Great Little Shops 2019

Monochromatic Aims to Be a Gender-Inclusive, Sustainability-Focused, Community-Minded Boutique

“The fashion industry is such a huge part of pollution, and it’s one of the biggest human rights violators.”

By Olivia Wolf November 26, 2019 Published in the December 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

“Williams is such a sweet neighborhood, and I love seeing the same faces every day,” says Vajra Alaya-Maitreya, owner of the boutique Monochromatic, which opened last January. “We’re still in our infancy, but eventually I envision this to be a space not only for clothing, but for book readings, lifestyle workshops, and hopefully advocacy work.” Her plans add to the shop’s community focus, which already includes donating a portion of proceeds each month to groups like the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization.

But Monochromatic is about more than just fashion. Its mission statement calls for carrying lines that are sustainable, ethical, and inclusive. That means inventory needs to encompass aesthetics that reflect a range of gender identities, from unisex jumpers to plus size–friendly dresses and pantsuit trousers, with the goal that anyone can wear the pieces at the self-described pronoun-inclusive store.

Alaya-Maitreya also conducts in-depth interviews with every potential designer—from lines like Naked and Famous and Welcome Stranger—about employee wages, benefits, and health care. If they can’t verify everything from the source of raw materials to the stitching of the garments to paying workers a fair income, it's a no-go.

Ethically sourced and eco-friendly clothing comes with a higher price tag than big-box, fast-fashion brands, but Alaya-Maitreya stresses the idea of making meaningful choices to buy less.

“The fashion industry is such a huge part of pollution, and it’s one of the biggest human rights violators,” she says. “As a mother, I often think about the legacy that we’re leaving behind for our kids. I love the arts, creativity, and color, so this is my small contribution to the world for future generations.”

4067 N Williams Ave,

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