I Made Your Clothes
A little studio tour inspired by the Fashion Revolution Week, I'm leaving out the photo of me holding the sign that says "I Made Your Clothes" because A. I don't want to waste printer ink on a one-time-use sign and B. There's like a thousand other photos of me on this website if you really want to see who made your clothes. And packaged, and shipped, and probably even photographed and modeled the clothes as well.
Every single Mixed Color piece is made in my little studio, dyed in my kitchen using well water and all natural dyes, all the plant matter left over from dyeing is composted, usually after many many steepings to extract every last essence of color, and the fabric scraps that are not saved for re-use are recycled.
Why did I make the unusual and economically questionable decision to make all the clothes myself instead of sending them to a factory to be made?
Quite simply, because there are few things I love more than making clothes, and to have them manufactured somewhere took me out of the roll of making them, and into the roll of managing people (which I suck at!). Though I hire assistance during busy times, and dabble in hiring sewers locally, the process of making clothes for me is an artistic process that cannot be easily re-produced, and that is just the way I like it.
Before my transition to making clothing full time, I spent 7 years working in the fashion industry in LA. Over that time, I worked for companies who manufactured in Korea, Hong Kong, China, and the U.S.
The amount of time it took me to fashion elaborate documents explaining to someone as clearly as possible how to make a dress en masse was equal to the amount of time it would take me to simply make a dress.
It made way less money and required more physical labor to choose the latter, which is why this is not the business model most designers would choose, but it is infinitely more enjoyable for me.
It also allows me to oversee all decisions made through the process - from where the fabrics are sourced (all cotton I use is certified organic, and many fabrics are recycled from the factory floor), to how the pattern is designed and cut in order to waste as little fabric as possible (see: zero waste garments), how water is used and re-used, and how everything is packaged. Any plastic that is used is recycled, I save plastic from the shipping of materials to re-use for shipping, which takes up space and time but saves the need for one-time-use plastic.
I recently dedicated a little space to relaxation, a zone for stretching and contemplation. Essentially, an invitation to take a break. This is a huge privilege that many factory workers are not allowed to have, and I am incredibly grateful to have the option to step away from the sewing machine for some much needed stretching. In many factories around the globe, doing so may cause you to loose your job as standardized breaks are something that exist in our country thanks to the development of unions over the last century or so.
"Workers’ rights are also still severely compromised, with many unable to unionise and take collective action. Those who do so risk their lives; just weeks ago, a Bangladeshi union leader was murdered. Several others have been detained. Previous protests in Cambodia have seen activists killed by police, and reports of missing wages, disappearing factory owners and the abuse of women are still common." - U.K. Vogue
Fashion revolution week takes place on the 5th anniversary of the collapse of Rana Plaza that killed over a thousand garment workers. The fashion industry is one of the worlds largest polluters, and the quickly moving trends that fuel a throwaway society also fund massive human rights violations and ecological damage on grand scales.
What is the harm in a little cheap shopping? Well, a lot actually. Unless we demand change, it's not getting any better. The fucked up part is, it's not even just cheap retailers that continue to use factories that put people and our environment in harms way.
"Around 75 million people, predominantly women, work in fashion and textiles across the globe. IndustriALL Global Union report that 90 per cent of these workers have no possibility of negotiating their wages or conditions. Many workers at the bottom of the chain are “subject to exploitation, verbal and physical abuse, working in unsafe conditions, with very little pay”.
Meanwhile, at least six of the world’s top 20 richest people on Forbes’ list of billionaires last year were in retail – including Amancio Ortega from Zara and Bernard Arnault, CEO of luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton." - The Independent
So what to do about it?
Ask for transparency from your favorite brands.
Shop with companies who are open about their process and manufacturing.
Buy handmade, buy vintage, buy local... and you know what? Sometimes you don't have to buy at all.
Learn to sew.
Trade with friends.
Mend and make do.