Category Archives: Sustainability

Designer Spotlight – Daniela D’Amico

DanielaDAmico_DigitalLookbookAW14 copy

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.”

peter doig

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!”

Isola Bella

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.

Cernobbio

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!

Como

 

Tremezzo

 

Montagna

 

DA

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

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.

AW

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.

Tagged , , , ,

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.

Image

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.

kantha quilts

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Better Cotton Initiative

Image

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)

Image

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)

Image

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).

Image

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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Image

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.

Image

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).

Image

Tagged

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.

black-friday-fights-630x354

“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.

Cambodia

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , ,

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

chainstores

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.

trash

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.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Sarah’s Bag – Inspiring Brand, Empowering Women

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 12.44.52 PM

“Empowered women mean empowered societies,” this is  the motto of inspiring accessory brand, Sarah’s Bag. This Beirut, Lebanon-based business paves the way for sound supply chain practices, proving that fair labor does not compromise gorgeous and innovative design. Sarah’s Bag employs women at risk as their artisans, who hand make absolutely original clutches and handbags with lavish embellishments including embroidery, cross stitching, intricate beading, crochet and so much more.

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 12.45.03 PM

Founded in 2000, Sarah’s Bag has grown to employ more than 150 women across Lebanon who have taken solace and found empowerment in the opportunity presented by Sarah to take control of their lives; finding work that helps them contribute to their communities and support their families in a world that otherwise casted them aside. These women congregate together to hand stitch designs that showcase their skills, giving them a space to connect with each other while producing magnificent works of art for the world to enjoy.

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 12.45.27 PM

Sarah’s Bag is an inspiration – really shedding light on the fashion industry and the vast opportunities it has to support and help communities in need. Rather than sourcing cheap and unfair labor in mega-factories, why not source individuals like these Lebanon women who, with just a bit of instruction, can produce not only gorgeous designs, but high quality pieces that will last lifetime, while at the same time improves the lives of others.

A truly magnificent display, this brand should be commended for their tremendous effort and success in combining fashion, business, and humanitarianism.

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 12.44.36 PM

Watch a video about the story behind the amazing women artisans that hand make the products of Sarah’s Bag here:  http://bit.ly/176zBTw

Tagged , , ,

Two Months Later: A Look at the Bangladesh Catastrophe

126692804_01_407688bSince 24th April this year Bangladesh has been at the forefront of fashion and business news. The tragedy of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, which killed over 1,000 people and injured more than 2,000, has meant that garment factories have been a big issue for retailers and fashion businesses.

The Rana Plaza disaster happened at a pivotal time in social history. Many people around the world have been hit by a tough economy, and they’re thinking more carefully before buying anything, both of their own need, and the value of their products. Longevity of items, and where they have come from, are very important factors to a lot of consumers.

Additionally, social media is at its peak, and instant news has had a profound affect on the way information is digested. Just looking at the global response to the tragic events at the Boston Marathon this year, makes you realise that everybody feels connected, and reacts together.

When you combine these two things, consumer awareness and instant news, it shows that when something goes wrong in the production chain, it has huge consequences. Consumers are asking more questions, and making big businesses feel uneasy. With personal budgets tighter than they’ve been for years, it’s easier for people to change their shopping habits, to turn away from companies and brands because of how they operate.

If something like the Rana Plaza catastrophe had happened 15 or 20 years ago, would we even have heard about it? More than likely, the major corporations would have hidden it away, subduing any reports. Now that we have the ability to be connected with the other side of the world in moments, these companies have nowhere to hide.

This isn’t to say that all big businesses are corrupt, and forcing people to work at a rate barely above slave labour. With the cost of living being more tightly monitored by individuals, there have been more ethical and responsible companies emerging. They understand that the attitudes towards instant and throwaway fashion are changing, albeit slowly and in very small increments. These companies might be charging more for their wares, but that’s because the materials were bought for a fair price, and the people who made them were paid more than $60 a month. We now have the opportunity to learn what fashion is worth to each of us.

Sadly, for a lot of people, the cost of these ethical products is prohibitive. One of the positive things to come from the Rana Plaza collapse is that politicians and governments are now seeing the responses from social medias, and understand that these are things their people feel strongly about. It would be nice if we lived in a world where governments were governed by their own morals, but unfortunately, they rely on the morals of their voters. Right now, their voters want change and help for the garment workers, so they are acting.

In the months since the collapse, the government in Bangladesh has voted to increase the minimum wage for factory workers, and to allow them to form unions without the prior consent of the factory owners. BEGMA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) have announced that the factories within it’s association must sign up to a worker database, to give security to casual workers and keep a real time track of the employment levels.

As recently as within the last week, the US President announced that they will be ending duty-free trade privileges over their concerns into dangerous working conditions and worker rights. This is a bold move for the US, and one that has caused anger in Bangladesh, which feels that America is ignoring the recent changes instigated by the Bangladesh government, which is working hard to protect its citizens.

Feelings are that the EU will soon follow suit with this change in commerce, as they often do after the US makes a change of this magnitude. It often takes one definitive stand before change can start, but we can only hope that the garment industry in Bangladesh can survive long enough to repair itself.

With all of these changes and work from a high level, its clear to see that everybody felt the pain and loss from April, and want to help make sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s only been two months since the Rana Plaza disaster so it’s too soon to tell if any of these changes are working. We might not know for some time if they will work, but it cannot continue as it is, and at least in the mean time every one who can do, is doing something.

Tagged , , ,
The Aubergine Coat

on photography & fashion

what my boyfriend wore

A Dandy's Diary About All Things Dapper

Don Charisma

because anything is possible with Charisma

the dapperist.

a men's style guide.