My inbox is regularly clogged with press releases announcing new collections. Said press releases usually go straight to the trash folder upon receipt. It’s not that I’m against new clothing lines or whatevs. It’s that “new” alone isn’t enough to pique my interest anymore.
To thrift a Goodwill Outlet Center is to realize the overwhelming amount of unused textile excess produced by our material world. Is a lot of that excess uber fugly? You bet, and therein lies the challenge for burgeoning designers.
Sketching out a collection, outsourcing the labor, and producing the wares en masse with zero regard for the environmental impact of the endeavor amounts to business as usual. Making something from nothing is the norm. There’s nothing groundbreaking about what’s already been done.
Making something from something – breaking down or restyling fabric that’s already out there – is a refreshing, forward-thinking approach to fashion that improves on its checkered past.
De-materialization makes green more than a buzzword: ALIOMI suggests it’s the new black.
The concept for ALIOMI started years ago, with a few Sarah Lawrence undergrads too broke to shop retail. They became seasoned thrifters, then they took it to the next level, re-tweaking and embellishing their secondhand finds to suit their badass style and unique taste. Necessity truly is the mother of inventive fashion lines.
ALIOMI is a mishmash of vintage fabulosity and DIY gems. I mean, I can stud and scissor, but these girls can STUD and SCISSOR. I’ve seen the line up close: The embellishment might be done by hand, but there’s nothing DIY about it. It’s professional, artful, responsibly made and one-of-a-kind.
The goods pictured above range from $28 – $145 – in all honesty, I’m usually not on board with $76.00 embellished cutoffs. Had I not seen this line in person, I might have rationalized against a splurge of this ilk on the grounds that I could DIY something equally amazing for less.
Regardless of whether or not that’s the case, finding, distressing, and studding the shorts myself would take four hours, minimum. Six if I held myself to the perfectionism characteristic of ALIOMI’s DIY stuffs. The shorts in question, at $76.00, amount to $12.66 an hour for six hours of work.
My point? The thought, time and energy that go into crafting a kickass reconstructed item are extensive, hence the reason most reworked vintage lines have an average per-item cost of over $250. ALIOMI’s price points are uber reasonable in comparison.
Wanna help this stellar new line get off the ground? Donate a buck or two to their Kickstarter campaign.
Cheers to socially and environmentally conscious sartorial endeavors of this ilk. IMHO, up-and-coming designers would be wise to take a cue from ALIOMI, and use de-materialization to inform their future lines.
It’d certainly make for some inspiring press releases.
For visible wares, my cheapness knows no bounds. Undergarments are a different story.
I put on my first Hanky Panky Signature Lace Low-Rise Thong five years ago. I’ve been hemorrhaging money on them ever since.
I’ve tried cheaping out on them countless times in the past, obvs – they’re on the borderline-ludicrous end of the intimates scale, what with their being $20 a pop and all. I eventually realized the following:
A Hanky Panky copycat is like a vegan dairy product. It serves its purpose, but it still feels wrong.
HP’s cost a whole four dollars less at Loehmann’s, but their selection totally blows in my experience. I’ve been looking for an excuse to pay full price, and this morning – whilst trolling shopbop’s Earth Friendly tab for Oy Vey-inspiring items – I FOUND IT.
The Cotton With A Conscience Low-Rise T-Shirt Thong just made $20 underwear a whole lot easier to justify.
I realize organically grown cotton sometimes sounds more eco-chic than it is: If you chuck what you don’t sell for the sake of your brand, it doesn’t matter what it’s made of. Environmental responsibility starts with making less trash (I’m looking at you, H&M). But I’m optimistic about Hanky Panky’s earth friendly line.
Pop Quiz: Manufacturing garments en masse usually yields leftover fabric, sometimes in pieces too small to be used. Hanky Panky disposes of their fabric leftovers by…
(a) Burning them; their latest collection’s Rodarte-inspired.
(b) Throwing them out with the trash, because other means of disposal are a pain in the ass.
(c) Donating them to local designers so they can be used in the making of new clothes.
It’s (c)! For reals! I saw the phenomenon up close a few months ago at AuH20. Kate was rifling through a box of fabric, which I immediately recognized as Hanky Panky’s magical lace. I learned that Hanky Panky doesn’t just donate boxes of excess fabric to local designers – they actually deliver the goods so recipients don’t have to worry about transport.
All kinds of awesome. I’m buying the T-Shirt Thong circa now.
Recycled, upcycled, repurposed, repossessed, green. All synonyms for an adjective the industry side of fashion continually mucks up – SUSTAINABLE.
Mass retailers might not get it, but Etsy’s got it nailed. Here’s a sprinkling of well-priced green goodness from a few of the site’s rockstar sellers.
Necktie Dress, $72.00, Painted Oyster.
Upcycled Canvas/Leather Bowler, $135.00; Upcycled Leather Messenger Bag (made from vintage stirrups!), $190.00, Lucciao.
Bohemian Rhapsody Upcycled Dress, $34.00, Recycled Glamour.
Recycled Leather Studded Wrap Mini Spat, $14.00, Bagavond – an infusion of color is all those black pumps need to make ‘em sing for spring.
Upcycled Swayfull Tunic, $45.00, lucyvnz – screams Anthropologie, except cooler and cheaper.
Happy Earth Day, peeps. Let’s celebrate it by starting with your closet.
FACT: The average woman’s closet is a cesspool of material waste.
Recall the inspiration for the first installment of Wardrobe Bitchslap, if you will. The Pareto Principle is its technical moniker; the Closeto Principle is its lame-in-hindsight Cheap JAP designation; cut all the bull, and it’s the 80-by-20 theory.
80-by-20 theory in world of business —–> 80% of sales come from 20% of clients.
80-by-20 theory in world of wardrobe —–> 80% of outfits come from 20% of clothes.
We’ve been through this. We know only twenty percent of everything we own gets worn on a regular basis. We know we should probably reassess our YAYs, NAYs and OY VEYs, figure out what works, toss what doesn’t, and shop according to the results of our respective Wardrobe Bitchslaps in the future to ensure that we actually use what we buy.
Fast forward one year, and we’re back at square one.
There’s nothing royal about the “we” repeated above. I can’t speak to the aftermath of your Wardrobe Bitchslaps – maybe you managed to disprove the 80-20 theory, maybe you really do wear what’s in your closet often enough to have zero regrets about buying it – I can only speak from personal experience.
Here’s a snapshot of MY closet post-Bitchslap, circa one year later:
What the eff happened? I initially made a valiant effort to assess what I wanted in relation to my YAYs pre-purchase. Why couldn’t I keep it up? Because in a stuff-saturated culture, buying only things you’ll actually use is a tall order. The Thing Buzz is a ticking time bomb set to derail your good intentions.
Said Thing Buzz looks something like this: You go shopping for something you need, you can’t find it, you grow irritated, and the bust pisses you off to the point of relapse. You just want to buy SOMETHING, ANYTHING, it doesn’t effing matter WHAT it is. The prospect of going home without a material treat – without the Buzz – is simply too disheartening to bear. So you make an exception.
I don’t really wear necklaces, but this one’s soooo cute; I’m not a skirt person, but it’s only $5; the last time I wore heels this high I broke my ankle, but these are too hot to refuse… and BAM! Stuff you don’t need and won’t wear slowly creeps into your closet.
This leaves us with two options. We can cut ourselves off from media, internet, television, blackberries, iPads and everything else bound to influence our buying behavior, and go all Walden Pond and shit. Or we can keep trying.
You’re probs wondering if this tangential diatribe has anything to do with environmental consciousness a la Earth Day, so let’s connect the dots. Say you buy a top at H&M that proves an impulse purchase – a top that sits in your closet barely-worn until it gets donated to charity or whatevs. H&M doesn’t know that you bought it and didn’t wear it – it just knows X amount of customers bought Y top in Z week, and re-stocks accordingly.
One shopper’s erroneous top purchase doesn’t tip the scales, but think about how many other shoppers make the same mistake. I know I have. Put us all together – all of us who shop at H&M and buy tops we never wear – and the numbers are enough to cause a significant increase in the production of H&M tops, and an unnecessary one at that. The result isn’t just more tops – it’s all the environmental no-nos the manufacturing of those tops creates.
One shopper’s Thing Buzz resistance doesn’t tip the scales either, but what if most of us managed to abstain from an H&M impulse buy? X amount of customers wouldn’t have bought Y top in Z week; H&M wouldn’t have needed to re-stock accordingly; a decrease in production means a decrease in environmental no-nos; etc.
There’s a margin for Thing Buzz error in secondhand shopping too. An impulse buy shopped resale might have zero carbon footprint, but if it’s a thing you end up not wearing, it’s a karmic no-no. You’ve robbed someone else of a thriftastic score! Tsk, Tsk.
Bottom line? What you buy isn’t inconsequential, regardless of how you shop it. Be brutally honest with yourself about whether or not you’ll wear it, and you’ll buy less by default. You’ll be more likely to wear what you do buy, and your closet will be greener for it…and not because you stock it with $180 organic hemp cotton bamboo tee-shirts either. A closet of things you wear regularly, things purchased not in the spirit of excess but in the spirit of conservation, is a small step toward making every day earth day (at least where fashion’s concerned).
Oh, riiiiight. All this warmth and fuzziness almost made me forget about the part where my closet is a total shitshow. It’s not easy to shop according to what you wear in lieu of what you want in a given moment, but eff it – I’m giving it a whirl anyway. Earth Day is a day for resolutions. Today, I resolve to reassess what I wear (and donate what I don’t) so I can shop smarter in the future.
Today, I resolve to not buy overpriced shoes made from soda cans on the grounds that they’re green.
Today, I bitchslap my wardrobe. Again.
Last week, the Financial Times explored Sustainable Fashion and actually had the cojones to ask “What does green mean?”
Green means eco chic! Green means good for the earth! Green means organic hemp cotton tees made from soda can tabs, which are like so hot right now for Spring! Or something.
At a Copenhagen conference designed to promote fashion’s environmental agenda, it’s unsurprising that the question “How do you define sustainable fashion?” came up. What was shocking were the responses. Let’s just say they were colorful, if not concrete:
Quality items that stand the test of time… a timeless handbag that you wear again and again, and can pass on… – Frida Giannini, Creative Director of Gucci
… a commitment to the traditional techniques, and not just the art, of making clothes. I work today in the same way that I first learnt in the ateliers of Balenciaga and Lanvin 50 years ago…clothes that are not only beautiful but extremely well made. – Oscar de la Renta
… locally sourced materials that don’t pollute in their creation or demise (preferably recycled) and with limited transportation to achieve the completed product. – Anya Hindmarch
… sustainable fashion is a contradiction in terms. It refers to how the fabric used for a new garment has been produced … I believe, we need to consider this issue from a more macro and profound perspective. Though a cotton may be unbleached, we need to examine how it arrives to the manufacturer or to us the wearer. What was the carbon imprint of its delivery, for example? – Dries van Noten
At first glance, it seems like no one has any effing idea what they’re talking about. Giannini ignores the question altogether and defines ‘investment piece’ instead; de la Renta gives a nostalgic diatribe on the history of couture. Hindmarch kinda gets it, but fails to pinpoint the kinds of materials that don’t pollute in their creation or demise. Van Noten is the only one who says something of note, and no, I’m not talking about the part where he focuses on the ‘carbon imprint’ of transporting materials in lieu of addressing the damage his industry’s manufacturing practices wreak on the earth.
Sustainable fashion is a contradiction in terms.
Riddle me this: If a fashion outsider like myself can Google her way to an explicit answer as to what sustainable fashion is in two and a half minutes, is it plausible that the hacks quoted above can’t do the same (and by that I mean order their assistants to do it for them)?
I don’t THINK so. The luxury goods industry’s collective inability to define sustainable fashion isn’t a mark of ignorance. It’s a survival tactic.
Let’s cut to the chase of Wikipedia’s extensive article on what constitutes Sustainability by scrolling to the section on Materials:
Sustainable use of materials has targeted the idea of dematerialization, converting the linear path of materials (extraction, use, disposal in landfill) to a circular material flow that reuses materials as much as possible, much like the cycling and reuse of waste in nature. This approach is supported by product stewardship and the increasing use of material flow analysis at all levels, especially individual countries and the global economy.
The luxury goods industry’s existence hinges on creating the desire for excess, and on manufacturing and selling products designed to satiate that desire. It tells us to want something when it’s not yet available; we can’t have it, we want it more; it becomes available; we buy it; it tells us to want something else.
Dematerialization means reducing the quantity of materials required for a given product i.e. doing more with less. Apply this principle to an industry founded on the big M (MORE) and it doesn’t compute. The three Rs of sustainability are fashion’s ultimate saboteur.
Reorienting itself to one kind of green means the sacrifice of the dollar kind, and fashion no likey that. So the luxury goods industry masks the problem in soundbites and buzzwords, and enacts PR-friendly changes designed to promote the appearance of giving a shit beyond the status quo. It revels in organic/ethical/environmentally-friendly/eco chic, and claims green as its own by calling it the new black. Sustainability becomes its tort reform - a frivolous sideshow designed to distract consumers from what really needs to be done.
The grand poobahs queried in FT’s article are all too aware of this. I mean, what are they going to say, sustainable fashion means we all have to stop making new crap? Playing dumb’s a hell of a lot easier. Also more lucrative. But avoiding the question isn’t a sustainable solution (pun intended, har har).
Sustainable fashion is a contradiction in terms as it applies to designers, to the luxury goods industry, to new merchandise. Whether or not it exists in the form of thrift, resale, vintage and/or consignment depends on how you define fashion – I define it as “stuff you like to wear,” so to me, gently-worn merch in sync with my personal taste epitomizes sustainable fashion. It’s an answer for environmentally-conscious consumers. But it doesn’t do jack to address the luxury goods industry, and (more importantly) keeping the millions connected to it employed.
Is it possible for fashion to embrace its doppelganger, to produce sustainable goods, to do more with less?
You bet. (See?! I’m not ALL doom and gloom.) A workable definition of sustainable fashion exists – one that might even be realistic on an industry-wide scale. (Provided said industry takes its head out of its ass and admits it has a problem. Is there a Promises program for an addiction to creating epic amounts of waste in the name of fashion?)
Stay tuned for the next installment.