C/O Take Up Space

Take Up Space is an eco-conscious clothing business that provides space for women of colour to voice their concerns 

While the negative consequences of climate change affect everyone, the brunt of these consequences is borne by poor and racialized peoples. For Hamilton business owner, Rose Senat, the fight for environmental justice is entwined with the fight against racism. These concurrent fights inspired her to launch the sustainable and ethical online clothing store Take Up Space last year.

Take Up Space sells simple dresses, bottoms, t-shirts and sweaters with quotes such as “Plan, Pray, Persevere” and “Black Women Save Lives.” The garments are made to order in Hamilton and created with 100 per cent certified organic cotton. The business also functions as a platform for women of colour to connect and participate in conversations they are often left out of.

Senat was inspired to launch the brand after getting more involved in sustainable spaces. She became increasingly frustrated with environmental racism which describes unjust environmental policies against racialized folks and communities. In university, she began following a minimalist lifestyle and became curious about sustainable fashion. She didn’t like how difficult it was to trace back the source of her clothing and discovered the beauty of making her own clothes. It was important to her that she knew exactly where her clothes were coming from and who was behind the production. 

More importantly, through her interest in sustainable practices, she realized there aren’t enough spaces for people of colour in environmentalism, the justice movement concerning the protection of the environment, despite the fact that they bear a disproportionate share of environmental harm. 

A 2017 health report by Statistics Canada found that visible minorities are more likely to be exposed to particulate matter than the white population. Particulate matter can enter the lungs and bloodstream and result in adverse lung and heart conditions. In the 1950s, a toxic waste dump site built in a predominantly Black community in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, led to contaminated water and numerous cases of cancer across generations. Across Canada, Indigenous communities deal with smog-filled air and contaminated water and pipelines being built in their lands. 

In mainstream environmental organizations, women of colour are underrepresented and ignored even though they have historically been at the forefront of environmental movements. 

“[L]ack of environmental practices affect women of color the most . . . [E]nvironmental racism is such a huge thing and within the space of eco-friendly, especially with clothing and stuff, people are not talking about how environmental racism is a thing . . . And although this is who is being affected, you’re not seeing Black women or other women of colour being the ones given the platform to talk about this. When you think about sustainability and eco-friendliness or eco-consciousness, you see white women . . . where it’s like when push comes to shove, you guys are not going to be the ones mostly affected by this,” said Senat.

“[L]ack of environmental practices affect women of color the most . . . [E]nvironmental racism is such a huge thing and within the space of eco-friendly, especially with clothing and stuff, people are not talking about how environmental racism is a thing.”

Creating Take Up Space is a step toward addressing these issues by providing an outlet where women of colour caC/O Take Up Spacen voice their opinions on environmental inequalities and advocate for their own experiences. Senat was able to turn her vision into a reality with support, help and encouragement from her friends, family and community. 

The best-selling item at Take Up Space is the “Black Women Saves Lives” series of t-shirts and sweaters. It is Senat’s message to the world about why Black women’s voices need to be heard. 

“We often give so much of ourselves to our communities, so much ourselves to other people. People always expect us to be there at the forefront of things. When you look throughout history, women have always been the ones — especially within the Black community [that] have put themselves at the forefront . . . But we’re not often given the credit or even given the space or . . . accolades other people get,” explained Senat.

Senat recognizes the difference that Black women’s leadership makes. She notes that the work of the civil rights movements was largely done by Black women and that Black women played a significant role in the suffrage movement. In fact, Black Lives Matter was founded by three Black women, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. Additionally, one of the earliest examples of environmental justice activism in North America was the Salisbury Coloured Women’s Civics League who advocated for improved outdoor toilets and for the health of the Black community.

“We are at the forefront fighting and when Black women fight, everybody wins,” Senat said.

“We are at the forefront fighting and when Black women fight, everybody wins,” Senat said.

Senat is currently preparing a blog and interview series for early next year. The interviews will feature women of colour and showcase how they are taking up space in their particular careers. 

Take Up Space is more than just a clothing store. It is a platform for women of colour to share their stories and celebrate who they are.

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