Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on April 2010

Photos courtesy of Piece to Peace

Japanese fashion is renowned throughout the world, and a stroll around neighborhoods like Harajuku or Omotesando reveals just how sartorially obsessed the locals are. Yet even though they’re on the cutting edge when it comes to style, the Japanese aren’t always so forward-thinking when it comes to the ethics of fashion.

According to Daniel Goldstein, COO of newly founded Piece to Peace, that might not be the case for long.

“Fashion and activism are both about making statements,” he tells Metropolis. “They are an outward expression of beliefs. Japanese people are leaders when it comes to fashion statements, but less so when it comes to activism. That’s changing.”

Piece to Peace licenses, designs, manufactures, markets and sells environmentally and socially conscious apparel and accessories. They operate out of offices in Tokyo and New York, and while they already have an unofficial web presence, P2P is negotiating deals with other e-commerce and brick-and-mortar shops for an official launch next month.

Goldstein, who conceived the company with friend and CEO Ryo Osawa last year, says the project grew out of a desire to look beyond dollars and cents.

“We are both very passionate about social and environmental causes—Ryo lived in Tanzania, I am director of Table for Two USA—and had accomplished a lot in the business world, but we wanted to do more. We wanted to create a business model where success is measured by the ability to give back.”

The difference is immediately apparent on the production end of the business.

“We collaborate with talented designers and educate impoverished communities in Africa to develop goods and textiles that appeal to the Japanese marketplace,” Goldstein explains. The focus is on setting up culturally friendly and environmentally sustainable manufacturing sites while providing work and skills training to communities in need.

On the sales end, P2P has come up with a nifty way of promoting its brands and educating the public on social and environmental issues: by winning media exposure through the support of celebrities. Its flagship brand, OmniPeace, has been championed by the likes of David Beckham, Sheryl Crow, Zac Efron, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Aniston (pictured left) and Lindsay Lohan (right) .

OmniPeace, for which P2P owns the exclusive Japanese distribution rights, is an American company that donates 25 percent of its profits to charities that promote peace, education, human rights and poverty relief in Africa. It’s raised over $500,000 so far for projects like the City of Joy, a community for Congolese girls and women who have been subjected to sexual violence.

“The City of Joy will give a future to people who had none, and it is made possible by the conscious purchasing decisions of celebrities, hip Americans and, now, Japanese,” Goldstein says.
Another of P2P’s brands is LIV GRN, which seeks to educate consumers about the fragility of Earth’s ecosystem and raise money for conservation and environmental education. All its clothes are 100 percent organic, and the company donates ten percent of its profits to Global Green, one of the largest and most respected environmental charities in the world. Eco-advocate Leonardo DiCaprio is among the celebs sporting LIV GRN clothes.

Some might wonder how much good a business like P2P can really do; after all, only a small percentage of each purchase goes towards charity. Yet Goldstein says that it’s just as important to raise the profile of important issues and teach consumers that they can make a difference by choosing where to spend their yen. And then, of course, there’s the issue of scale.

“The size of Japan’s apparel market is huge. Excluding bags and accessories, it’s estimated to be $100 billion. When a small fraction of those buyers make stylish ethical purchases, the impact for change is tremendous.”

See www.piecepeace.com, www.omni peace.com and www.livgrn.com for more information.