Category Archives: Feminism & Cultural Studies

Textile Traditions – The Hmong Tribe and Kantha Quilts

Native, traditional, Eastern, or often times called, “fixed” dress, that of the indigenous peoples of East-Asian territories, may seem to be the antithesis of the current Western standard of the sartorial etiquette which relies on constant fashion change and the unwavering push for newness. However, these precious, contextually and sentimentally loaded, incredibly detailed traditional textiles are finding their way into the hands of Western designers and customers. Either sold as the authentic pieces of culture they are, straight from the indigenous hands who made them, or upcycled/recycled into fashionable accessories, traditional textiles from the Akha Hill tribes of East Asia are popping up in the homes and closets of savvy, socially conscious consumers around the world, particularly in the UK and US.

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Photo from Laos and Ethnic Minority Cultures: Promoting Heritage

For some of these tribes, like the Hmong who live in the hills of Laos, Thailand and China, the dissemination of these handmade textiles (which they have every part in making from growing the hemp for making the fiber to sewing the end product into garments) is one of the few tangible ways of preserving and sharing their cultural heritage. As Western influence and inexpensive materials make their way to the remote areas of this purely oral-tradition tribe (meaning they have no written language), the skillful art of the traditional Hmong embroidery technique becomes threatened.

For others, such as the Bengali women of India, opportunities to create handmade kantha quilts in their home to sell abroad provides them with financial freedoms otherwise denied women residing in such areas. With a salary they can afford to put their children through school, combatting the sex-trafficking epidemic that is so prevalent in this area, affording independence and stability for at-risk women.

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Kantha Quilts

No matter how they reached the Western markets, the story behind these intricate pieces of textile art, and that of those who made and wore them, need to be preserved. H. Leedom Lefferts Jr., a Lao cultural expert, says in his article promoting the importance of the conservation of Lao material culture, that “Textiles weave indigenous cultures together; they thus provide strands of meaning and action which can be picked up by observers to understand cultures and assist them in coping with the pressures of modern life.” Designers are taking note of the customer craving authenticity and history in their adornments, and what better way to satisfy that need than highly intricate, handmade traditional and ceremonial textiles from age-old tribe techniques.

Sometimes classified as “vintage” fabric, these recycled textiles can be found in mainstream stores such as in the furniture upholstery of Anthropologie, West Elm, and Sundance Catalog. They are also often upcycled into fashionable accessories such as bags, shoes, and garments as in the case of Elliot Mann and Sophia Costas, and the Etsy sites Dazzling Lana and Fairlyworn, to name a few.

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Learning from the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

“The Triangle Shirtwaist incident is remembered for its shocking brutality: On March 25, 1911, a ferocious fire broke out at a factory on the ninth floor of a building in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Some of the exits and stairwells had been locked to prevent workers from taking breaks or stealing, leaving many unable to get out. As a result, 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women, died within 20 minutes. They were burned alive, asphyxiated by smoke or died trying to escape out of the windows and balcony.” -Huffington Post

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The anniversary of this tradegy reminds us how important it is to protect the fair labor of factory workers. Even though we are not even close to where we should be when it comes to fair labor practices (especially 103 years post Triangle Shirtwaist Fire incident), there are a few commendable organizations who fight to promote fair labor in the fashion industry:

The Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) is an independent labor rights monitoring organization, conducting investigations of working conditions in factories around the globe. Our purpose is to combat sweatshops and protect the rights of workers who make apparel and other products.

The WRC conducts independent, in-depth investigations; issues public reports on factories producing for major brands; and aids workers at these factories in their efforts to end labor abuses and defend their workplace rights. The WRC is proud to have the support of over 175 college and university affiliates and our primary focus is the labor practices of factories that make university-related apparel.

With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)* to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.

OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor. The administrator for OSHA is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. OSHA’s administrator answers to the Secretary of Labor, who is a member of the cabinet of the President of the United States.

Labour Behind the Label supports garment workers’ efforts worldwide to improve their working conditions, through awareness raising, information provision and encouraging international solidarity between workers and consumers.

Members include trade unions and their local branches, consumer organisations, campaign groups, and charities.

These organisations work together, through Labour Behind the Label, to achieve four aims:

1. Raise public awareness and mobilise consumers.
2. Pressure companies to take responsibility for workers’ rights in the entirety of their supply chains.
3. Support workers in their struggles for decent working conditions, including speaker tours and urgent appeals.
4. Lobby governments and policy makers to bring about change.

Eco Fashion World’s GUIDE is your essential resource to sustainable designer brands and online eco fashion stores. Click on any search button above to help you find what you’re looking for. Being a green shopper and a sustainable fashionista has never been so easy.

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Who Wears the Pants?

Dockers          Dockers

In order to understand the world and the endless amount of information we take in every second, the human brain has developed the use of ‘schemata’ or categories which are used as frameworks so that information can be easily and quickly filed away to help us interact appropriately in different situations. Everyone has their own set of schemata influenced by background, upbringing, experiences and relationships. Yet, there is no doubt that everyone uses them. They have to, as some scholars say, or else there would be information overloads and no interaction would be able to take place. Some schemata are shared by the general populous, such as gender schemata. The female schema contains characteristics such as nurturing, facilitating, polite, dependent, and unaggressive. The male schema says men are dominant, aggressive, stoic, successful, independent, and the breadwinners. There are also other schemata that go along with race/ethnicity, class, religion, occupation, national identity, and sexuality.

These universally accepted schemata can be easily discovered by simply looking at the media and advertisement portrayals in how the represent their markets. It seems that Dockers has very different schemata traits when it comes to gay and straight men which we can see in their most recent advertising campaign. This campaign began a in early December of 2009 which called for men to go back to their roots, to act more manly, and to ‘Wear the Pants’.

Most of the ad’s have the same general format; a man standing in front of a plain background, the top half of him is a saying and he is wearing Dockers pants. What is interesting is the difference in the word choice given the context the ad will be seen. Can you guess which one of the above ads I found in Out magazine, the national gay fashion and lifestyle magazine for the US? Without getting into the phrases used, you could probably tell just by the style and fit of the pants. The ones on the left are an orange/pink and the fit is much tighter than the khaki’s on the right which are looser, wrinklier, and a dull tan. Even the stance of the two are remarkably different. We have one who is almost posing sexually, looking to the side, or behind him as if looking for someone to make a connection with, versus the other man who seems to have no interest in what is going on around him, rather he is looking out with his hands on his hips as if he just accomplished a trying task or is contemplating the meaning of life. Getting down to the more obvious of differences, we see what the Dockers advertising campaign sees as the difference in priorities between gay men and straight men through the phrases they chose to make up the body (in both sense of the word) of their ad. ‘Behold the Second Dawn of Man’ goes along with the main theme of the Dockers new ad campaign which, in summary, claims that our society has become genderless, and is therefore crumbling.  It calls for men to drop their non-fat lattes, put on their pants, be men and help little old ladies cross the street, discipline misbehaving children, and of course, buy Docker’s pants. It is easy to see the sexism in this campaign, but further drudging of the advertisements brings to light more prejudice ideals. First of all, the ad I found in Out is much harder to track down in other outlets. In fact, it doesn’t even appear in a Google search. Does Dockers not want to be identified with the gay community,? if so, why advertise in a gay magazine?

The phrase used for the advertisement placed in a gay context states, ‘Attract the touches of friends, boyfriends, and even the occasional stranger’. So, straight men wear their pants to maintain order in society, gay men wear pants to be promiscuous and attract attention from occasional strangers. Though it seems trite to take such a critical view of these two seemingly unimportant advertising images, it does bring light to how mainstream corporations view different subcultures and instill representations and reinforce stereotypes. As the introduction to Erving Goffman’s book Gender Advertisements says, “Advertisements depict for us not necessarily how we actually behave as men and women but how we think men and women behave. This depiction serves the social purpose of convincing us that this is how men and women are, or want to be, or should be not only in relation to themselves but in relation to each other” (Gornick, 1979).

It is important to understand the implications and affects these representations have on our culture. From creating unfair homogenous stereotypes of a group to instilling an unattainable body and lifestyle ideal people try to live up to.

*Re-post from last year in honor of #ThrowBackThursday

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Missing the Target – 3 Recent Fashion Industry Fails

From a graphic design nightmare to a potential trademark lawsuit, the fashion industry has seen some major epic fails over the past couple weeks. I.F. comments on three major mishaps the fashion industry would rather we didn’t talk about.

1. Target’s Photoshop Mishap

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At least, one would hope it was a mishap. It’s painful to think that a graphic designer would blatantly remove a section of the model’s crotch (perhaps in a seriously failed attempt at taking the “thigh-gap” to another level – as some people outraged in response to the image). The image went viral and Target removed it from the site, but not without a serious backlash from the internet community.

Learn to proof, Target.

2. Recipe for Disaster: Fast Fashion Meets Fast Food

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Jeremy Scott, recently appointed creative director of Moschino, presented his debut collection at Milan Fashion week; “an ode to the 1980s, 1990s and American brand iconography, referencing Cheetos, Hershey’s, Froot Loops, SpongeBob SquarePants, Run-DMC and, notably, McDonald’s.” The day after the show, a ten-piece capsule collection appropriately named, “Fast Fashion – Next Day After The Runway,” became available for purchase in Moschino boutiques and online at moschino.com.

Seven of the ten pieces in the collection featured a heart-shaped motif that looks exactly like a pigeon-toed version of the McDonald’s Golden Arches, mustard and ketchup colors and all. It has been discovered that Moschino did not approach McDonald’s for permission to use the Golden Arches logo, and it is inconclusive as to whether McDonald’s has grounds for legal action as the law related to trademark “dilution” is tenuous. (For a more detailed explanation of the legal side to this matter visit this great article by The Business of Fashion)

However, the most interesting discourse surrounding this issue deals with the interplay of fast fashion with fast food; “McDonald’s could argue that Moschino uses the heart-shaped motif in fashion designs to draw an unflattering comparison between fast food and fast fashion. Naming the capsule collection ‘Fast Fashion — Next Day After The Runway’ and retailing it on the day following the show both skewers the high street chains creating fast fashion and beats them at their own game, but at the expense of McDonald’s Golden Arches. In 2001, McDonald’s was the primary target in Eric Schlosser’s bestseller Fast Food Nation. In 2012, fast fashion came under similar scrutiny in Elizabeth L. Cline’s book Overdressed. Katha Pollitt of The Nation praised the book, saying ‘Overdressed does for t-shirts and leggings what Fast Food Nation did for burgers and fries.'” (Anjli Patel of BOF)

3. More Flaws in Bangladesh Factories

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It’s been almost a full year since the epic Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Bangladesh, resulting in over 1,000 deaths – and it appears history is destined to repeat itself. In a recent inspection, Bangladesh factories were found to have “cracked support beams, substandard building materials and exposed electrical cables chewed by rats.” The group leading the inspections is comprised of mostly European Fashion Brands who got together after the Rana Plaza tragedy shed light on the disastrous working conditions of many Bangladesh garment workers (of which there are over 4 million) who work in the factories who produce their products. It seems a bit distressing that it has taken this long to START the inspections stage… never mind the fact that there is no evidence that the inspection has any clout (a bad rating from this group does not mean other brands will not still use their services). It is yet to be explained how the group is actually helping the workers, there seems to be no suggestion that they plan to provide solutions to even simple problems they could themselves implement (like providing lunch for workers), never mind solve architectural issues.

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The Better Cotton Initiative

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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)

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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)

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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).

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*All photos from the Better Cotton website: http://www.bettercotton.org

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A Salute to Sword & Plough – A Visionary Made in USA Brand Bridging Humanitarianism with Fashion

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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.

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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).

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Black Friday Fury

Black-Friday-Phone-Deals

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.

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“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.

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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:

 basic needs

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.

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On The Brink of American Made Matters® Day – Nov 19th

AMM_Logo

Why does buying “American Made” products matter?

Let’s take a look at some stats:

  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 5.1 million fewer American manufacturing jobs now than at the start of 2001
  • According to ABC News, if consumers spent 1% more on American made products, it would create 200,000 additional jobs, 5% it would create 1,000,000 jobs
  • According to the Manufacturing Institute, manufacturing supports an estimated 12 million jobs in the US. This number was more than 19 million in 1978.
  • According to the Los Angeles Times, every factory job added creates three additional jobs. Other estimates are as high as five additional jobs. This is more powerful than any other segment of our economy.
These are just a few of the many facts provided by the American Made Matters® (AMM) website, www.AmericanMadeMatters.com, an organization dedicated to educating consumers on the importance of buying Made In USA products.
With a current Facebook fan base of over 19,000 and a collection of well over 100 Made in USA brands as members, AMM is a leading pioneer in the Made In American Movement. In an effort to expand their cause, they created American Made Matters® day, encouraging consumers through social media avenues to dedicate that day to buying American,
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.

american_made2So, 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.

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Primark’s Mark on UK Youth

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Broadly speaking, fashion can be divided into two separate industries. Firstly there is High Fashion: the big name designers, haute couture clothing, and celebrities that epitomise the fashion looks. High Fashion is only a small part of the fashion world, the majority is the Grass Roots of fashion. This is reality, the normal, and the every day fashion of consumers.

High fashion is trying to sell an ideal of what we should look like, and what we should buy. In order to make more money this ideal changes rapidly and often. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, as this is part of the fashion industry: it’s meant to make money.

One of the problems that grass roots fashion faces is that because this ideal changes so frequently, it becomes more expensive to mass produce garments and get them to the consumers before they go out of style and the ideal changes again.

This is where the bargain store super giants come in. In the UK you have Primark as the market leader for the latest fashion trends at an almost irresistible price (very rarely does an item of clothing breach the £15 mark). According to their own website it can take as little as 6 weeks for the trend to be recognised and then be available in their stores. Primark state that they keep the costs low with bulk buying stock and relying on word-of-mouth advertising.

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Primark, or Primarni as it is sometimes referred to, is the go to shop for many young adults in the UK, as the price point is low and young adults have the one of the highest rates of fashion consumption.

Young adults in general, but specifically teenagers and pre teens, are one of the main targets for Primark as a business. Most are at the age of discovering who they are and how they fit in the world, they have a disposable but quite limited income – pocket money or part time jobs, and no major expenditure as often living with parents while they are at school. Another major attraction of Primark is that because of the low prices, it’s possible to create whole looks and wardrobes for a fraction of the price of their style competitors in the UK (H&M, Topshop, River Island, to name a few). This ability to purchase a large quantity of clothes serves to make these young shoppers feel more independent, which in turn makes them feel even more connected to the experience as learning independence and doing things without parental controls is a big part of growing up.

Primark Oxford Street

Due to the mass production of styles and garments, at a price a lot of teenagers can afford, means that whole groups of friends wear similar clothes from the same shop, creating their own high street trends. This means that Primark is effectively creating their own trend, which attracts more consumers due to the availability and the low cost of the products.

Of course this isn’t to say that the youth of the UK is blindly purchasing whatever is put in front of them, driven only by consumer need. The way clothing shops are accessed in the UK market has part to play in how teenagers shop.

Almost all clothing shops in the UK will be found on the high street of the town or city, much like Oxford Street in London. This high street may have stemmed from the original town centre, sometimes dating back hundreds of years. These high streets are often pedestrian only areas with good public transport links. Put this together, and you can see that teenagers often go for shopping trips with friends, but without adults as they can make their own way there. Once at the high street, it is much like visiting a mall: all the shops are close together, with food and restrooms nearby.

These unsupervised trips with friends are pivotal moments for the individuals involved. It helps them to build their look and identity based on the opinions of the people they are with. These opinions are the most important to them, as they affect their ability to belong and connect with the people they want to. One of the most fundamental parts of growing up is learning how to be part of society and to feel connected. What Primark is enabling is a way for these teenagers to feel like they belong, whilst also securing a large number of repeat customers.

 

I can get 5 shirts at Forever 21 for the same price as 1 shirt from an independent designer, why bother buying indie?

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Yes, it’s true that trendy looks can be found for super cheap at fast fashion stores and large chain retailers like Forever 21, Zara, and H&M. However, it is important to think about what is being perpetuated when people choose to give their money to these types of retailers over supporting more small time, independent designers. Fast fashion and large chain store retailers are focused on one thing and one thing only: the bottom line. Getting fads out as quickly as possible at the cheapest price is their main business agenda, and in doing so they promote a destructive shopping culture and seriously hurt the success of independent designers who promote innovative design and positive business practices.

– Forging Authenticity –

Forever 21 has been sued over 50 times for copyright infringement; the fast fashion retailer has blatantly knocked off designs from big name brands like Diane Von Furstenburg and Betsey Johnson to smaller, independent designers like Trovata and Foley + Corinna. This is one of the many unethically sound ways these types of retailers are able to keep their prices super cheap. Knocking off from other designer’s work allows these companies to avoid having to pay a creative team of designers, thereby allowing them to charge less for their products. What’s worse is that the courts almost always side with the copycat. Since copyright laws are so complicated when it comes to fashion, the stealing of designs is really hard to nail down. By buying into these cheap knockoffs, design integrity is compromised. What was once a gorgeous, highly detailed design with amazing drape and feel becomes a low quality look-a-like with shotty craftsmanship, void of almost all stylistic detailing. The originality and innovation that went into the design is diluted when cheap knock-offs become representative of the original look – hurting the success of the designer who exerted time, energy, and dedication to creating the concept. The mentality of, “If I can get the same look for $100 less, why buy the real thing?” is detrimental to an independent label.

– Lacking in Longevity –

Fast fashion retailers and chain stores make products from the lowest quality materials they can get away with, resulting in a super short lifespan of the product. Ingenious from a strictly business perspective: the cheap products last just about as long as the trend and when they fall apart, consumers simply throw them away and replace them with next weeks cheap fad… a never ending cycle of robotic (ergo thoughtless) consumption.

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Purchasing from an indie brand, however, you can be sure that true thought, time, and energy went into every aspect of the design. Materials are hand chosen and each stitch is placed with precision. Independent brands are focused on creating products that last. Yes, they will be more expensive, but that is because they are made from quality materials that will not fall apart after a few wears and washes. So, even though it may feel like you are spending less by opting to buy cheaper items, in the long run you save more by investing in more expensive, higher quality items that last.

– Humanitarianism –

It is no secret that big chain retailers use large factories, usually overseas (even though Forever 21’s factories are actually in LA), where workers are paid practically nothing for their labor and forced to work long hours in horrible working conditions. This is another major way they are able to keep prices so low, and so long as people’s buying choices revolve around the price tag, these retailers will continue to get away with exploitive practices.

Smaller, independent designers are much more in tune with the consequences of their business practices. Because the designer plays multiple roles in the business, they have a hand in each step of production from design, to manufacturing, to the end sale. Independent designers have a focus that is lost in large retail corporations – they make it a point to be responsible with their business. Many even take it a step further by using their business to give back.

– Voting With Your Dollar –

The next time you are choosing where to shop, remember that you are really voting with your dollar. Do you want to promote mass-produced, low quality fashion fads that rely on the exploitation of workers, or do you want to support original designers who use their business for good? The choice is yours.

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