How You Can Change Your Bad Consuming Habits and Not End Up Naked

Shop at a Locally Owned Boutique
Photo by Clark Street Mercantile on Unsplash

If you’ve been paying attention to global trade issues lately, you’ve undoubtedly run across discussions about fair wages also known as a “living wage.” Simply put, a living wage is a close approximation of the amount of money it would cost to support a single person or family in the area in which they live. This well written article, by on racked.com about the apparel giant H&M, discusses why they probably aren’t paying their workers a living wage, what it means to make sure a labor force benefits from good pay and how you can make a difference. Please take the time to read it and visit the great links embedded in there. When the people you’ll read about who make the apparel you buy and wear live with their families on the other side of the world, it’s easy to put them out of your mind. However, your consumption of a $10 t-shirt or $20 pair of pants at H&M, Target, Uniqlo or other importer of apparel manufactured overseas impacts the wages of those workers. Your bad consumption habits are denying them a living wage.

The lack of a living wage and safe working conditions for the workers who manufacture over 90% of the apparel available for us to buy in the U.S. is nothing new. I’ve been covering this issue in my lectures, writing and social media for over a decade. So, let’s skip to the questions I know you’re going to ask, “Why should I care? I can’t change what’s in the store to buy. Isn’t it cheaper to live there anyway? I don’t set the prices. I’m just one person. How can I come up with the solution?” Here’s an answer you can use, with some simple steps you can adopt that aren’t too difficult or too expensive.

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United Sewing and Design: Report on Employment and Environmental Impact 2016-2017

Tote bags with phone pockets and zippered pouches handcrafted for White Horse Style from reclaimed vinyl banners.
Tote bags with phone pockets and zippered pouches handcrafted for White Horse Style from reclaimed vinyl banners.

As part of their compact with the communities they serve, social enterprises publish a report to document their impact in the areas they focus on. As a social enterprise, the two areas that United Sewing and Design focuses on are creating work opportunities for marginalized individuals facing barriers to achieving well paid employment and manufacturing products with materials removed from the waste stream for our line “White Horse Style.” (For a portfolio of White Horse Style products visit this page.) Currently, United Sewing and Design works with independent contractors to manufacture products for individual, corporate and non-profit clients. For a profile on Green Banana Paper Company, one of our clients whose company manufactures accessories from recycled banana fiber, click here. For more info, be sure to check out the helpful links at the bottom.

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Get Off the Over-consumption Truck!

trusted clothes post
Photo by Yuriy Trubitsyn on Unsplash

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.

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Truly Satisfying Your Customer

Industry Clothing Construction Methods

In today’s business climate, every advantage counts.  To truly understand what your customer wants, you have to listen to them. This short excerpt from the introduction to my book, Industry Clothing Construction Methods, highlights the essential concept of product benefits and the features that create them. Although the example is apparel, the design of any product could be made more attractive to customers by understanding these simple concepts and making them the core of your process.

“Designers hear the consumer say that apparel should offer benefits. Consumers believe that apparel benefits should help them achieve their goals as individuals, such as feeling more self-confident, gaining respect, saving time and money, attaining comfort during physical activity, attracting a lover, fitting into a social group or expressing them selves. The task for a fashion professional then is to determine what features should be included in the garments to achieve those apparel benefits. The core of the designer’s, merchandiser’s or buyer’s craft in the ready-to-wear industry is to find the right combination of features–silhouette, fit, shape, color, laundering method, fabric, texture, price, and so on–that entice customers to look, try-on, and feel satisfied  with their apparel purchase.”

For more on this topic, additional insight into the apparel merchandising process, and a wealth of concrete information on the construction of retail apparel, add Industry Clothing Construction Methods to your toolkit for manufacturing success.

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Can I Get That on Sale??

sale sign

Everyone loves a “deal,” right? We rarely purchase anything that isn’t “on sale.” We love getting one over on the store, bargaining down a vendor or stocking closets full of discounted items that we’ll never use. We are rewarded for this behavior by our peers, the media and the stores themselves.

Insisting on a low price or a markdown on everything is a recent invention. Decades ago, when we knew the seamstress who made our clothes and the man down the street crafted our furniture, we expected to pay a “fair” price for the things we bought from them. However, we don’t remember or haven’t been taught that we should expect to own well-made objects, use them in our daily lives and then pass them on. If things wear out, we don’t know how to refurbish or re-purpose. In a few weeks, we get tired of things that are labelled as “out-of-style.”

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How You Can Put Quality to Work

Consistently Great Quality Generates Success

Tara and Tony Costanzo

While the theory behind quality can be debated endlessly, the value of putting quality first in your business is irrefutable. As discussed in our past post “High Quality: Competitive Advantage or Pointless Expense,” quality is one of the factors that you can use to differentiate yourself from overseas competition.   Tara and Tony Costanzo, of Costanza Clothing, (founded in 2002), have leveraged quality in service, materials and workmanship as an integral part of business success.  They have made it their mission to offer a “best dressed” option to professional men and women throughout the U.S.. Their custom made suits are complimented by their expert personal styling and fit guidance. On their website you can sign up for their newsletter (always informing), have your style questions answered, or contact them to schedule a personal fitting at a time the works with your schedule.  Here’s an excerpt from an interview we did a while back.

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High Quality: Competitive Advantage or Pointless Expense?

Last week we explored the idea of innovation as a necessary component of competitiveness for the U.S. sewn products industry. This week, I take up a topic which has been the downfall of the world wide apparel industry for almost 20 years–quality.

Quality as the Problem

Much has been written on the depressing collapse in quality of the fashion industry, most notably by Teri Agins in her book, “The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever.” In the 1990’s, one could easily find well made designer apparel at retailers like Bergdorf Goodman, such as fully lined women’s slacks of a pants

beautiful wool, with each pant seam allowance carefully completed with a Hong Kong finish. As Agins points out, the collapse began when giant conglomerates instead of namesake designers became the owners of major fashion labels. Instead of the designer mandating the quality of fabrics and construction; stock holders, demanding ever higher profit margins; began to cut more and more corners. They discovered that the majority of customers had forgotten what their parents knew–garments can be made with quality materials and workmanship and styled with a timeless look. Fortunately for the stock holders, customers had begun to disconnect quality of workmanship and materials from price. Price now became a superficial mark of brand distinction and nothing more. The advent of “fast fashion,” turning around new styles in two weeks or less, was the pit at the bottom.

Customers shopping for ready-to-wear have been well trained to expect poor quality new styles in the shops every time they go in. However, the manufacturing model which enables this system to be profitable is not possible in the U.S.

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