When Jenn Vélez founded AROUND, her sustainable clothing brand, in 2017, she had already lived in Puerto Rico, California, Salamanca, Barcelona, and New York City. She emphasized her love for sustainable fashion and how she spreads awareness of the harmful effects of the Fast Fashion Industry, the sector of the fashion industry known to pollute and produce huge amounts of waste. Jenn pointed to how Fast Fashion affects the environment, the workers, and how we can flip the coin and use fashion as a vehicle for change to make a difference in the world.
Jenn, where are you from and how did that influence your passion to travel?
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. My mom is Haitian and my dad is Puerto Rican. My family is pretty big—I am one of four, with three older brothers, and the only time I travelled growing up was to Mexico for my brother’s graduation. I always knew I wanted to travel more, but it was hard for our family to organize trips, and I wasn’t confident enough, nor did I have enough money to travel by myself.
When I attended college in San Juan, I learned about the National and International Exchange Programs and I was immediately interested in pursuing them. I studied Accounting and Marketing in college, and ultimately was accepted to the National Exchange Program in California, where I studied abroad for a semester. Initially, it was pretty difficult—it was my first time being forced to live outside of my comfort zone, having no friends and being around no family. Eventually, I adapted and it was really great living in California. I learned not to be scared or afraid of living in a place by myself, that it’s okay to be new and feel weird.