It's fashion revolution week, a movement facilitating and broadening the conversation of...
WHO MADE MY CLOTHES!?
Today, I am going to have a little fun and break down my own understanding of the meaning behind the words: who, made, my, clothes, and how they relate. Let's jump right in!
First there are a tonne of people involved. We have the end user, the people who assemble what we are wearing, and everyone in between...
The amount of people alone it takes to make the clothing many of us wear everyday is incredibly high. So, how can we really think that everyone is getting paid adequately and being treated fairly? #foodforthought
The wearer is often more than one person. Anytime something is re-sold, donated, or recycled, it increases the chances to end up on the back of another person. While a garment can consider itself 'lucky' if it finds more than one home in it's lifetime, that initial purchase alone is what pays for the following.
The people who assemble an item are often several. From the sewers, the fabric cutters, the quality checkers, to the owners of the hands that attach the notions, trims, labels, hardware, tags, packaging...the list goes on. These people are specialized in what they do, and the garment gets passed around like a hot potato.
The people in between are numerous and differ depending on how each company involved in organized, and there are several different companies involved. You have designers who often work in teams, merchandisers and buyers, planners and heads of departments, developers, raw material and R&D teams, I could probably fill the whole page if I kept going. That's not even taking production of materials, product distribution and sales into account.
While it is possible for some people to make their own clothes, it is certainly not commonplace. Even then, the materials they use have often gone through a similarly large amount of hands before finding the backs of their initial owners.
Sure it creates jobs, some of which I have been fortunate to hold, yet the entire structure of the industry and it's vastness often dictate what we (think we) want, populating an overloading amount of stimuli and feeding our consumeristic behaviours. The never ending rat race to proposed ideals and happiness that simply isn't real.
So, next time we see that cute and cheap item that we don't actually need, it may help to think about all the people involved and how exactly we are voting with our choices and ongoing spending habits. How much transparency are we provided into the production cycle by the brands and designers we buy from? There are several companies and designers out there doing amazing things to improve the fashion and garment landscape. While their items may cost more, it is definitely more nourishing for the soul to know the story behind what you are wearing. While you may not be able to make every purchase this way, it is always worth the consideration.
Now let's talk about what it takes to make something.
While I can only speak from my own areas of expertise, and there are several other areas that could be addressed, the level of knowledge required to make clothes is quite specialized and relatively high, especially if you want clothing of quality. I have been quite pleased to find that most women in my life who do not work directly in the industry actually have quite an extensive range of garment knowledge. This makes their choices to be more in line with what they truly want, having their wardrobe choices last longer than average. Although like me, many of them still have an abundance of clothing at their disposal.
Garment knowledge is one thing, production and the industry is another.
Regardless, what it takes to make something of quality is a library of terminology and know how. I am often told it is like speaking another language. There are fibre and material types, processing and finishing methods, pattern making, machinery parts, garment types, seams, stitching, various other garment components, technology, brand and company lingo, industry standards, and the looong list of things I am forgetting. On top of that there are the actual skills required to design, develop, produce, assemble and distribute the wares. This list of skills is equally as long as the terminology, and each of them takes time to learn how to do well.
So, it is easy to see why we have other people making our clothes...we can't all specialize in the same thing, nor would we want to.
This may be my favourite part of the equation. When it comes to my clothes: I own them, I bought them, they are things I have as part of my life. They take up (literal and figurative) space in my life. Whether it was a choice I made or an impulsive decision, they ended up in MY closet or drawers, and are there for me to wear on any given day.
Sometimes I believe it is easy for us to disassociate ourselves from our clothes and the choices that had us collect them in the first place. It is easier to forget why we buy, and easier to be swept up in the cycle of consumerism. It is easier to 'go with the flow' rather than think critically and make a difficult, often life changing choice.
I was at a fashion show just the other day, helping out behind the scenes. There were so many beautiful items of clothing at very high price points. Clothes to be 'admired from afar', clothes that I self admittedly only looked at through the shop windows. Yet, when I had a moment of discussing the sticker shock with a fellow colleague, I realized that I would much rather save and invest in one or two pieces that I absolutely loved and take care of, then have an abundance of things that are 'just ok, for now'.
My, how things have changed as my perspective has broadened.
Our very own needs and wants are often fed to us through marketing, advertising and media. This is nothing new. While we often believe we think for ourselves, that's less and less the case. When you stop and really think about what it is you want... What is it you truly want? How difficult is that to answer truthfully? And how long does it take you to come up with an answer, if you come up with one at all? That is, an answer that truly feels good deep down in your soul, one that resonates with your entire being, one that you want to shout out loud from a mountain-top. My guess is that your answer is not 'a bunch of stuff', let alone too many cheap clothes stuffing up your closet.
Taking personal ownership with our choices, what we buy and what we choose to consume, plays an integral part in our overall well-being. I am plenty flawed in this area, while I keep moving towards a more sustainable future I hope to see you along side me. This conversation helps bring us closer to that future.
While it may seem obvious as to why we wear clothes, it is not simply for the reason they came into existence. Clothing primarily serves a purpose, part and parcel with survival. Our personal understanding of that purpose varies as many ways as there are people in the world. Our ability to express ourselves through what we wear, helps us understand each other. It is a means of communication, ultimately increasing our chances of survival and ability to thrive. All to say, we have a lot more options at our disposal today then ever before, and the reasons why we wear what we do have been complicated with mixed messaging. Starting to define our own style preferences and silencing the chitter chatter all around us, can only provide a positive influence in our clothing choices moving forward.
These are choices we make everyday, whether we recognize them or not. What and how we choose to wear, is a direct reflection of ourselves, our communities and what we are willing to stand for. It is definitely worth taking some time to consider the choices we are making and the impact we are having.
If something has come up for you while reading this, I encourage you to have the conversation with people in your life. Journey into unknown territory and challenge yourself. If you are not sure where to start, talk to people you trust and love first.
Remember to ask yourself the question: Who made my clothes?
Ask the brands you buy from to answer it for you. Post a picture of your clothing label to social media with the hashtag #whomademyclothes
Join the conversation and find out more at http://fashionrevolution.org/