• To EmpowHER ZA

Featuring HER: Tanita & Thashmika

We spoke with Tanita and Thashmika, two South African sisters residing in California on their new sustainable fashion platform "The Early Adopter".

Photo: @the.early.adopter

My sister and I were fashionistas from a very young age. Playing dress-up is a part of our childhood that has grown with us and our combined wardrobe. We have slightly different tastes but that helps evolve our style over time so dress-up is still as fun as ever. Sharing is daring.

We fulfilled a long-time wish by starting a clothing business. We have so much fun together dressing ourselves, each other, and anybody else who will let us. Being locked down, with each of us nearing the end of our degrees, we took the opportunity being together to get started.

Adopting & adapting the brand

The Early Adopter came around because we believe we can be ahead of the curve and provide the market with sustainable revival items that move with the times. We have subtly contrasting styles, so the collaborative vision is one that shines through various lenses. It can be a challenge as any activity among siblings or business partners can be, but we feel there is no better possible partner for us.

Our sisterhood/best-friendship is a pillar of our business, alongside the other main pillar of sustainability. I love knowing that sustainability is a business pitch cliché nowadays because it feels like the next generation cares a lot more than previously. We are grateful to have a chance to work together in this environment. Some support pillars include our discretion, our accessorising, our fair pricing, and our location. California has an abundance of new sustainable and second-hand items.

The sustainable edge was the big driver behind starting a business because we knew we could differentiate ourselves from the many online boutiques that are out there. It comes for our love for nature – particularly from having lived in South Africa which is blessed with the world’s best flora and fauna. In the USA, too, we can take inspiration from the giant Muir woods in town that conservationist pioneer Teddy Roosevelt once protected and the beautiful nature preserve we currently live on.

It is a happy meeting of ideals where we can take fashion, a personal passion, and combine it with an environmental focus, and a global passion. The fashion side helps build our confidence and express ourselves, which helps heal the troubles that come with the anxiety of a big international move and subsequent feelings of alienation. Being neither fully South African, fully Indian nor fully American, we could embrace our differences and represent just another unique citizen of the world.

Photos: @the.early.adopter

for the love of fashion & the planet

Mother Earth is our home, our fellow people’s home, and the home of every one of the diverse animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria – many of whom we threaten. We all have a responsibility to respect and preserve her, not just for our enjoyment but for future generations, too. We support sustainable development: the idea that human societies must live and meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. We can only achieve this if each one of us does our part, no matter how small. We began by looking at our lifestyles and habits, and it is safe to say we were shopaholics. We researched and learned about how the fast fashion industry contributes to 10% of annual global carbon emissions.

Most fast fashion companies sell their clothes at extremely low prices. This is made possible by cutting costs; by using cheap toxic materials, paying unfair wages to their factory workers, paying less attention to how waste materials are disposed of, and by choosing dollar value over real value at every possible moment. The unethical practices fast fashion companies use to make one piece of low-quality clothing shocked us. The guilt of contributing to this industry made us change the way we consumed, and motivated us to fill the need for cheaper, seasonal style without threatening the existence of seasons! We reduced how much we buy and paid closer attention to the suppliers and their practices. Our intention now hinges on whether or not we know it is an item we’re going to keep forever.

Photo: @the.early.adopter

There are misconceptions, too, about what sustainable fashion really is. I think second-hand items are the most sustainable as it is in the car world. We know of the huge upfront effort required in producing clothes and that industrial-scale work is the major contributor to the fashion industry’s poor carbon footprint. Though the ethics of fur have been in question in the past, I think buying a 1950s fur coat does less harm in 2020 than buying a brand new coat which required hundreds of litres of dye, processing by thousands of poorly-serviced ununionised labourers and unknown pollution to provide a coat that is maybe $5 less. Fast fashion is unsustainable.


The Early Adopter was created to chronicle our journey towards a reduced carbon footprint - starting with our move away from fast fashion towards more ethical and sustainable practices while remaining stylish. The page aims to share knowledge and resources about sustainable living, as well as showcasing our personal style tips. Sustainable fashion is a socioeconomic privilege and we acknowledge that some people simply cannot afford to shop sustainably. We hope to present affordable sustainable alternatives to include everyone, starting with our little store on Depop. We sell items that have been reworked by us, clothes from our closet and thrifted finds. We pride ourselves at affordable prices!

Photos: Depop

Our main future goal is to be running a successful business together. Along the way, we wish to inspire others to be mindful when shopping. We will present affordable alternatives to fast fashion: local and online thrift stores, swapping clothes with friends and family, supporting local small businesses, sustainable brands or recommending that you can pull off that new look using what you already own.

One short-term business venture will be to host a 'swapathon', but once the pandemic is over to the extent that all attendees will be safe. That will involve some buying and selling, but also trading, which takes what my sister and I have done since forever and introduces a combined wardrobe to a wider sisterhood.

On the personal front, we are excited to be new ambassadors for the Slow Fashion Movement with Slow Fashion Season. We will be working with a team from all over the world to help start conversations around the benefits of slow fashion over fast fashion, and climate change. It is a global collaborative effort that campaigns for a more sustainable future.

Slow Fashion Season is a crowd-acting campaign and not-for-profit organisation. Our contributions there are purely out of passion and the opportunity to engage with people who think similarly to The Early Adopter. Being early adopters, it is a young movement, and we encourage anybody who likes what we have to say to look it up and consider contributing their time.

More on the founders of The Early Adopter:

Tanita is a Wits University graduate with a BCom degree in Accounting. Currently, a UC Berkeley student, pursuing a certificate in Accounting through the Haas School of Business, while working part-time as an accounting assistant and preparing for the Certified public accounting board exams.

Thashmika is an undergraduate student at UC Merced studying B.S Cognitive Science and a minor in Psychology, with hopes to pursue a career in Occupational Therapy one day.


Instagram: @the.early.adopter

Depop: @shop_theearlyadopter

© 2020 by TO EMPOWHER.