COVID-19 changing the face of fast fashion
There is a silver lining behind every cloud. While COVID-19 times are bringing challenge and uncertainty to all, one thing IS becoming clear. Things cannot simply go back to the way they were.
It is becoming increasingly important to act mindfully in our consumer habits. For many, choosing the more environmental and socially-responsible option can feel difficult to justify. But I propose – it is not longer possible to justify otherwise. Conscious consumerism needs to become the new normal. Supporting small businesses, supporting economies that inherently hold ethical standards (made in Canada vs. Made in China companies), and supporting companies that stand for clear values that benefit the whole – IS the Future.
On my journey to launching my slow fashion brand I've truthfully had many mixed feelings about participating in an already overly (that's an understatement) - saturated market. I've had moments of feeling guilty, moments of wondering why I couldn't be content doing something more useful, something more noble. But the reality is simply this. When I'm not being creative, when I'm not making something beautiful, I get incredibly cranky. I simply need to be making. And the other fact is, whether it's something to be proud of or not, I'm a fashionista at heart. I love beautiful clothing and I always have had an eye for it. Perhaps it started in my mom's sewing room as a kid, spending countless hours on her machine making clothes for my stuffed animals, or maybe it's a product of honing my eye for hidden gems amongst racks of secondhand clothes at Value Village throughout my teenage years and beyond. Whatever the case, fashion has found me and so I declare, 'If I'm going to do this, I'm going to do my darnedest to do it right.'
So, when I see images of what manufacturing of fast fashion production overseas looks like, or when I see piles of disposable clothing spilling out of landfills, or when I simply just walk through a mall and see excess upon excess of UGLY CRAP all over the place (on sale) - I can't help but feel like the work I, and my fellow independent designer colleagues are doing - IS indeed, a type of revolution.
Against many odds we make choices everyday to reduce our carbon footprint (keeping production local, sourcing locally), to reduce waste (low minimums, quality markers, innovation with offcuts), to elevate the standard of quality for the people who work in this industry (fair and working wages and proper working conditions), and for the quality of the products that are produced (beautiful, quality and thoughtful). Slow fashion, sustainable and ethical fashion do not all mean the same thing. Some prioritize organic, recycled and upcycled materials over non-organic and new. Some prioritize labor conditions. Others focus on designing quality over quantity. Regardless of primary focus, sustainable-ethical-slow brands are driven by the desire to participate in an industry that is wrought with error, and to offer a viable alternative.
Yet, this is no small task to undertake in a profitable way. Labour is often too expensive for many styles, and in some case, the right machines are simply not available for certain finishing techniques in low minimums. From my own experience, I've had several local contractors turn me down because my patterns are too complicated and my minimums too low. What they tell me is - ''You need to go to China." But I don't want to go to China. And I don't want to offer only organic leggings. I love beautiful cuts with amazing details and I want women to have a viable alternative that is not comparing apples to oranges. But I want to do this while feeding the happy hands that are helping to make them. And I want to do this in a way that nurtures a world with more Beauty in it, rather than one with more waste.
I know this is what more and more people are wanting too. I know that during times like this - written during the #stayhome lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic - people are beginning to look deeper into the social mirror and are asking the right questions. At least I think they are. The question I am asking is this: What world do you want to return to? What world do you want to create now - anew - if given the chance?
Because indeed chance is here but it is shrouded in other things so it might difficult to see. An economy struggling to find it's footing might be primed for cheap buys but instead let's also see the strengthening possibility of a less-is-more mentality emerging out of the matrix; A quality-over quantity standard being set; A 'support-small-and-local' over mega-giants and monopolies; slow and thoughtful over fast and furious. My hope is that, given the hint of scarcity that has be sensed in the veins of our privileged society, we will not run now in the direction of further exploitation but rather into the direction pointing towards principles of sustainability, durability, self-sufficiency and well yes, beauty. And while this might all sound antithetical coming from an emerging brand whose very survival depends on the cultural habit of impulsive acquisitions this is NOT the world I want to return to. I want to return to a world that honors the parts (go individuals, go!) AND the Whole (go Earth, go!). I want to make clothing for the woman AND the world in which she is born of, and will return to. I want to remind us all - in the very marrow of these sacred cloth bones, that we are all part of the WHOLE and our individual choices DO matter. Walking in beauty is not just about putting on a beautiful dress. It is about walking with integrity. Walking with alignment. Walking in awareness.
Clothes won't change the world. It's the women who wear them that will. This is why, alongside ongoing posts of beautiful clothing there are also always cues to inspire and ignite that bigger part of ourselves, that 'higher' self if you will. So, if at the end of the day Sacred Cloth serves to inspire beauty outide (gorgeous slow fashion), but also within, then I will feel I've done 'right' by my job.