Grace Kelly – 1954
Diane von Furstenberg in her warehouse – 1977. A dress that without any changes would fit perfectly in the zeitgeist of today.
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) aims to make global production of cotton more sustainable not only for the environment, but for the future and for the people who produce it, from farmers to textile mills to retailers. Working with a “diverse range” of members along the entire cotton supply chain, BCI collaborates with and provides solutions for better cotton production practices, promoting improvements for the environment, farming communities and the economies of cotton-producing areas.
“Cotton is one of the world’s most important natural ﬁbres. It’s used by nearly everyone on Earth every day, and supports 300 million people’s livelihoods. It’s a renewable natural resource, but only if we manage it responsibly. In 2005, a group of visionary organisations came together to ﬁgure out what could be done to safeguard the future of cotton. ‘There has to be a better way’, they said. It turns out there is. It’s called Better Cotton.” (www.bettercotton.org)
Fashion companies associated with this initiative include Adidas, Gap Inc., H&M, Inditex (Zara), Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, and VF Corp. (Parent company of 7 for all mankind, Nautica, Jansport, The North Face, Wrangler, Timberland, Vans). The Better Cotton website explains why so many big names have become members of BCI,
“One of the reasons that leading retailers and brands support the Better Cotton Initiative is that they realise that if famers do not earn enough money growing cotton, they will switch to some other crop, and this could eventually lead to increased costs for the brands or other supply scarcity issues. It is very much in the brands’ own best interest that farmers benefit from any margin improvement their efforts result in.” (www.bettercotton.org)
What is particularly commending about this not-for-profit organization is it’s inclusive attitude towards varying farming methods. It does not push an organic-agenda on farmers, rather, BCI collaborates with farmers to create a more sustainable system for whatever production methodology is being used.
Working together for positive change – I.F. commends the brands who are members of this admirable initiative (momentarily setting aside some of these companies not-so-commendable business practices in other areas).
*All photos from the Better Cotton website: http://www.bettercotton.org
Introducing Flint and Tinder, a casual, high-quality menswear brand with a mission,
“A battle cry: Not everything should be disposable. Companies have systematically lowered your expectations to the point where it’s hard to know what to expect anymore. But while they’re busy off-shoring, out sourcing and generally making things as cheaply and quickly as possible… it ends here.”
Comfortable, cool clothing with small but beautiful stylistic detailing, Flint and Tinder provides quality and fashionable looks that are exclusively made in America.
The 10-year hoodie is a winning product. For $99 this comfortable, unisex zip-up comes in a variety of colors and is backed by a 10 year guarantee, complete with free mending.
Kudos to Flint and Tinder for being a responsible brand, and being a leader in the slow fashion movement.
Sword & Plough is a visionary and philanthropic brand that up-cycles military materials that would otherwise be thrown away, into fashionable, sophisticated, unisex bags and totes; all the while employing U.S. veterans as they assimilate back into civilian life and after.
The brand is run by sisters Emily and Betsy Nunez, who were born into a military family. Understanding the plight of military members relating to their fellow civilian comrades, the sisters felt they needed to do, or create, something that would remind civilians, in a positive and beautiful way, about the challenges all servicemen and women face, and that everyone can do their part to help.
As they discuss on their site, “Most individuals use a bag of some form throughout their day. By recycling and repurposing military gear with a fashionable touch, and working with veterans, we create sturdy and sophisticated products, whose sale will empower veteran employment, reduce waste and strengthen civil-military understanding. In this way, our bags are rugged, refined and relevant.”
The beautiful combination of olive and forest green hues, gorgeous leather detailing and heavy gold hardware creates a fashionable, unassuming statement piece that is highly functional and highly androgynous. For a bag that clearly has the quality (MADE IN USA!) and fashionability to last, the price seems none too steep (~$250).
As the majority of Americans desperately search for the best post-Thanksgiving bargain, trampling fellow frugal fiends to be the first to grab branded merchandise at offensively discounted prices like 80% off, the UK celebrates “Buy Nothing Day.” This anti-spending movement combats the gluttony spill over from Thursday’s calorie intake to Friday’s credit card limits that has become “tradition” in so many American households. While in reality this is not expected to take hold in the US, at least there is the gaining movement of Small Business Saturday, encouraging consumers to support their local community if they are going to participate in Black Friday douchebaggery, I mean, debauchery.
Despite these efforts, the fact remains that consumer demand for cheap is causing mass destruction. The current Black Friday Death Count reports 7 deaths and 90 injuries to date, including instances of people being trampled to death, stabbed, and even shot. Devastating…disgusting…dismal, but it doesn’t even breach the surface of the monumental devastation that is derived from this insane demand. As retailers are forced to keep up with competitors, slashing prices to accommodate the insatiable consumer drive for cheap and available goods, the true cost is in the livelihood of the workers who actually make the products.
“The downward spiral of cheap clothing has led to a situation where the people who make our clothes are paid starvation wages and can’t afford to eat or to feed their children. This has to end.” said Anna McMullen, author of “Shop ‘Til They Drop,” a report studying the widespread factory faintings that have been plaguing the Cambodian factory industry in recent years. The report is an in-depth study of the factors contributing to these widespread faintings (up to 300 workers collapsing at one time on factory floors), with findings reporting extreme malnutrition of workers and an analysis as to why this is so. It’s no surprise the variety of factors triggering these faintings include poor working conditions such as overheating, exhaustion from working overtime with no breaks, no access to water, chemical exposure, etc., but the underlying nutritional deficit was the fundamental cause.
The report gathered data that showed Cambodian factory workers consume less than half the recommended amount for a diet suitable for their 10 hour day of industrial work. The reason why lies in the incredibly low wages they are forced to accept as payment for their tireless work:
You aren’t doing it directly, but if you play into the buy-cheap-buy-more milieu, you are just as bad as the unremorseful woman who stabbed innocent strangers for the last Xbox. Every time you decide to buy a cheap trend from a chain retailer, you are showing that a cheap find is more important than a human’s well being, like these Cambodian garment workers.
Don’t let the %off sale signs blindside you, be cognizant of your actions – if a price seems “too good to be true,” it most likely is. Don’t buy superfluous objects just to fill a stocking, make something from the heart or go downtown and support your local artists. Don’t buy into the Black Friday Fury.
Why does buying “American Made” products matter?
Let’s take a look at some stats:
On November 19th, 2013 we’re encouraging consumers to buy at least one American Made product…Our hope is that consumers will see how easy it is to buy made in USA and begin checking tags and looking for the American Made Matters logo when shopping this holiday season and throughout the year. Share your American made finds by tagging American Made Matters or using hashtag #AMMDay2013. (AMMD Facebook page)
As a fashion theorist/journalist and style writer dedicated ethical production practices, I am a huge proponent of American Made fashion brands – and am sympathetic to their agony over finding manufacturing solutions on American soil. This particular Tedx talk tugs on the heart strings, and gives a real life example of the tough struggle presented to those who try to keep their garment production in the US:
During 2012, America exported $22.6 billion in textiles and apparel and imported $100.93 billion (according to the U.S. International Trade Administration), it’s time for this to change. I talk a lot about supporting the American Fashion industry, see my article about the decline of the NYC garment district in this months issue of NYC magazine Inside Hell’s Kitchen here: page 12, bottom left. There are a few initiatives set in place to revamp the American garment manufacturing industry, planning to upgrade the current factories in the NYC garment district and providing scholarships for emerging designers to use some studios in the area for workrooms and showrooms, but that isn’t enough.
#AMMDay2013 has inspired me to turn up the volume on my voice against offshore apparel manufacturing. I want to get in the faces of “American” brands like Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss, Brooks Brothers, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike, Nordstrom and Lands’ End who use large Chinese factories for most of their production. I want the CFDA (the Council of Fashion Designers of America) to do MORE than just give out lifetime achievement awards, I want them to care about the American Fashion industry, I want them to help emerging designers, even those who aren’t in the hot areas of NY or LA – I want the American Dream back.
So, for American Made Matters Day, I plan to dedicate the day to speaking out, exposing those “American” fashion brands we know so well for their unAmerican business practices, as well as showcasing and thanking the revolutionary pioneers dedicated to keeping their brand exclusively Made In USA.
Wits + Beaux – a men’s sock, bow tie, and pocket square e-commerce company – has an honorable dedication to supporting American manufacturing; all of the production processes of their brilliantly colorful, expressive menswear accessories are conducted in The Garment District of New York City. For Transparency Tuesday, I.F. takes a behind-the-scens look at this NYC start up brand who puts quality and high design at the forefront of their business model.
In a time when large fashion corporations outsource their production to factories abroad where labor is cheap, small start up companies like Wits + Beaux are rethinking the way the supply chain has been circulating and realizing the benefits of having production be local. An honorable anomaly in the world of American fashion brands, Wits + Beaux makes it a priority to support the movement for keeping manufacturing in The States – a movement that has seen a resurgence in the small business community with the help of platforms such as Makers Row, but still has yet to fully take hold. As the insatiable fast-fashion consumer hunger for new fashion products continues to drive companies to stock new merchandise on the shelves more and more often, the focus remains on finding the cheapest labor possible to keep prices low, rather than having quality pieces.
Luckily, there are pioneers for change like Wits + Beaux, who value the artisanal craftsmanship that can be found in one’s local community, and who believe that quality takes precedence over expense. With the amount of dedication and attention to detail the New York based team of Wits + Beaux puts into the designing of each piece, finding expert artisans to work with and discuss materials, patterns and design was extremely important. By working with The Garment District, the team could easily converse with and visit the workshop where the production took place. They were able to discuss with the experts, in person, how to make certain engineering aspects of their products possible. (Check out the video where the Wits + Beaux team discuss their use of the NYC garment district: http://kck.st/18A4az3)
The collaboration has led to a series of unique features that have become the trademark of Wits + Beaux design including a unique stitching technique – seamless on the tips, an elastic arch support eliminating bunching, and an few extra inches in height, ensuring a day long wear without having to hike up fallen socks.
Wits + Beaux’s inspiring dedication to keeping production at home is equally matched with a passion for providing the fashion forward male consumer with “expressive” accessories. Which, for now, at the beginning stages of the brand, includes brightly designed, high quality sock wear, bow ties and pocket squares. As the website explains,
“Wits + Beaux was born from a singular quest – finding a well-made, unconventional and expressive pair of affordable socks. From that seed grew a dream to create a virtual men’s accessories boutique and cultivate a community of like-minded individuals who want more than just a shopping cart to fill; they want an experience. Our customer wants to engage in the design process as much as be inspired by the latest trends of the season.”
Fun, witty, friendly, and personable with a pinch of edginess is the perfect way to describe the voice of the brand, with the origin of the brand’s name perfectly corresponding with the mantra,
“’Wits’ and ‘Beaux’ are nicknames from early nineteenth century, Regency-Era England—known for distinctive trends in fashion and culture. We were intrigued by the contrast of these terms to the modern, technology-driven vision we had for our business. ‘Wits’, as they were known, were the poets, orators, and politicians of their time. The ‘Beaux’ were the trend-setting gentlemen of fashion. So, with a tip of our hats to this rich history of sophisticated and stylish gentlemen, we hope you enjoy the smart, superbly designed and crafted men’s accessories Wits + Beaux brings you without having to have a royal checkbook or a horse-drawn carriage to get them!”
Wits + Beaux invites men to a unique shopping experience while still relaxing in the comfort of their own home. This will soon become even more unique of an experience with the addition of the “Design Your Own” feature which is set in motion to be added to the platform soon. Customers will be able to easily customize their products by selecting the pattern and color to make their very own, original design.
I.F. commends Wits + Beaux for thinking critically about their business practices from the very get go and putting an emphasis on quality over quantity – high design over cheap trends. Another A+, and we wish Wits + Beaux luck with the expansion of the brand and getting backed for another round of inventory for holiday! Support Wits + Beaux today by clicking here!
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