Bringing awareness of mass incarceration through sustainable fashion.
Wrapping up Stories of Sustainability: Fashion Series with Sustainable Fashion and Social Impact Q+A! We welcomed CEO and Founder of Grant Blvd, Kimberly McGlonn, in conversation with Temple Made sustainable student leaders. Using sustainable fashion, Grant BLVD designs inclusive pathways and creates employment opportunities. Grant BLVD proposes a solution to addressing the larger global crisis and social problems stemming from climate change and poverty.
Meet our thought leader.
Kimberly is an activist, teacher, podcaster, and business owner tackling mass incarceration through sustainable fashion. She earned her Ph.D. from LSU and serves as a councilmember and school teacher in Montgomery County. Kimberly opened Grant BLVD’s storefront in August of 2020, tapping into West Philly using fashion as a “mechanism for creating opportunities”. As a creative director, she uses her platform to bring attention to the challenges of mass incarceration and the need for prison reform.
Meet our superstar student leaders.
We were joined by five superstar students. With varying majors and career goals, student leaders came together through their passion and desire to learn. They channeled their passion for the environment, fashion, and making a positive difference by leading an insightful and empowering conversation with Kimberly.
The power of acting with love and speaking out against inequity.
Hear directly from Kimberly on her journey and present efforts to make a change! Here we have highlighted our answers and insight from Kimberly.
We are guided through this conversation by superstar student leaders with three main topics in mind: People, Planet, and Profit.
Layers of permanent disruption are created once someone is convicted of a crime. Whether one can secure a job trickles into their housing, funding, and ability to reunite with their children. Kimberly’s legacy is just beginning as she founded Grant BLVD, knowing she could channel her passion for style by creating a sustainable fashion brand and eliminating barriers to provide employment opportunities.
Q: What advice would you have for people beginning their journeys in sustainable fashion, and for sustainable entrepreneurs?
A: Being sustainable starts with committing individually, to be able to defend the decisions that we make in terms of sustainability while educating others. The high standard of sustainability is reducing consumption, the second highest is repurposing items to avoid adding waste and the highest standard is that we don’t buy new products. Overall, circularity and reusing products are most important – and that is how we are bringing Grant BLVD to the next level. Our goal is to encourage our shoppers to bring their garments back to us, to extend their life and give them a new purpose.
Grant BLVD stands out against its competitors with its diverse and queer female staff, partnerships with communities in Philadelphia and their efforts of giving to non-profit organizations.
The larger challenge for humans is to overcome our current consumer behavior. With consistency and endurance, we must demand more from our consumers, regulating purchases, and recognizing purchasing power while acting on it. For a more in-depth conversation with Kimberly about consumers and consumption, head over to the Green Dreamer Podcast.
Q: Do you have any advice for someone who loves fashion but is feeling disillusioned with the fashion industry as a whole?
A: Much of the disillusionment comes from brands claiming they are sustainable but not being ethical. It continues into the history of fashion in America and the cotton industry. These “sustainable” brands negatively affect Black and Brown communities through their manufacturing efforts and low-fair wages. It comes down to conducting research, and to stop shopping with brands that truly only benefit the top 5%. We must police ourselves and our consumption.
It’s a tricky balance! Kimberly is constantly trying to figure out how to strike the balance between advocacy and sales. Determining how to strike the balance of being aware of the real things happening in our neighborhoods and country while still recognizing that Grant BLVD is telling a story about fashion.
Q: Do you believe that one day sustainable fashion will be affordable for the average person?
A: Well, we have gotten comfortable in this society where things cost more than we think they should and vice versa. I know that I am investing in my pieces, spending more because what I am wearing reflects my values which is not supporting slave labor or destroying the planet. Embracing our value as consumers, I believe, is the next step for the system to start recalibrating itself.
In the next 10 years, Kimberly hopes to see Grant BLVD break into new markets, build upon a talented team, and develop strategic partnerships with smaller brands. Overall, Kimberly is excited about educating people around various backgrounds about the intersections of sustainability and justice, sustainability and democracy, sustainability and equity and sustainability, and the survival of us as a whole.
Q: What barriers did you face as you founded Grant BLVD and built upon the brand?
A: As a woman, I was presented with those barriers. And a teacher for the last 15 years, I was constantly approached with the questions of: what do you know about fashion? For me, it was about countering narratives about what my talent was. I constantly remind myself that I am capable of. I was really careful about my tribe of people, and investing my time in people who encourage me and have faith in me.
Q: We’re all in this fight and we are here for the gradual change of how people live their lives sustainability. What do you have to say to someone with the “I want to change now” mentality?
A: As Americans, we are addicted to convenience and ease. It is challenging to overcome that mindset. But one word that I believe can help us is legacy. To remind ourselves of our legacy, what we leave behind, and the power that we have to influence others.
It is about “making sacrifices as a leader and businesswoman” to make change. It was truly beautiful to be in a space with like-minded people pushing for change. During this conversation, we empowered each other and learned from each other’s experiences.
Remain empowered and learn more from Kimberly.
Read Kimberly’s recent go-to book about becoming grounded and finding pleasure in life while making a change: Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown.
Hey Eco Owl! Remain informed and stay connected:
Join our OwlConnect to remain informed and updated on all upcoming events with the Sustainability community at Temple. Check out our new EcoReps program while you’re there to gain hands on experience with greening our campus!
Take a look at our last Stories of Sustainability, Join the Waste Conscious Fashion Community. Learn about #EcoChampions and Founders of Thrift & Flop, Allison Altobelli and Miya Wager!
Follow along with us on our socials to stay engaged and learn more about our upcoming #EcoChampion!