Lately I’ve been thinking about the concept of artisanal craftsmanship. Right now, the fashion industry loves the word “artisan” – it seems to be everywhere these days. The more I see it, the more I wonder: what does artisan mean? What qualifies someone’s work as artisanal? As I mulled these questions over in my mind on a bumpy NY-bound flight, I happened to notice my seat-mate’s coffee cup: when “artisan” shows up on an Einstein’s to-go cup, we need to have a talk.
My first step was to consult the experts, Merriam and Webster:
: a person who is skilled at making things by hand
: one that produces something in limited quantities often using traditional methods
May I elaborate a little? Artisans are masters of their craft. They have studied and honed their skill to a point of expertise: they are PhD-level makers. They have not turned to mechanization of tasks, and they do not cut corners in order to decrease costs, save time, or enhance profit margins. Continue reading
The names Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, and Alexander McQueen have very strong connotations for consumers all over the world. Even for those of us who have never been a customer, each name stands for something. Luxury, craftsmanship, heritage, and quality are a few of the words that come to my mind. Expensive and aspirational might be others. If I asked a group of 100 people, I’m sure many of these characteristics would surface again and again. One word I am fairly certain would not make an appearance? Sustainable. Continue reading
If I had to pay me to make my clothes, I couldn’t afford it.
Ignore the reflexive nature of that statement for a minute and allow me to explain.
Back in November I took a course at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn where I learned how to drape muslin on a dress form and turn my creation into a paper pattern. Naturally I got it into my head that after this one course, I would never need to buy another piece of clothing because I’d be capable of making my own. While I did make significant strides in that direction, I am by no means there yet – or even close. Since taking the class, I have made a total of one skirt. Slow clap? Continue reading
It’s almost here.
The day retailers anxiously await, the day their sales finally turn to black. The story goes that retailers operate at a financial loss for most of the year; it isn’t until the holiday season (which kicks off with Black Friday) that they generate a profit. Another version attributes the name “Black Friday” to the massive traffic jams and overcrowded sidewalks that result from the flood of people racing to scoop up good deals. In the midst of this chaos, nobody thinks – they just do. Continue reading
The average American buys 68 new pieces of clothing every year. I recently did an inventory of my closet to see how many pieces I had in total and it wasn’t pretty. My cheeks are burning red as I type this, but here’s the breakdown:
- Shirts: 58
- Sweaters: 15
- Vests/Outerwear: 13
- Pants: 9
- Skirts/Dresses: 13 (there are more but all my summer clothes are in a box somewhere)
- Shoes: 24
The sad thing is that these numbers represent my closet after a major downsizing operation and they don’t include any of my athletic apparel. I’d be lying if I told you I wear all of these pieces regularly – it’s not possible. It was quite the wake-up call, so I moved into action. Or rather, inaction. Continue reading
Earlier this week, Levi’s released a graphic showing how much water could have been saved if everyone wearing Levi’s in California had washed their jeans according to the care instructions:
Talk about putting things in perspective. 35 billion liters. All because we’ve been programmed to think our clothes are not clean if they aren’t washed after every use. Kate Fletcher, the founder of the slow fashion movement, put it this way:
“Keeping clean used to be about disease prevention, but now the culture of whiter than white has weakened our immune systems, lined the pockets of detergent manufacturers, and led to the startling fact that the energy needed to wash your favorite garment is about six times that needed to make it.”
You read that right: 75-80% of the total environmental impact of a shirt is due to consumer care. On average, garments are washed after 2-3 days of use, yet only 7.5% of laundry is actually heavily soiled. Continue reading
Otherwise known as: what happens when you take scissors to your clothes.
Let me preface this post by saying this is not something I excel at. Other than changing a few hemlines over the years, I have never looked into my closet and wondered which item I wanted to cut apart that day. This idea is daunting in some respects, because why would I tear apart an item I paid for? Somebody took the time to make my clothes and they look just fine as they are – in fact that’s why I bought them…
Valid points all around, but what about those clothes that you don’t love anymore? Or the one with the awkward fit or the stain on the collar or the hole in the sleeve? Most likely those pieces are headed to the trash can (provided that they aren’t in good enough condition to be donated). If that’s your answer – congrats! You are 100% average. That’s because the average American throws away 68 pounds of clothing every year. Continue reading
I have loved fashion for a long time. Somewhere between picking out my outfits for school and using a sewing machine for the first time, I decided I wanted to be part of the fashion industry in one way or another. As I grew older, I did my best to figure out what this would look like: I joined a fashion board at a local retailer, took summer classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology, worked as a sales associate at some of my favorite stores, and ultimately pursued a degree in fashion merchandising. Besides one misguided semester in college when I thought I should study biology and become a doctor, fashion is all I’ve ever considered for my career. So, you can imagine the sinking feeling I experienced when I discovered the immense gap that exists between the values of this industry and the ones I hold personally.
Halfway through my degree program I found myself thinking, “Is this really the industry where I want to build my career?” Continue reading