Ever bought a shirt or blouse that you wore once then never again? Perhaps you just plucked it off the rack in that trendy store you like without even really thinking about when, where or how often you’d wear it? Maybe you even bought the same item in 3 colors! Did you take a minute to think about whether or not purchasing something you really weren’t going to use is a good idea? How about what impact your purchase would have on the fashion industry, the environment or the people who made the shirt?
One of the purposes of my blog at unitedsewinganddesign.com, is to present different ways of thinking about consuming and manufacturing soft goods, ways that have less negative impact on our environment, that are sustainable both environmentally and economically and that are fair to workers. Often, when I mention the fine points of conscious manufacturing to fashion professionals, they roll their eyes and sigh or wonder aloud how they are supposed to compete in an industry fueled by constant consumption of trendy clothes and accessories if they don’t take part in the same overproduction/overconsumption cycle.
On Twitter last week, I ran across a post by one of the most insightful organizations that I follow.
This tweet from @TrustedClothes said,
“ Imagine a world with no need to follow the latest fashion trends or buy luxurious brands.”
“Wow!”, I thought, what a great idea, but, isn’t that an impossible goal! How can we turn that giant truck of disposable clothes around to prevent them from being distributed or for that matter, being made in the first place? How can we re-educate the consumer to not prefer to shop for clothes every two weeks and purchase items they don’t need that sit in their closet or get thrown away after one wearing?
If we, designers and manufacturers, want to produce items in a sustainable way, the customer must be retrained to accept products that are made to last, sold at a slower pace and marketed as pieces that are beyond trends. After all, fashion professionals and the fashion marketing apparatus are what created the ridiculous cycle of fast fashion in the first place. We can halt it too!
If you’re going to buy in to sustainable manufacturing, here’s a bit of advice to offer your customer when trying to re-educate them: Why keep a huge volume of clothes in your closet(s)? Who are you trying to impress? What do you think you’re missing out on? As Trusted Clothes said:
“Confidence is key to success because it does not matter what other people think about your clothing……… people must live in a compact way to ensure that their environmental footprint is at the minimum.”
That is, customers, be yourself! Wear what really looks good on you in silhouette, color, print and detail not what shops tell you to wear. Buy basic pieces of great quality and shop with a plan like Tim Gunn suggests in his book, Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style.
Designers! Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your pieces need to be boring or predictable to be beyond trends. Stay true to your own aesthetic while producing pieces that you know your customer can appreciate, be satisfied with and enjoy wearing for years. Look at the example of American Giant and their famous, extremely successful, made in America, $89, full zip hoody
For more advice on consuming sustainably, start following Trusted Clothes on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. They are in the business of “promoting ethical, sustainable and healthy fashion.” They have recognized that “in terms of environmental impact, the (fashion) industry is in the same ballpark as Fossil Fuels and Factory Farming making it a significant contributor to global environmental and health issues. Secondly the nature of the industry and supply chains creates a starting point for poverty, slavery, child labor, human trafficking, abuse, safety issues and…. many other very bad things.” As an apparel/accessories designer or manufacturer and consumer, why would you want to be part of that? Do yourself a favor, stay informed! Visit their website www.trustedclothes.com You need to know what they’re saying.
Mary Ruth, Owner of United Sewing and Design has over 30 years experience in the manufacturing of products by sewing and is author of “Industry Sewing Construction Methods” http://amzn.to/2yMxMmk. Her focus is on design, entrepreneurship; social enterprise; the connections between the environment, the apparel industry, and manufacturing; and how owners can leverage artistic methods to benefit their business.