Category Archives: Business Transparency

Designer Spotlight – Daniela D’Amico

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One of I.F.’s prime objectives is to spread the word about amazing, innovative, and creatively unique designers from around the world, and share their individual stories with the fashion community as they start to gain ground in the  industry.

The designers featured by I.F. have passed a series of requirements including (but not limited to) the use of fair labor practices and a knack for unique and awe-inspiring design that we believe set them apart from their peers and that will undoubtedly give them the ability to lay claim to a successful career in fashion design as they begin their journey in building their brand.

This week, I.F. is featuring Daniela D’Amico, a London-based designer whose Autumn/Winter 2014 collection is inspired by the picturesque scenery and architecture of her ancestral home, Lake Como, Italy. I.F. sat down with the up-and-coming designer who divulged all about her career journey and the story behind her brand. She also kindly gave us some exclusive photos of her Autumn/Winter 2014 Collection to share with the I.F. audience!

Daniela’s fashion journey started at a young age. Daniela was always interested in textiles and fashion in school and often spent her free time trying to create new textiles and using her home sewing machine to sew lustrous fabrics like silks and satins, “I loved to make interesting finishes using a princess pleater, this was my favourite tool for coming up with innovative creations,” says the young designer. Daniela went on to study Art Foundation at The London College of Fashion and from there went on to Chelsea College of Art where she received her BA in Textile Design. It was here that the designer discovered specialized design techniques including how to convey traditional techniques in a modern way, as well as how to use digital print and fabric manipulation – a complex technique which has become the designer’s trademark. When she graduated, Daniela went on to work in womenswear as Head of the Design Studio for Selina Blow. This year, Daniela decided it was time to pursue her dream of starting her own brand.

Daniela finds inspiration in her surroundings, “If I am in London it may be a part of architecture, an art show, color, or nature. It could be a different city that I may be in. Wherever I go, I will always carry my note book and jot down anything that I feel inspires me, or inspirational thoughts I have. I am usually inspired by a certain place, artist or movement – it can be a combination of them all. For this season I was also inspired by the work of Peter Doig who captured timeless moments of perfect tranquillity.”

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Peter Doig’s “Concrete Cabin” 1994, oil on canvas

Daniela’s strong dedication to her craft is more than admirable – it is inspiring. She works tirelessly from sketch to production in order to construct absolutely original, top-of-the-line designs, “All of the images are taken myself. I have manipulated the images and almost played with them like they are a piece of collage, working with each image on top of a sketch of one of my garment designs. I then work out which part of the print would work where and go from there.”

When it comes to materials and production, Daniela uses only the best, “I use a selection of cottons, satins, silks and velvets. All of my fabrics are either sourced from England or Italy. I like to mix textiles, you will see a mixture of soft satins on one piece with a fierce structured collar made in cotton velvet to finish. I use a small factory in London, it has a very nice, friendly and relaxed atmosphere and they are great to work with considering I am always challenging them with my printed textiles and luxurious, expensive fabrics!”

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The Lake Como-inspired A/W ’14 collection is the result of the designers textile design expertise combined with her eye for photography and knack for originality. The collection has an androgynous gestalt, achieved by a harmonious combination of intricate tailoring and romantic prints. Each and every piece is given special attention to proportion and design positioning ensuring an ultra-flattering silhouette.

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Emma Watson, Alexa Chung and Sienna Miller were some of the names the designer mentioned when asked about her dream customer, “a modern, laid back, strong woman who enjoys colour and bringing tailoring to life.”

Daniela has marked plans for the future, planning “to one day take the brand internationally, and show the collection to as many people as I possibly can. One of the most interesting parts in the job is meeting the people who want to wear my clothes and hearing their story, this inspires me to design.”

Though still in the stages of putting her on-line store, www.danieladamico.com,  together, be sure to check out her Facebook for updates on her collection and an inside look to her creative process.

Thank you, Daniela, for sharing your passion with us – we are looking forward to getting our hands on a few pieces from your collection!

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Another One Bites the Dust – Alexander Wang

It seems another great designer has sold out to fast fashion; it has been announced that Alexander Wang will be doing a collaboration with Swedish company H&M.

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Alexander Wang has become a popular face among the fashion industry elite and as such he should be using his popularity to take a stand for positivity in the fashion industry, like Diane Von Fustrenburg and Andrew Rosen. Who better than famous designers to bring important fashion issues into the spotlight and really challenge the business negligence that goes on behind the scenes of so many large fashion corporations like H&M. Fashion designers have a lot of power in the fashion industry and as we learned from Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Alexander Wang took a giant step backward when he teamed up with H&M.

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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

triangle shirtwaist factory

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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The Sewer and the Machine

“The methodical and precise sound of a sewing machine is oddly calming.

It is one of those steps that looks as if it can be done in an auto-pilot state of mind. But it is actually a job requiring incredibly skill and a deep knowledge of the machine and its relationship to the person. In order to perfectly sew a bag, one must know the machine’s personality – its strengths, weaknesses, and quirks.

Perhaps it is this level of intimacy – a result of such precision and perfection along with the constant uniformity of the sound – that makes it so calming.” – Lotuff Leather #MadeInUSA

Original post on Lotuff Leather Website

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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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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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Flint and Tinder – Menswear Made-In-USA Brand

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.”

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Comfortable, cool clothing with small but beautiful stylistic detailing, Flint and Tinder provides quality and fashionable looks that are exclusively made in America.

crewneck sweatshirt

 

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.

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Kudos to Flint and Tinder for being a responsible brand, and being a leader in the slow fashion movement.

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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:

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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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