An update to humanitarian fashion

Thrift Eye

So I wanted to do a big follow up to my post on thinking about fashion in a humanitarian and responsible way. Julie’s post at We So Thrifty put it into a bigger perspective, I highly recommend you read it. She makes a fantastic point that the fashion blogging community is hesitant to speak out about the subject, because a solution to the problem is to stop shopping – but if you’re a blog that tries to make money from links, partnerships, or things you sell, then you’re cutting into your own profits. It’s a super fine line to walk.

When I wrote my post originally, it came across as “don’t shop here, shop here instead.” Which is great, but a wonderful comment from Mai also gave another angle – the point being that yes thrift shopping is cheaper, but it STILL means shopping sensibly and responsibly. Binge shopping in thrift stores contributes to the waste and consumerism just as much as cheap binge shopping at Wally World, Forever 21, Target, H&m, et al. Shopping irresponsibly is still considered irresponsible no matter what store you’re in. Before you buy at a thrift store (or anywhere really), ask yourself where was this made? Does it fit me? Do I have something just like it at home already? Do I really love it? The point here is to begin seeing your wardrobe as quality over quantity.

For me, as a blogger and just a regular person, how this has manifested since I wrote the blog post over a month ago – I have thrifted once, and I ended up buying a pair of these Marc Jacobs heels for $8 (in above picture). They are of a great quality and of a color I don’t own. But was I tempted to get other things? Yes. Did I? No. I’m not quite sure how to handle the shoe situation, since finding shoes made in USA are harder at the moment. But thrifting is the biggest basket of shopping you can get – from high to low, you get the choice to choose what you want to buy.

I’m choosing to try my hardest to thrift made in USA clothing right now, not just for new clothes. It’s really hard, and I will feel better if I can keep that up, even if it means buying less! I spent January through May of last year without buying a single article of clothing and was still able to live and still able to blog :) I think a lot of bloggers are fearful to try this or admit it because they want to give the impression that they’re shopping a lot and can stay on top of trends. When in reality, many bloggers are getting things for free (whether they admit it or not is a whole other subject), but it incorrectly projects more bad shopping/consumerist examples to other bloggers and to readers.

I’ve found a few charities that promote workers rights and sweatshop rights across the world – helping those stuck in those working conditions and connecting them to more sustainable jobs is a step in the right direction towards getting garment factory workers the rights to better wages and work in better conditions (if you wouldn’t work in those conditions, why is it okay for someone else to?)

So a big part of my other post was listing brands that are made in the USA – personally, I wasn’t aware that many of these brands made an effort to keep their business in the USA. But equally surprised about many brands that don’t keep their business in the US! Please check out the previous post again to see the brands I listed already, here are a few more! But also be proactive and check the tags of your clothing!

I foremost must clarify that in the previous post I listed JBrand as made in the USA, but it has now come to my attention that this only applies to the denim line. Their non denim clothing is made in China. And this frequently happens with more and more brands, as to which you pretty much always have to check the tag yourself to see where it was made. So here are some more Made in the USA brands, if you have any other suggestions or even corrections, please let me know.

Edit: as of January 2013, I’ve gathered up all the Made in USA brands together at this page.

Black Halo
Clover Canyon
Cynthia Rowley – although I’m not 100% sure if it’s the whole brand, can anyone provide insight?
Enza Costa
Doo Ri
Genetic Denim – seems to only apply to denim
Goldsign – again, only seems to apply to denim
Haute Hippie
Jen Kao
Lela Rose
Nation LTD
Norma Kamali – mainline only, check tag
Paige denim
Rich and skinny
Rory Beca

Prices typically do end up higher, but you generally get that back in quality. Think of your clothing as an investment – I can buy something cheap and trendy from Forever 21 that falls apart quickly, or I can choose to buy something that spans trends, fits my personal style, and will last me years from another brand. Start out small, and eventually work this whole mantra into your wardrobe.

Now that more light has been given to the subject, are you starting to feel different about how you shop for clothes? I’m finally beginning to read Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline, I’m only one chapter in but can see that even she came to terms with her wasteful fashion consumption, so everyone can! I love that her website has a section called “Ten Simple Tips For a More Ethical & Sustainable Wardrobe” it’s many of the same tips I have provided here, but she has more useful information throughout the website!

tl;dr – shop less, but if you do shop, thrift, get vintage and/or buy made in the USA!

Made in the USA and humanitarian fashion : in the wake of the Bangladesh garment factory collapse

I think it would be rather irresponsible of me to not address the disastrous collapse of the garment manufacturing building in Bangladesh, especially now that the death toll has reached over 1000 people at the time I wrote this article (since the numbers have been steadily increasing). Is getting your cheap pair of pants (or whatever) really worth all these people dying? In 1911, the US had its own disaster known as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in which 146 women died after a fire broke out in their building and they couldn’t escape after their employer had done many things to secure the building against theft. Our American workers were able to unionize and be vocal against bad conditions since then, why can’t people around the world have the same right? This really isn’t a guilt trip post though – because I have been guilty as everyone else in caving into fast fashion and these dirt cheap prices in the past. But I know I have the power in my hands to change that right now.

Knowledge is #golden

My blog is called Thrift Eye  for a reason – and by being very thrift focused, I remove myself one step from these unsustainable garment methods and consumption. The way I and many people see thrifting, it is a form of recycling. I can go buy  myself a brand new pair of pants from XYZ store at a really good price – but instead, I will probably buy myself a gently used pair at a fraction of a price, and probably of a better brand than what I would have bought new!

There are many benefits to thrifting and buying second hand. The first and obvious one is avoiding the consumerism that  pushes these awful working conditions on people making clothes around the world. The second benefit is saving money – buying used typically saves you a fraction of what you would have paid new (although I will admit many thrift stores have gotten very greedy and charge exorbitant prices sometimes higher than new things!) A third benefit is that buying second hand, you are saving countless things from being sent to landfills! Many people have things they need to get rid of and will often throw away things they don’t need anymore – donating and buying from thrift stores stops a large portion of these things from going to the garbage. A fourth benefit is that many (not all) thrift stores act as non-profit charities to some degree. Many have different ways they give back to their community, whether it be through hiring people in the rehabilitation process, donating to larger charities, giving jobs to the developmentally delayed, providing the very poor with clothes, or other charitable circumstances (I like supporting those that impact the community). The great thing about the thrift-life is that it doesn’t just have to apply to clothes, think of all the things you can get at a thrift store!

Here is a roundup of my favorite thrift inspired posts written by my own hands! Like my favorite places to thrift in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. Or my other recent post about how to mend things you thrifted that may have had a little damage. This post on how to maximize your thrifting and why I enjoy thrifting. A great photographic roundup of all the amazing things I found at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. Even a silly little post about the ridiculous kinds of things you find while you’re thrifting (like a really hilarious fake Louis Vuitton bag). Or this post about the bad/obsessive shopping habits the thrifting hunts brings out of you. Very soon, I’ll be working in a ‘my favorite thrift/secondhand fashion blogs’ type of post for your reading pleasure.

But the bigger picture really isn’t only about buying second hand – it also means supporting businesses that make their merchandise sustainably and humanely in the USA or (or in other countries if they can prove it! – remember, even some brands with the “Made in Italy” labels have been caught practicing bad fashion). You can buy new, there is no problem with that – but you have to realize that many brands make a huge effort to manufacture in the United States and pay their garment sewing employees livable wages so that they can work in comfortable conditions. The easiest way is to check your ‘Made In’ label – it will/should tell you where you garment was made obviously :) but I have rounded up some brands that have made an effort to keep their brands and production (for the most part) in the US!

Edit: as of January 2013, I’ve gathered up all the Made in USA brands together at this page.

Sometimes and some of these brands can be expensive – there are people who can afford to buy these things new, some of us can’t. I like to look for things on sale just like the next person, but I often find some of these brands while thrifting too!

Remember you will always have some options like buying and wearing vintage clothing – or probably the best way to ensure your clothes come from a sustainable source, make it yourself! Many swapping outlets are popping up too (or start one yourself)!

This possibly is my goodbye letter to shopping for clothes at Target, H&m, Zara, Forever 21, and the likes (many of which I have not shopped at for years already!) When you shop at these types of places, you are enabling manufacturers and companies to keep wages low and conditions awful for these people working their asses off for your $5 shirt!

My post is an open conversation – PLEASE tell me about any more brands that are Made in the USA or if I got any of my information wrong! Tell me what you will do and change, or if you’re not changing anything at all too! Let’s figure out why it’s taken this tragedy to force companies to revisit their practices. As someone who blogs and enjoys fashion, this will be an ongoing conversation for me and I hope everyone else too. And as soon as my copy comes from the library, I will be reading Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline about this very subject!

I thrifted it: Or I didn’t notice something was wrong until I got home

Has this ever happened to you? It’s happened to me countless times. And for some reason or another (no returns, too lazy to return, bought it while in another city, etc.), you just can’t return it. You’re left with a few choices – throw it away, leave it in the back or bottom of a closet for oblivion, or do something about it!

I am a huge proponent of fixing things yourself! Of course it’s a little bit easier if you have the right tools (lucky to have my own sewing machine!), but you’d be surprised how easy it may be to fix some things yourself.

First off, ew. Most times if I can see the stain in the store, and can’t identify it’s nature, I may just leave it. But crap, you already have it at home : you may as well do something about it! Thank heavens for the internet and its bountiful resources – Lifehacker (one of my favorite websites) has a great roundup of ‘how to remove stains‘ links. But honestly, most stains, although gross – may not be that big of a problem (most of the time it may just be food!) Give a gentle soak first, and if still needed, wash in the machine. I’d do a cold run, since hot water tends to set stains. Paint stains like the photo above, may be goners – but even so, if you don’t mind a little paint, maybe you could do some more splatters! (I actually have a pair khaki pants I need to do this to after I got spray paint on them). Dish soap is also a great stain remover.

Holes or rips
I would say holes or rips may in fact be the most common problem you may encounter when you get home. After you’re done punching the air, figure out your next step. You can either close the hole or cover it up! Depending on which type of fabric, you will have different approaches. FIRST and most important, if you don’t already have one, get yourself a little sewing kit. They’re cheap, and will provide you with needles of various sizes for different tasks. If you’re sewing up the hole, you will have to find thread that’s the closest possible color. Most craft stores have them, it doesn’t have to be a perfect match, because you’ll be sewing from the backside, but you want to get close.  Knit fabrics, although daunting may be the easiest. This tutorial is great! The idea is to grab all the loops with your needle so that they don’t unravel even more. For other fabrics, you can almost do the same thing, just kind of thread through one end and close up the hole from the backside.

If you want to get really creative, there are lots of online tutorials for felting or patching holes. I mean, look how awesome this sweater looks! Or how these pins have covered up some would be holes too.

Button issues
Uh oh, there’s a button missing! What do I do? Luckily, most often retailers are smart about missing buttons and will provide an extra button for you in the tags. Always check there first, and more often than not there will be a spare button for you! If there isn’t one or the tags have been cut off, don’t despair, most buttons are basic and can be matched online or at a craft/sewing store. But if you have special buttons or none match, then why not replace all the buttons! Again, with your handy sewing kit (which may have some spare buttons too) and this little how to sew a button tutorial. You can add, switch, or tighten any buttons!

Many times, I’ve fallen in love with a dress at the store, and after I wash it I want to wear it immediately and only then notice the hem has fallen! Ugh. I will admit in my very lazy days and in a quick hurry I have stapled a hem because I needed to go (I have even heard of people gluing,  but I would never suggest this as you’ll probably just ruin it beyond repair after). But this is pretty easy to fix too – if you have a sewing machine you can stitch it up pretty fast of course. But since most people don’t, you have some solutions. Start with matching thread, again with your sewing kits you can do a straight across stitch easily. You can also buy iron on hem tape that will hold your hem in place as a double-sided tape would – although it’s typically a temporary solution. Fixing the hem will also work if you realize the hem is just too long or maybe too short (and there’s some room to let it out).

You can use these same tips to repair any unraveling or ripped seams (think sleeves, or on side seams). It’s an easy fix because you’re repairing right along the seams, unlike holes which can be all over. Your repair work will rarely be visible.

Broken zipper
This may be the toughest to fix – but taken that your zipper isn’t missing a tooth, you may just need some strong hands and a few tricks, but you can fix some zippers again. There are lots of online tutorials on how to do it (one and another). Sometimes you can sew a tiny bit to cover up the part that was broken, some people cut the zipper out and sew in buttons! You can actually get pretty creative in different ways to fix it that don’t require adding a whole new zipper (which sucks, even I can’t do that).

Hole in jeans
A frustrating problem, cause you probably already have a bunch of jeans with holes at home! But good news, depending on the color of your jeans, there may be several ways to fix your jeans (plus save a few of those at home that needed some TLC too).

How well you want to mend is all up to you. Some people like to cover up rips so that they become invisible. Others like the look of some rips or patches. This type of repair almost always requires a sewing machine – you take a piece of fabric or another piece of denim and attach it to the backside (inside out) and then on the forward side sew back and forth & across in a crosshatch pattern until you’ve mostly covered up and reinforced the hole. This is a fantastic tutorial with the sewing machine. Of course this works the best when the denim is of a solid color – and even then, you have to find thread that matches your color.

Alternatively, some people don’t mind holes in their jeans (I am not one of them). Pinterest seems to have lots of cool ideas on patching denim if that’s a route you don’t mind going.

When to give up
Even I will admit that there are some times when there are things you may not be able to do – whether it’s the type of  fabric or just missing the materials. I have a batch of things I bring my mom to fix occasionally when I visit her because her sewing machine is better than mine, she has endless thread and zipper colors, plus she’s infinitely better than me at sewing and mending. If you have a friend that does know how to sew, it doesn’t hurt to ask them for help – but if they agree, please be kind and buy matching thread or the buttons needed. This has happened to me several times where people expect me to spend my money to buy supplies to fix your things. Um, no.

Many people also don’t realize that Dry Cleaners often offer tailoring services as well.

I hope these tips come in handy for you thrifters, but realize that these tips may also help you save some things at home that were sitting in a pile already waiting to get fixed! Get creative! I know many people today don’t think they have time or energy to do work themselves for whatever reasons (often because it’s just cheaper to throw something out and but another new product). But shopping responsibly, and taking care of & mending your clothes will increase their lifetimes in your wardrobe.

Second hand shopping in San Francisco – my favorite places to thrift in Haight Ashbury

One of my favorite shopping destinations in San Francisco is well away from the tourist favorite Union Square and it’s not new merchandise. Thrift shopping in the laid back Haight Ashbury neighborhood is definitely my favorite place to shop and just stroll around.

From what I have read and been told, the thrift and vintage scene is a shade of its former self – but if you make your way to San Francisco and are pining for some vintage (or some designer labels at a discount) back in your wardrobe, this is the place to go! That is not to say there is only vintage and thrift shopping in the area, there are tons of other stores and new ones are popping up once in a while. Nor that there isn’t vintage/thrifting to be done in other areas – just that these are my favorite at the moment!

All of these stores are on a short four block span of each other and you’re looking at a range of prices, but also a range of types of clothing. Some are strictly vintage, others will carry a mix of vintage, new, and gently used.

*UPDATE as of Feb. 2014 – Haight Ashbury vintage has closed, but merged with another vintage shop on Haight (same owner).
Haight Ashbury Vintage is at the iconic intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets, where the neighborhood hails its name from. I believe it used to be another vintage store a few years ago (Aardvark’s?). Being that this store is on a corner, it has bright windows to let you see all the merchandise clearly (compared to other stores that are wedged and have very limited window space from the store front). This may sound like a weird thing to observe and like, but when a store is quite dark, it’s very hard to even browse. I find the selection here to be very themed and a little flamboyant. If you’re looking for vintage that screams “VINTAGE,” this is your place.

Held Over is my personal favorite of all the stores right now. It does something that I really like – they specialize in collecting and organizing the same pieces together and in multiple choices. For example, they have a rack of just vintage striped sailor tops. They’re all a little different, some are blue stripes others are red, the sleeves will be slightly different, or the neck – but you can keep browsing until you find the exact one that suits you. And this kind of collecting is done for so many things – fur vests, denim jackets, cutoff shorts, etc! They have a great selection of vintage dresses from all eras. In fact, there are a few Downton Abbey looking dresses there now that I have my eye on for Spring. They also have a fantastically curated men’s section which includes lots of suit jackets and fedoras if you’re really into the Mad Men look.

Held Over on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

Relic Vintage is a privately run and owned store, whose owner is a tried and true vintage lover. The store is perfectly curated by their team and not jam-packed with clothes like some of the other stores tend to be (which can be overwhelming and difficult to browse). Think of it as a boutique where the quality of the vintage can compare to even new clothes! They also have real fitting rooms, not just curtains, which in my book is a huge plus.

Relic Vintage on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

Decades of Fashion is relatively new location, this storefront used to be another store, and I think DoF relocated here from somewhere else on the street. As the name of the store indicates, pieces are organized by Decades – 40’s, 50’s, 60’s etc. together. This store will also have some much older pieces, and you may find things in dry cleaning bags often because they’re delicate. I find this store to be geared more towards the tourists than to local shoppers, and the prices will reflect that. But a nice place for a local to browse once in a while.

Decades of Fashion Vintage on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

La Rosa vintage is another vintage boutique where you will find more perfectly curated vintage clothing. I’ve often heard the name thrown around in interviews and seems to be a go-to spot for vintage loving celebrities. Why? Because they offer you (mostly) impeccable vintage items. If you’re looking for a beautiful vintage dress for a special occasion, I would say this may be your place to go. The prices may be a little higher than other stores, but the quality will reflect that.

La Rosa Vintage on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

Static Vintage is that fun vintage store and always seems to be staffed by some cool laid back ladies! I feel like this is the place where you buy vintage to look on trend but not trying too hard to achieve that look. Say leopard coats are really cool right now, or denim jackets – you’ll surely find them here. They have a variety of things to chose from in spite of the store being on the smaller side compared to other stores on the street. Static is also known to carry vintage designer clothes and accessories in case you’re looking for some vintage designer pieces.

Static Vintage on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

Now enter the resale stores, which are not exactly the same, and also entering their own realm (which will make more sense as I explain each store). I also think these stores are great places to take men shopping who normally don’t like to shop because there are so many different things to suit their tastes.

Buffalo Exchange was my first experience in the resale realm, and was my tried and true go-to shopping spot when I lived in Las Vegas. It’s definitely a place where you will find something if you have the budget for it! When I am ready to get rid of clothing, I always make sure to bring them here because they will buy clothes from you and give you the option for credit or cash. The selection is pretty wide – you’ll find a little bit of new on trend items that they curate across all their B.E. stores, and their resale items which ranges from high street, department store, no name brands, to a little bit of vintage. I like to think of it as a grown up version of a thrift store, minus the house stuff. The SF store doesn’t have one, but the Vegas store always had a solid rack of sale stuff that was 50% off and always worth browsing first (this store has the sale stuff mixed in).

Buffalo Exchange on Haight , Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

Crossroads, as their tagline in the signs states, specializes in new and “recycled.” You can sell your gently used clothes here too. You won’t really find vintage here, unless it’s very on trend and in great condition. Crossroads carries lots of trendy new pieces, but I think they offer some of the better prices on resale merchandise.

Crossroads on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

Wasteland is an interesting mix of a store – they carry some new clothes, which I think of as music festival on trend (in comparison to the other stores’ on trend pieces which lean heavily to the girly side). They have quite a bit of vintage, but not as much as they used to. Looking for the perfect vintage tee? This is your place. They also have some of the best gently used designer clothes in the city, the prices can be high, but there are some good deals if you look often. What I really like is their selection of shoes – perfectly worn in boots to unique designer shoes, to even some brands that don’t normally sell in the US. Wasteland is also making a big footprint in the online world, and I think they’re trying to branch out with their new items online.

Wasteland on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

Last but not least, my poor little confused Goodwill. This is not your typical thrift store. I think being on Haight street has gone to their heads. I come here once in a while to find odd pieces, but I find their prices to be way too high sometimes. It’s almost offensive that a charity store tries to sell clothes for more than some of the for-profit stores do. You’ll find your regular thrift store stuff here, but they also have lots of tie-dye for those looking for their Haight Ashbury souvenir. They actually have a lot of vintage clothes, but their prices generally do not reflect the quality that you see in the actual vintage stores. Their vintage merchandise is donated, so it’s often smelly, worn, damaged, and not in style. But you can find some hidden gems in there once in a while.

Goodwill on Haight, Thrift Eye, A guide to shopping second hand, vintage, and thrifting in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of san francisco

I think of thrift shopping as “shopping for all seasons” because you can find anything for any occasion, style, and price point. And better yet, to have the ability to do all this on the same span of streets is amazing! Now I’m going to have to follow this post up with my favorite thrifting in the Mission neighborhood! Hope you liked this post and would love your insight on how you feel about second hand shopping, if you’ve visited any of these stores, or if I missed any (I’m pretty sure I missed one store but can’t figure out which one!).

PS. This post also corresponds with my Shopping Maps link in the header! Where I’ve gathered points of shopping interest together on a Google Map.