Everyone Knows About Fast Fashion?

Everyone Knows About Fast Fashion?

What is fast fashion? Zara, H&M, Forever 21, to name but a few since almost every brand went down the fast fashion slide in the hope of fueling a never ending thirst for more sales feeding the frenzy and addiction of everyone wanting more clothes for little cost. 

But buying cheaply comes at a high cost. 

I thought everyone knew. 

My generation always desired new clothes. We have memories of wanting a new pair of pants, 

(something very novel to us) an expensive dress, a new t-shirt and Levis jeans, but we either couldn’t afford new clothes all the time or couldn’t buy any Off the Rack like you can today. There were not always clothes in my size, not like today where everyone is accommodated from the very small to the very large. 

In my case, being so skinny and small, the only clothes remotely in my size were in the kids section size 14, super ugly big kids clothes for pre-teens, or they were too big for the pre-teen girl wanting more grown-up clothes, that I was.

Definitely just before the days of what we who worked in the industry called junior slut wear. It wasn’t that bad, but it did have sexier details such as sweetheart necklines and the like.

There were only boutiques I would read about in Seventeen magazine. 

geared towards the tiny preteen for my sister and I.

One store, in our area, was called Jabberwocky. Our mother brought us all the way there, two cities away, and it did not disappoint. 

All the clothes were so fashionable, just what we were looking for and they had small sizes. But they were expensive. I was allowed to buy one pair of pants that I wore practically my whole high school years. A pair of kelly green high waisted pants out of a brushed twill that never seemed to wear out. I only grew out of them eventually.

Friends I had who spent a fortune on clothes had mothers who took their daughters on clothes shopping sprees once or twice a month. They showed up at school with beautiful clean bright new outfits to go with their perfect hair, face, and smile.

The rest of us wore our outfits once or twice a week. That is how we dressed when clothes were expensive and we didn’t shop all the time. 

The Gap only had sweatpants for exorcising and sweatshirts or hoodies. Soon they started having a button-down shirt. The Banana Republic had army navy surplus clothes intermingled with other basics that cost more but had a few military-style pieces you could get for a reasonable price. 

As time went on, there were more options. We all noticed and started shopping more. 

There were strip mall stores opening up with long racks and racks of just tops or sweaters and always one or two we could afford and purchased. 

Boutiques in the malls opened up with names like The Limited (except it was anything but) and others all of a sudden, with young trendy cute clothes that were not going to break the bank. 

We all shopped more, and it felt like it, we only wanted to go shopping. We went to the mall frequently to buy clothes. 

It was an outing different than before when we went to the department stores. 

I thought at the time it was having our first real jobs with a need to look better or professional that we shopped. Sure that was part of it but there were so many more options and fashion seemed to embrace all the DIY details we had already made once by hand, but could now buy. Machine embroidered items, already frayed edges at the store, jeans with faded washes. 

Nordstroms became the expensive store while for a while they all were before the many boutiques popped up. Nordstrom has survived because in the maelstrom of fast fashion Nordstrom promoted service to the average shopper like no other department store. 

When did the Gap become a fashion maven? When did Penny’s become only a place to buy underwear, then after a revamp a place to buy inexpensive suits and dresses. At least they didn’t go by way of a Woolworth’s which touted inexpensive clothes but by no means could compete with trendy chain boutiques. 

All of a sudden you could find cute t-shirts at Forever 21 that were extra long and cheap, three for ten dollars. Before that I was sewing any extra fabric I could find to the bottom of my t-shirts to make them longer since low cut pants were in style. We really could not believe it. We couldn’t get enough. We wanted to go back for more. The fast-fashion addiction was beginning. 

How could we resist? We found cargo pants, the ones with tons of cute pockets a third of the price of real Gerards. We couldn’t help ourselves. Sweaters were affordable when we were making five to ten dollars an hour. 

I know we are still making ten an hour but it was a time of inflation, there was less income inequality. We felt a real option of moving up the pay scale and growth in our careers. 

Somewhere along the line, the fashion industry started making more than four or five seasons to feed the demand. There was Spring One and Resort, Fall 1and 2. 

We started manufacturing in China. 

Unending cheap labor made it possible to design anything we wanted without it costing a lot. It was designed by fax and spec at first. At some point, we started to send the actual clothing to copy. 

At first, we designed and made patterns, and traced them, and physically sent them over. 

In return we would get these squished clothes that had been sitting in ship containers for weeks, often smelling of chemicals. 

Sometimes the USA factories in Flint Mi, Pennsylvania, and the Carolinas would still make knits and mostly sweatshirts. There was money for artists to actually draw bunnies and sheep for sweatshirt designs. The competition for making a shirt ten cents cheaper would go to the lowest bidder for a store like Kmart. 

People were getting used to their clothes being made somewhere else besides Italy. When more and more madras plaids were pouring in from India and everyone had one because they were a cheap nice-looking plaid shirt made out of cotton gauze. 

Levi’s started being made in China too.

For the large majority of their jeans, Levi’s are not made in the USA. More than 99% of their jeans are made in countries like China, Japan, Italy, and others. Levi’s does have a single collection of “Made in the USA” 501 jeans, sourced from a small denim mill called White Oak in Greensboro, NC. Dec 23, 2019

All of a sudden we were emailing China daily, hourly, to get our goods, making only up to two corrections max in an afternoon. The turnaround time was getting shorter and shorter. When we used to plan a year in advance and finish the line to show three months in advance everything was moving faster now.  

People were buying whatever we put out there. The competition was fierce to keep making more to feed the fast fashion addiction. 

The Target, the H& M’s, The Forever 21’s were the competition with Gap and every big label jumping on board to produce the cheapest and the most sold in more and more stores across the states. 

Department stores started hurting not being able to sell designer clothing and quality pieces for twice as much. Plus their turnover was not as great. 

If you wanted something trendy in fashion the department stores lagged behind the cheap franchise stores. Manufacturers found the wait time for payment from traditional department stores unacceptable and had a hard time stocking some brands that did better in a boutique setting who paid when they made the order not six weeks later like the department stores. 

The competition for making something a dime cheaper for mass production to go into every store around the country and the world was formidable. The markup went from 50% in the old days to 30% and 20% to keep quantity and price down. 

H&M started hiring high fashion designers, then Target did the same and big designers started having a line of off-the-rack clothing for the masses.. It was hard to tell if the RL brand was the expensive one or the one made for cheap. So why bother buying the expensive one?  

The better-made clothiers were becoming more exclusive. All adding to the income inequality aspect of brands being for the very wealthy. At the same time, most brands were buying more, making six to ten seasons a year. Leaving the design in the dust and relying on surface treatments which are very labor-intensive but easy for China who had unlimited cheap labor.  

But now the fashion industry as a whole is having a reboot, some are closing down or slowing down with the help of the pandemic but the pandemic added a magnifying glass to the dilemma to stop the 2.5 trillion industry from destroying our planet. Embracing  Intersectional Connection​ to change the profit motive and discover what sustainable fashion is really all about.

Fashion and Climate Change

Fashion and Climate Change

Combatting “Greenwashing” with Transparency

Fashion and Climate change couldn’t be a more timely subject. Click on the letters below to see the presentation I gave for Sustainable Living. Many of the links in this piece are available on the slideshow.

-Slide show for Fashion and Climate Change by Mary Colmar-

The fashion industry was poised before the pandemic to make some changes. Away from producing so much fast fashion product while making less of a carbon footprint. 

But after the impact of the global pandemic happened on the economy, the role of the fashion industry in the destruction of the environment and the economy became a blaring reminder that the fragmented industry has to change as a whole. The industry has to work together, from manufacturing to changing the culture of fashion’s expectations in our society around the world to help in the prevention of global destruction as a key participant.

At the moment large corporations are working together by producing fewer goods, less fast fashion, and regular seasons and even down to two a year following the example of Gucci. 

Another key component is to manufacture closer to where the product is being sold. Trying to lessen the carbon footprint it intends to ship less and to produce more in the country where the goods sell. A goal easier said than done as the western hemisphere has not invested in the technology necessary to make a yarn out of hemp for example and so much more necessary in the manufacturing of goods along with all sectors, excluding Europe. 

There are problems in the Americas in manufacturing, they do not have the technology that can spin a yarn literally from hemp again, which is very popular in the USA and being grown by ex tobacco farmers. The hemp is grown in the US, shipped to Asia as the sophisticated making of the yarn is made into yarn and/or fabric and possibly shipped again and sewn somewhere in the Americas? 

Especially in the USA, it is a big problem because our manufacturing has not invested in middle management, education, or development and we do not pay our middle management workers enough. We are years behind in the technology needed to manufacture and PLM that Asia and Europe are equipped to do. 

The US are also the people most addicted to fast fashion and yes it is an addiction. These consumers need the education to care about sustainable fashion. Fashion that is less disposable and has more desirability, possibly buy something that has a lasting power of five years or more. Hopefully bringing back the ideal clothing concept becoming treasured again. At one time clothing was handed down through generations. It was made with quality and appreciated for craftsmanship. 

A big movement developing is wearing second hand, as a statement, for individuality, and an easy solution to utilize the plentiful pickings. 

Second-hand clothing has become popular, nothing to scoff at, but at a different level by Department Stores like Nordstrom and the inexpensive furniture store Ikea. 

A place to bring your clothes you no longer want or furniture that was crap in the first place. (on a side note Ikea is working on a way to make their cheap furniture recycled.)

The movement to improve manufacturing with less waste and better design is spreading across the globe with all products from food to fashion. There is an interconnectedness for all of us to participate. Not for profit but for humanity or quality of life for everyone. We are all the 1% not financially but in our individuality. We each can offer our knowledge and ingenuity to our clothing, our lifestyle in the way we eat and where we get our food to how we move around on the planet. 

Groups such as Fashion Makes Change (FMC) is the fashion industry’s new solution that delivers women’s empowerment and climate action in tandem. With a mission to build a community between brands, non-profits, consumers, and supporting industries to responsibly drive action on key social and environmental impacts of fashion, the organization acts as a transformational ecosystem. Fashion Makes Change’s powerful coalition supports the diverse women who work within the apparel supply chain, reimagining how collaboration affects change.

“The truth is that the old way of doing things is not solving the problems. Incremental change isn’t good enough. We are moving too slowly,” said Cara Smyth, Chair of Fashion Makes Change. “Education is the great equalizer. In particular, investing in women builds resilient communities. Catalytic ecosystems that foster profound collaboration are powering the next generation of sustainability and are the only sensible path forward. We have a finite number of days before irreversible global warming. Fashion – and the world – are racing against the clock.”

Fashion Makes Change, a project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, answers the call by the United Nations Secretary-General to advance progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and looks to all sectors of society in the next ten years to mobilize action locally and globally, to generate a movement to meet this decade of action. Fashion Makes Change strives to build communities of changemakers that will help advance progress on key development goals and ultimately efforts designed to create a more equitable and responsible apparel industry. Fashion Makes Change will initially look to targets aligned with SDG 3, Good health and well-being, SDG 4 Quality Education, SDG 5 on Gender Equality, and SDG 8 which addresses Decent Work and Economic Growth.

MAKING AN IMPACT

One of the key organizations that Fashion Makes Change will support is the [email protected] Collaborative, a joint effort of United Nations’ ILO-IFC Better Work, BSR’s HERproject, CARE International, and Gap Inc.’s P.A.C.E program, that works to leverage knowledge, skills, and networks to drive collective action for the benefit of women workers and gender equity in global supply chains.

THE INDUSTRY UNITES

Brands and retailers throughout the industry are mobilizing to educate women in the global supply chain at scale by 2030. This comes as the industry’s CEOs and their teams work collectively to demonstrate fashion as a powerful force for good in the world. Consumers increasingly want to drive positive impact and are motivated when they have a voice in using their purchasing power to support the actions brands are taking. Individual and collective efforts in the community are required to tackle the systemic challenges facing our society.

The first activation will launch on March 8th, International Women’s Day, with a program that engages consumers to round up or donate via a global network of retail and fashion brands. The proceeds will be dedicated to educating and empowering women in the supply chain via [email protected]

Funds collected will be deployed through Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, a nonprofit organization that helps donors create thoughtful, effective philanthropy around the world through research, advisory, management, and project incubation.

This unprecedented collaboration among brands, customers, and non-profits will amplify, scale, and accelerate a global shift towards meaningful change.

The program has support from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Avery Dennison, PR Consulting, and the Accessories Council.

Second hand, unique, want it to be the first option. Young people are removing some of the stigmas of used clothing as they are often, customized, embellished, and upcycled.

Depop has a customer base of a 23million and 93 percent are under 26. A company that is expanding access to used clothing. One of many. It is a bigger umbrella. Usually unique, no one else will usually have the same item.

Different Forums:

ImpactFashion.org

Sustainable Fashion Forum 

State of Fashion- BofF.com

EcoFashion.com online magazine

FashionMakesChange.org

More groups: 

FashionForGood.com

[email protected]

Another movement is to reuse clothing rather than see it go into the trash or shipped all over the world looking for a home as the rag quality that they are.

There is no silver bullet. As a manufacturer, someone who has had a clothing line for eight years. I found a gem in the clothing that was spilling out of our closets and sold by the pound at GoodWills.

With my background in production as a patternmaker and technical designer, I found many uses and opportunities for ways to scale up these clothes. Other companies that have scaled up doing similar work are:

Vetements

Atelier and Repair.

Gregory Lauren

SaladBowlDress

One resource for this article is from unitedfashion.com ‘Fashion Makes Change,’ Change Fashion? The new brand-led community promises solutions for the “equalizing” status of garment workers while tackling the climate crisis with collaboration. By Kaley Roshitsh on November 17, 2020

 

The Fast Fashion Money Crunchers

The Fast Fashion Money Crunchers

The Fast Fashion Money Crunchers

For years I worked in the fashion industry as a professional patternmaker and tailor in NYC and Los Angeles. I have worked for some iconic brands like Betsy Johnson, Ellen Tracy, and here in the O.C. at St. John Knits were making the clothing was an art form, fun, creative, and inspiring. 

But other companies where I worked, the fast-fashion money crunchers were not so inspiring, seeing in-house samples and store-bought samples shipped overseas to be copied by factories all over the world, haggling over a few cents in cost, demanding lower prices sacrificing better quality on a daily basis, took its toll. 

At the same time, I was experiencing that we all had so many clothes and nothing to wear. All the clothing in our individual lives is overtaking all of us. Going out to buy something new every week, and never really being satisfied.

Furthermore, I saw the quality of the workmanship or fabrics get destroyed to make a profit. I felt as a consumer and an American I could afford better quality, better design, and overall better fit. 

That’s when I started my own line of custom clothing. When you try on my Salad Bowl Dress pieces they feel good, hang well, and follow the form of the person wearing them. That is what you get with tailoring, hand sewing, and independently picked fabrications. Clothing that is durable for an active life, flattering to the soul, full of compartments to place the devices we all depend on, binoculars, scissors, found objects, shoes, food, and glasses. 

All the clothing is hand-made by me, Mary Colmar, in my studio, on my industrial single needle sewing machine and industrial Juki serge machine. (All larger quantity orders are made locally by individuals that sew as well and local contractors).

Subsequently, people ask me all the time where do I get all the clothes I cut up? To this day I have not had to buy anything at the Good Will except once when there was a run on trench coats I was making and I arrived to find all the name brand chino pants I was using were half price. 

Sometimes I want to make up a story that at the stroke of midnight I walk out into the forest and pick clothes falling off trees. Because clothing is everywhere being thrown out or begged to be removed from overstuffed closets. 

Actually, when I moved to the suburbs and sat in the parking lot looking at all the people walking out of the mall I thought, these are the fashionistas, they are going to look great. 

Almost the opposite, a lot of people were buying more of the same ill-fitting, cheap fabrications of a designers original concept, completely dummied down by the greedy fast fashion money crunchers that could care less about giving people what they really want but instead focused on what they would spend because we all know the less expensive the better for us, ha, ha.

The incredible waste I saw also irked me to no end. We literally had ninety percent of our work go in the trash to exploit that one company or garment that met our needs in cost. 

I began to wonder about the lives of these garment workers and I could not justify the fact that they might starve if not for the garment worker job which really was not the case. There are rich cultures of traditional craft and occupations before the factories moved in.

 

 

 

In the Future Call It Fashion or Clothing?

In the Future Call It Fashion or Clothing?

 

 

 

Intersectional Connection​ is what sustainable fashion is really all about. We consume with our money and we do not always check for the transparency of manufacturing and energy use in the corporations we are patronizing.

 

 

For every purchase, we make it is important to check the sustainability quotient of the company behind the garment. Good Trade has a nice list of reputable sustainable companies.

 

 

Is the fabric dead stock or innovative hemp or mushroom leather? Did you know leather is just plain bad? ​The rainforest is being mowed down not by soybeans but by leather. ​Forget about the dead cows it is bad for the people working in the tanneries that have a life expectancy of fifty years old. IE: Chemicals, river​ The faux leathers all have their own controversies but non as bad as real leather.

 

 

It is important that we demand transparency. What we are looking for?
Is the manufacturing local or overseas?
Are the wages a living wage?

 

 

Is the fabric organic cotton, recycled polyester, hemp, farmed silk, viscose, ag fibers trying to scale up.

 

 

Spending time a few weekends ago at the Impact Fashion Summit my initial takeaways are that maybe we shouldn’t call it fashion at all. Call it clothing. Slow fashion, sustainable fashion, be the change, start in your own small community.

 

 

The intricacies of fair-trade are beyond me.
Our trade agreements, like walls, keep foreign factories from having a better standard of living. Interesting and complex, we are always close to getting something humanitarian ratified.

 

 

The miracle fabrics of the future are truly plant-based grown in regions that can handle certain plants. 2.5 billion people now will remember when we had choices in our fabric but the next 2.5 billion will have to rely on scaled-up versions made from plants.

 

 

Child labor is alive and well. San Salvador company closing after employees worked there for 10 to 35 years. Offered some old machines but no severance pay.

 

 

Fast fashion came about by the fashion industry feeding us clothing as fast as humanly possible to the point we kept consuming it since it was so affordable that now the fashion industry knows it has created a monster.

 

 

We need to get back to four or five seasons a year. Enjoy a regionally made garment of quality. Not exactly Slow Fashion in the strictest terms but back to enjoying the work, the product, and the necessity again for something we wear for a while because we love it.

 

 

How do we want to scale up? Most likely with a plant-based fiber that grows in a permaculture environment. The Tropical Regeneration ag movement is doing amazing work.

 

 

Is clothing disposable? Not from anyone’s standpoint is it disposable but it has become just that creating the leading cause of Climate Change on the planet.

 

 

We live in a time where clothing is so available we tend to buy it and dispose of it.

 

 

How we dispose of it is pretty key. Sell, and remake seems to be our only choices. Donations to people make sense or manufacturers but places like Goodwill usually end up taking it too the landfill eventually.

 

 

My personal favorite sustainable clothing is made from other clothes or upcycling. But I get sick of hearing that term. At its simplest, It is mending what you have, patching a hole, washing a stain out, sewing on a button, hemming, adding elastic, or taking inside seams for a better fit.

 

 

Sometimes it is deconstructed. Opening up all the seams to reveal pieces that can be put back together in a new and interesting way. Usually, it is a drastic artful altercation. But it also creates fabric to make whatever you want, and details to add wherever you want.

 

 

It is the ultimate utilitarian military-style or highly functional original dresses, shirts, and suits, clothing that fits and works with style.