even more special because I have carried it with me throughout all of my life stages and through many different eras. When I want to add some spice, I now wear the sleeves with other tank-tops. This piece has a long life cycle, and I feel like I have truly embodied the humanity of fashion. I can reuse, recycle, and reconstruct it.

Paired with the Mother bag in the Kim colorway (named after my grandmother, a Korean-American war refugee and proud immigrant), this number makes me feel like I’m loudly declaring the newly transformed me, as a proud Korean-American woman, while also holding space for the young girl who tried so hard to hide who she truly was. After years of hiding behind fashion, I have decided to let go of the mask and use my clothing as a way to express who I am to the outside world.

Fashion goes beyond clothes. Fashion is my preferred love language, to myself and the world. Fashion and ethnic identity are inseparable. Fashion has been a way for me to express my cultural and social identity as a Korean-American woman of first generation. It allows me freedom from the oppressive stereotyping, orientalism and tokenization that have weighed heavily on my back throughout my life as an Asian woman.

The exploitation of Asian women in the fashion industry’s supply chain goes hand in hand with our exploitation across all realms, including myself as a model, activist, academic, and creative. My entire life I have been told that I cannot wear anything I like because it is too loud or too risky. I respond by listening to the messages behind my clothes, the humanity behind it, and that my style should be loud. It’s disruptive, and my style is largely my attempt to humanize myself in a world that dehumanizes Asian people–especially Asian women.

Historically, this idea of ‘fashion’ has been a way for humans to communicate their identities and to connect with one another. It is the outer expression of our self to the outside world. Fashion inherently modifies and racializes the body from its natural form into the realms culture and society. As an Asian woman, fashion is always political. We’ve always known that fashion is a person’s representation of nationhood and identity. It can also be used to denote privilege or power. It’s now a matter of how we use our privilege and power to benefit the greater good and make fashion decisions with an intention that will ultimately impact our community and humanity. Your fashion must stand for something in 2021. If we support small, sustainable Asian, Black or other POC-owned businesses, it is when we listen, support and amplify the communities marginalized through fashion. That’s how we connect with the humanity behind it. This is the core mission of Sanitation Nation. We aim to create intentional activism through fashion that fosters humanity and brings together fashion.

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