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There are lots of perks that come with being famous, chief among them a steady supply of free clothes. But while some stars build apartment-sized closets to house their swag, Rosario Dawson would rather keep things simple.
A staunch supporter of sustainable fashion, the actress — who plays resourceful nurse Claire Temple in Netflix’s Marvel universe — is a careful spender when it comes to clothing, and she’s currently in the process of purging her closet. Below, she discusses her own ethical fashion line, the best shopping advice she got from pal Kerry Washington, and the body-positive closet cleanout method she swears by.
Hi, Rosario! What are you shopping for these days?
I actually just bought this hat I’m wearing; I was in Atlanta on a historic site tour of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthplace, and they were selling this hat. It’s by Henschel and made in America. I don’t know if that was the hat of choice for the civil rights leaders of the past, but it’s working for today! [Laughs]
I actually haven’t been doing too much shopping lately, though, because I have my own line, Studio 189. It’s a sustainable, ethical brand I cofounded with my friend, Abrima Erwiah; we’ve been friends since we were teenagers. We’re based in West Africa and work with lots of different artisans on the ground there to bring in all these artisanal techniques, like batiking. We also work with a lot of indigo, and we have some really cool patchwork coats I can’t wait to wear this fall.
I think it’s really important to recognize the people who made your clothes — and their working conditions — and to appreciate when something is handmade. Sometimes when you look at a price tag these days, it doesn’t make sense that a garment costs that little. Between the cotton itself, the sewing, the tailoring, the shipping — if you’re not paying the price, who is?
Everything I’m wearing today is handmade and artisanally made. The boots are by Bed Stu, which is another sustainable brand I love; they’re really conscious about using organic dyes and ethical sourcing. And this is actually a Studio 189 skirt that I’m wearing as a dress!
Any shopping tips worth passing along?
Kerry Washington is on the board of V-Day, like myself, and I remember we were doing one of our board meetings in New Mexico and shopping at this place that had these really amazing, outrageous pieces — the kind of stuff you could only wear once. And it was expensive!
I remember Kerry telling me that whenever she’s looking to buy something, she divides the price by 10. And whatever that number is, if she’ll wear it at least that many times, it’s worth it. Otherwise, it’s probably an impulse buy and will just sit in your closet. So now, I definitely do that.
I also love going to vintage stores and finding pieces that are individual, that you can give a new life to, instead of just jumping into trends all the time. [In New York,] Rags-a-Go-Go on 14th Street has always been a favorite of mine. It’s such a huge place, but they do an incredible job of organizing stuff, and they’ve got some of the most fun people working there. It’s always a fun place to visit.
The Meatpacking District has transformed so much and has all these fabulous designer [flagships] — I especially love Diane von Furstenberg, just because she’s a woman I’ve always admired — but I love the fact that Rags-a-Go-Go, somehow, some way, has managed to stay put as an option for folks who want to shop in a different way.
I’m actually doing a lot of purging at the moment, too. I’m a big fan of going through your closet and repairing things. When something breaks, you don’t always have to replace it... you can fix it!
We actually just did a whole bunch of content about that at Racked; we called it Get Your Shit Together Week.
That’s really dope — I love it! I finally got a copy of that book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I really do love the idea of thanking your things. And I feel like with certain pieces in my closet, I’m kind of just hoarding them because I don’t want them to end up in a landfill. But I have given a lot of stuff to my cousins and my family.
How do you decide when it’s time to get rid of something you own?
One of the things I’ll do is after the winter — after I’ve been guzzling eggnog every day, after I’ve put on those comfort-food pounds — I’ll try on all my clothes and get rid of whatever doesn’t fit me at that point. That’s honestly the best time to try things on because I don’t want to own anything that I can’t just throw on, regardless of what size I’m at.
Your clothes should fit you and feel good on you regardless of whether you’ve been working out and eating right, or if you’re bloated and maybe not in the best shape. If you have stuff in your closet that doesn’t fit you at both points, get rid of it, because you don’t want that negative experience of putting on clothes, looking in the mirror, and being like, “Ugh.” You’ve got to get that negative energy out of there and find clothes that make you feel good, because that’s how you’re going to express yourself in the world, and we need that positivity.