As an O’Dowd student, Dominique Drakeford ’06 was greatly influenced by courses she took in Earth Science, AP Environmental Science and African American History, and inspired by the teachers of these courses – Tom Tyler, Jeff Beeby and Tony Green.
“Having access to outdoor experiences in Mr. Beeby’s class was completely transformative. Being able to learn, explore, go on adventures and engage with environmental-based professionals took my love for nature to a different level. Additionally my African American history class provided an outlet to self-education that sparked a cultural curiosity that is intentionally leftist of our traditional educational courses. I would say the marriage of these classes was a significant part of my career foundation,” she said.
Today, Drakeford is a leader in environmental education, ethical fashion public relations and community advocacy.
She’s the founder of a digital platform – MelaninASS (Melanin And Sustainable Style) which is a space to celebrate people of color in sustainable fashion, natural beauty and wellness spaces, and the co-creator of an initiative called Sustainable Brooklyn – which is an information and resource based initiative that’s redefining sustainability to be inclusive of marginalized communities through programming and events. She also has a space called Dom’s Conscious Closet where she shares her eclectic sustainable style, and periodically consults small brands on how to be more sustainable.
“The environment and social-economic justice in the Black community are the basis of liberation in America. Although a lot of my focus around sustainability is centered around the apparel industry – fashion is such a monumental aspect of Black and Indigenous landscape and is an important vehicle for change,” she said of her work.
She’s also working on a book focusing on decolonizing sustainability while inspiring underserved communities to be more involved in dismantling an environmental system that disproportionately effects them the most.
“Ultimately I hope this first book is a source of re-education on the truth so that we can better build and evolve for a more sustainable future,” Drakeford said.
After graduating from O’Dowd, Drakeford earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Environmental Management at UC Riverside and a master’s degree in Sustainable Entrepreneurship & Fashion from NYU.
Her professional career was launched at the Donna Karan Urban Zen Foundation, where she assisted with the artisan project to support indigenous sustainability in communities of Haiti and with marketing efforts to promote integrative eastern healing and wellness therapy for healthcare. She also worked with The GreenShows (TGS), a premier marketing and consulting services company dedicated to the ethical and sustainable fashion design movement. Working with luxury ethical designers, she was part of the team that made the Green Shows the first ethical fashion presentation at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Lincoln Center 2012.
But Drakeford says it was other interactions – such as her work with East Oakland Youth Development Center (EYODC), and networking with people in and out of her fields of interest that furthered her insight on how the links between over-consumption and identity formation of communities can and should be reconfigured in charting a more sustainable future.
Today, she considers herself an ambassador for sustainable style and cultural context. “That is a term coined by my mentor some years ago and it just stuck. As an ambassador my personal life and my work are married to reflect my values in using fashion a voice environment, social and cultural change,” she said.
Still, Drakeford encounters stumbling blocks as a woman of color working in the sustainability space. “It’s extremely frustrating and challenging at time because it is a space that is dominated by white women. Like any other industry/space, navigating it as a Black women will always have its challenges – but we remain resilient,” she said.
Women of color in the sustainable fashion space have an important perspective – one that needs to be heard, Drakeford said. “We need to make room for women of color to have a voice in the sustainability space, and make sure that they have a creative and economic stake in brands/businesses/ initiatives,” she said.
In the end, Drakeford feels energized by her journey and “the individual souls I impact.”