A new collab between eco-conscious clothing brand Everlane and Canadian author and poet Jasmin Kaur has yielded a limited-edition shirt called The Poetry Tee. Launched on World Oceans Day, the tee comes in three colours (white, white sage, and eucalyptus) and incorporates a poem exclusively written by Jasmine that she describes as a “call to arms” to confront the damage we have done to the ocean. At the root of the poem is the idea that love and hope can impact the natural world as much as the material world. We chatted with Jasmine to learn more. —Noa Nichol
Hi Jasmin! Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.
I’m a poet and novelist who taught fourth grade, once upon a time. I fell in love with books as a young kid, when my mom would read Berenstain Bears picture books to me before bed. I grew into a kid who would write short stories and plays and walk into walls at the grocery store because I couldn’t put down a fantasy novel. In my late teens, I discovered spoken word poetry and fell in love with the art form as an audience member rather than a performer. When I decided that I wanted to host an open mic night where I could listen to talented poets from the comfort of my seat, my friends challenged me to write and perform a piece myself. As a very shy introvert, the thought of being behind the mic rather than behind the scenes was terrifying, but I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, shared my hand-scrawled poem before an endless audience, and the rest was history.
Congrats on your collab with Everlane! How did this partnership come about, and what made it a perfect fit for you?
Thank you so much! It’s been beyond a joy working with Everlane on this project. When I received an email last summer about a potential collaboration with Everlane, I was completely over the moon. It was one of those “pinch me” moments where I couldn’t quite grasp what was being asked of me. The thought of creating a tshirt dedicated to caring for the environment was beautiful in itself, but it was made all the more wholesome with the knowledge that it would be produced by a company actively dedicated to caring for the planet and supporting garment workers.
Tell us about the limited-edition Poetry Tee you launched with Everlane on World Oceans Day; what was the inspiration/impetus behind its creation and the poem you wrote for it, and what does it aim to do (besides be a new staple in our closets)?
I draw so much poetic inspiration from nature and from the ocean, specifically. Like so many people, I feel profoundly grounded when I’m sitting on a beach, watching waves lap against the shore and wash away. But I’m also cognizant of the fact that as human beings, we gather personal joy from the ocean without grasping the environmental footprint of our presence there, nor the harmful environmental impact of our broader consumption habits. So when Everlane reached out about creating a poetry t-shirt dedicated to caring for the ocean, I felt intuitively drawn to the project. It was our intention to craft a poem that evoked hope for our fight against climate change. As I wrote this poem about the poetic connections between coral reefs and our healing hearts, I was thinking about a documentary I watched that explored the tragic global phenomenon of coral reef bleaching due to rising temperatures and climate change. It was so remarkable to me that coral reefs had the ability to revive themselves and come back to vibrancy if water temperatures were to restore themselves quickly enough. This simple fact offered a seed of hope for underwater ecosystems and sea creatures dependent on coral reefs. It also offered hope for our humanity, for our inner emotional worlds that could sometimes feel unrevivable.
We understand that, at the root of your poem, is the idea that love and hope can impact the natural world as much as the material world. Can you tell us how?
I think that love is a necessary driving force behind all social change. We resist oppression and stand in solidarity with marginalized communities because of deep rooted love for each other and care for our communities. Likewise, when it comes to the environment, our love for the earth needs to be stronger than our attachment to convenience. This is the only way we’ll be able to let go of the selfish conveniences that fast fashion offers us—products that are often harmful to both the environment and underpaid, unprotected garment workers. I think that there’s also such a thing as loving rage—a fiery will to stand up against unethical behaviour rooted in love and care for our communities. All of that energy is necessary in the long run, where so many of us lose steam politically because we’re only guided by temporary outrage. It’s genuine love, hope and loving rage that will collectively keep us going when the fight is an uphill battle.
The convergence of fashion and the preservation of the environment is often problematic; that said, what makes Everlane different from other clothing brands?
Partnering with brands that care about the planet is so important and I hope that more artists begin to ask hard questions about the sustainability practices of clothing companies they work with. I love that Everlane is committed to minimizing the environmental impacts throughout their supply chain. They have public commitments to achieve reduced carbon emissions, eliminate virgin plastic and use certified organic cotton in their products—that’s also used in the Poetry Tee! I also love that they’re committed to long-term partnerships with several socially and environmentally-focused non-profits, including the ACLU, Surfrider, and Rodale Institute.
How will you be styling your Poetry Tee this summer?
Everyone who knows me knows I love a cute pair of high-waisted, baggy jeans! They’re practically all I live in these days. I’ll be wearing my Poetry Tee in White Sage knotted at the front with my Everlane Way High Jeans in Washed Black.