True cost of fashion

Im mad, and really upset. I’ve tried so hard the last year to make some big strides in reconstructing my wardrobe, and continuing to learn what really happens when our clothes are made. I stripped my entire wardrobe of anything from Forever 21 (I donated it all), and have kept my promise that when I buy new clothing, it will only be US made. Then I read something like this, Forever 21 will be opening more stores with cheaper clothes, and I think how?? WHY??

These F12 Red stores, as they’re calling them, will focus on selling the cheapest basics already carried at Forever 21 in one separate store. It just seems they’re going the absolute opposite way. A few of the comments on that post were so cringe worthy too -

“Regular F21 shoppers like myself understand that these aren’t items made to last a lifetime–they’re fad items for a reason…Seriously, I love this company. It’s impressively on-trend (like, right there with the designers…) and I’ve gotten some amazing pieces from the store. Long live F21!!!”

to

“I love F21 but some of their stuff is way over priced”

It just proves how unaware people are at the severity of this issue

This video is almost a year old, but still rings so true.

The video is absolutely right in saying there is a complete disconnect between how the item is made and the consumer. It’s an unsustainable business model, and completely irresponsible. I wasn’t going to publish this post at first…for many reasons – I’m not perfect, I don’t have a solution for everyone, and it’s hard to write and read such words on a blog. But you know what, people are dying to make stupid fucking tshirts and we want to pretend like nothing is going on?

I’d love to hear your guys’ opinions on this – good and bad. It’s a conversation we need to start having more.

 

Spotlight on: Marine Layer

Move over American Apparel, Marine Layer is the new kid in town making waves. You may be familiar with this image below, it’s the head image at my Shop Made in the USA page, and makes a subtle but important statement. So I knew Marine Layer would be the perfect brand to feature in my next Spotlight series, where I feature great brands manufacturing in the USA.

I love the short and sweet story on their website

Everyone has a few perfect shirts. The ones that fit you just right; broken in over years of washing.

THE DAY HIS GIRLFRIEND THREW AWAY HIS FAVORITE SHIRT, MIKE NATENSHON STARTED WORKING ON MARINE LAYER

…that was perfectly soft and great fitting right out of the gates. It took a couple of big credit card bills and over a year of development to make the first run of shirts, but they were worth the wait.Mike set up “shop” in his living room in San Francisco and sold the first hundred shirts in just a few weeks.

Mike set up “shop” in his living room in San Francisco and sold the first hundred shirts in just a few weeks. Every step of our production process happens in California. This minimizes our environmental footprint and supports three American factories that have been in business for over 25 years.

Our custom fabric is a blend of two yarns, Pima Cotton and MicroModal, produced by Lensiz AG. Modal is a bio-based fabric that comes from recycled Beech Wood

In a perfect world, couldn’t all brands envision themselves like that? It’s SO bizarre that they don’t already (because for most, it’s not a labor of love, but of money).

I’m lucky to have discovered the brand a year ago when I was researching brands that are Made in the USA, but also because we have a store here in San Francisco (where they’re still centralized!). But I see they are growing, so lets support small brands like these that are making strides! I’m saving up to bring home an awesome coat I saw in their store! But also have an eye on their crazy soft tshirts and cute button up shirts (PLUS, it’s not just women’s clothes, LOTS of things for men too!)

Marine Layer clothing Marine Layer clothing Marine Layer clothing Marine Layer clothing Marine Layer clothing

Let’s show Marine Layer some love :)

Journey of a dress

I’ve had some incredible luck over the years finding some great Diane Von Furstenberg clothes (from sales, second-hand, to thrifting!). She was recently recognized for her achievements via a museum exhibition honoring her work as a designer – for revolutionizing women’s wear and making the wrap dress a wardrobe staple. I’m so incredibly lucky to have gotten this wrap dress recently. I’m perfectly convinced that you don’t have to wear a short dress to feel sexy. Date night never looked this good :)

Dress: Diane Von Furstenberg (here’s one for sale on eBay). Shoes: YSL (from flea market, yes, a flea market. Ebay to the rescue again). Lipstick: NARS Red Square, my new favorite red!

Thrift Eye, fashion blog, style blog, diane von furstenberg star dress, dvf wrap dress, ysl tribute heels, nars red square

Thrift Eye, fashion blog, style blog, diane von furstenberg star dress, dvf wrap dress, ysl tribute heels, nars red square

Thrift Eye, fashion blog, style blog, diane von furstenberg star dress, dvf wrap dress, ysl tribute heels, nars red square

Spotlight on: Born Free

It’s been quite a bit since I’ve done on of my “Spotlight” series posts – which again is a series of posts featuring brands, both large and small, that have that have a mission to create fashionable things of great quality and are Made in the USA for men, women, and children too.

So when an email about Born Free Hit my inbox recently, I was very intrigued to check it out. Coming as a vision of the Shopbop team where they explain

“Shopbop joined forces with Born Free, (led by John Megrue), Anna Wintour and Diane von Furstenberg in conjunction with Amazon Fashion, MAC AIDS Fund and 22 leading women in fashion, in an effort to raise awareness and support for the elimination of mother-to-child HIV transmission. The 22 top designers who have contributed to the collection are mothers themselves and therefore, strongly connected to this initiative.”

At first I thought to myself, it sounds great, but where is it made?! And SO surprised to see a majority of the items are in fact made in the USA, even when some of the collaborating brands themselves don’t manufacture in the USA. This was also delightful to read “the entire collection, including clothing and accessories for women and children, is based on prints from Wangechi Mutu, a celebrated Kenyan-born New York- based visual artist.” How awesome is that?! Let’s bring more things like this to fruition!Shopbop born free Shopbop born free

Many of the grown up looks come with a child version as well! I love the idea of this.

I wish more stores and brands would undertake jobs of this size – this is what ethical fashion can look like! Any suggestions or recommendations on who you would like me to feature next?

Global manufacturing of fabrics part 2

Hope you enjoyed Part 1 of this global fabrics series – lets keep going

Peru

When one thinks about wool, it’s easy to think about sheep, but many South American countries have been making their own fabrics of alpaca wool since the Incan era! Alpaca wool can be incredibly soft and the artisan abilities of the Peruvian people shearing, spinning, dying, and weaving alpaca yarn and introducing it to modern fashion – has blended ancient and modern fashions. This short video shows the handmade process that many individuals are creating textiles by hand to this day.

Alternative Apparel, is becoming a big champion for the Made in Peru movement. The idea being that sourcing materials from and manufacturing there, results in high quality products by also keeps the Peruvian fashion/textile industry alive. And have been creating a series of interesting videos documenting the journey

“For more than a decade, Alternative has gone to Peru to source the softest, most luxurious cotton in the world. This year, we sought to deepen our commitment and relationship with our partners in Peru by exploring the culture and heritage from which these rich cotton traditions hail. We documented our experience in a series of “Made in Peru” films, getting to know the artisans who shape these traditions, traversing the land and engaging in experiences and conversations that amounted to a truly unforgettable journey.”

Mexico

Mexico had a long history of creating their own fabrics and textiles out of natural and local fibers, until the Spanish introduced wool and silk. A majority of Mexican people were still making their own fabrics and clothing up until mechanized looms were introduced during the Mexican Revolution. But because Mexico has a large native population, many have kept their native fabric and textile traditions alive. You see it thrive through embroidery and weaving, like in Otomi fabrics. This Wikipedia article actually has a really in depth review of Mexican textile history.This video is a museum collection of various types of embroidered clothing by indigenous Mexicans, it is beautiful to see the variations.

I love this video about the colorful tenangos embroidery BUT, beware the captions. The English translation was done poorly. Because I speak Spanish I understood what the woman was really saying. The captions are an oversimplified version of her explanation.

African countries

The scale of the African textile industry is HUGE, nothing I could completely cover in this post. Each country, and further, every region, has a rich history in creating traditional fabrics for a very long time – with the fabrics and patterns symbolizing many different things, from religions, tribes, social status, gender, and much more. It is also an industry that is threatened by the same globalization that has inundated other countries with cheap manufactured sweatshop goods. Used clothing sent to Africa at super discounted prices is threatening the African textile industry that cannot compete with the cheaply priced goods (both in and outside of their own country). So supporting the array of textiles and fabrics that are coming out of Africa with both African made clothing and brands using African-made fabrics, is ensuring that their traditional textile industry survives. This coalition for African cotton is attempting to ensure the sustainability of the industry within Africa.

I can show you a billion (more) videos about textiles in Africa alone – but I’ll share a few I found very interesting.

A video about fabrics and textiles and textiles from Ghana – most notably known for weaving, Kente cloth, and printing/dying patterns on fabrics.

A very short informational video about Kuba cloth from Congo

Another very short informational video about Mudcloth from Mali – this one is by a woman that sells African textiles out of store in California, but has lots of information regardless.

This video is actually a collection of photographs of a parade showcasing the many fabrics and fashionable styles of clothing that can be made from traditional and local fabrics. If you catch the very end of the video (you’ll have to pause it because the text goes by very fast) You’ll see how even the people of Cameroon are trying to put a big pause on imported second hand clothes that are impacting the textile industry across the country and continent.

Egypt has sustained many levels of making fabrics for a very long time. Where people were making linen fabrics out of flax since the time of the Ancient Egyptians. Here is a link to a great background to the history of fashion from Ancient Egypt. There is also a lot of fine cotton coming out of Egypt – especially to make bedding.

British Isles

Our every day lives are surrounded by fabric historically originating from these islands, which found the necessity to create clothing that allowed them to survive the temperate climate. This industry is also under threat by global manufacturing that has turned these products that were once always done by hand, into mass manufactured goods from synthetic materials. The climates allows for an ideal environment that lets sheep, their food, but also other plant based textiles to thrive.

Britain

The quality of products was heavily guarded for a very long time by patents that prevented people from exporting or releasing the tools to create textiles – which meant that while many people will still using hand looms, people in Britain and other parts of the UK were already using machines to speed up the process but still release a quality product. Wool was the main textile for a very long time, until the mass introduction of cotton. Britain was importing cotton and creating products with it at an incredible level – often overproducing the cotton’s country of origin. Much like we see in China today. Watch this short presentation someone made about the history of wool in Britain.

Liberty of London has cemented itself as a heritage brand of Britain and the UK – whose cotton printed fabrics have been an ever present staple that has invaded the world. I tried to see and make sure that it’s made in Britain, and it seems so. Other writers give caution to buying things made with their fabric from their store and other retailers, which use the fabric but are made in other countries. This video by Liberty shows how they make their beautifully printed fabrics.

This video perfectly illustrates the same issues in the Made in the USA movement, but for made in the UK! They’re going through the same hurdles to keep traditions alive and the industry from being swallowed by the high street.

A great link to read more about British textile history.

Scotland

Watch this really cool and short video about the history of Tweed coming off this Scottish isle

I couldn’t find any good videos to share about Fair Isle knitting, but as the “isle” part of the name implies, it is a specific knitting technique that was created on one of Scotland’s islands. You can read more about it here.

Tartan, or plaid, fabrics are quintessential fabrics associated with this area. I love what this guy had to say in the video.

Ireland

Linen fabrics, which are created from yarn made out of flax fibers, was traditionally known to come from Ireland. That is, until they too had their industry taken over by other countries that could produce it cheaper. The only video I could find that really explains anything interesting is this one – it’s a little old, and you really only need to watch the first half, but has some great information.

France

The French have been making fancy textiles and fabrics for a very long time, hence why Haute Couture still lives there in Paris each year. Also recall that lace is famous for being hand made in France. Jacquard weaving was fine tuned by a french man!

While Haute Couture is not for the every day person, watching how it’s made gives insight into an amazing world of delicate fabrics and craftsmanship that few can hold a candle to.

I used to love catching the Signe Chanel episodes a few years back. They were basically a behind the scenes look into the madness that ensued in the weeks and days leading up to the Haute Couture Chanel shows. You get to see what really happens in the sewing rooms, and the ladies were hilarious too.

I could certainly go on and on, as countries everywhere were always making their own fabrics. Wools from Australia, Canada, or Italy. Patterned fabrics from Scandinavia. Russian cotton and embroidery.

So the story sounds familiar in many different countries right? They make fabrics and dyes for a long time until they get their industry stolen and moved to another country producing it for less, or when consumers are attracted to cheaper products. Now, especially through the internet, we all have the ability to support the native textile industries of countries all over the world by shopping responsibly and being conscious consumers! Shopping Made in the USA is great, but branching out is sometimes necessary. It has taken me so long to put this post together, and I’ve watched every single video around two times to make sure I was posting something appropriate – that I’ve grown to see the whole industry with different eyes.

What I think needs to start happening, is that we need to start pushing companies to show us the faces of the people making our clothes. Show us where the fabric is coming from. Put details on the tag that have real information, instead of just telling me how to wash my garment. Give our clothes sense and meaning. When you learn the history of fabrics, it becomes more than just something to wear. You are wearing someones hard work, you are wearing someones history, weaved thread by thread so that you could make a fashion statement.