What to wear? Even my 3 1/2-year old granddaughter gives thought to her wardrobe. Not to leave out boys, our grandson began his first day of 3rd grade last week wearing a tie with his shorts and shirt. His choice...he does have style! I'll admit that when I was in my twenties, I thought about fashion a lot. Didn't have much money to spend [actually I've never had much money to spend on clothing] so I did a lot of sewing. In high school my friends and I would 'ooo' and 'ahh' over fashion magazines and then take our allowances to the fabric shop and try to mimic the latest runway looks. Back then, some 40 years ago, I never once gave a thought as to where the fabric was manufactured or by whom. And certainly never gave thought to the whole fashion industry supply line - from cotton in the fields to garments on models.
In the headline for this post I wrote "Torn About Fashion." And I am. See, I love watching the tv show "Project Runway." Currently in its 14th season, I'm setting up my iPad every Friday morning to catch the previous day's episode. I understand it is about FASHION. More, it is about designing garments for people to wear. However, here's the thing: I don't watch it for the fashion, I watch it for the peek into the process of artistic creativity. Under the pressure of time constraints and cameras in their faces, the designers come up with a design from concept to pattern to sewn garment to runway in the space of a day. And I have to say, aside from some remarkable "misses," there are some stunningly amazing designs produced. It is that process that keeps me glued to the screen.
But now, in light of having watching The True Cost, I'm wondering about the future of fashion, of fashion design and clothing manufacture and the future for student designers.
I found an article at the Huffington Post that has some good stuff in it, "5 Truths the Fast Fashion Industry Doesn't Want You to Know," written by Shannon Whitehead. Point #4 is "Clothing is designed to fall apart." So true and, in my opinion, shameful. I've seen teeshirts sewn with plastic thread that pulls out after the first wash. Do you really want to wear clothes that are made to fall apart? Really?
I found another article - tiny post really - at Vogue online, titled "Sustainable Chic Fashion Labels to Know Now;" it has this powerful bit:
Whether that means emphasizing timeless design, utilizing small-scale and local production, or collaborating with artisan cooperatives in the developing world, these emerging labels manage to both look good and do good.
In all my research for this post, and in light of the documentary, it is this one little paragraph that holds some possible answers and hope for the fashion industry as a whole - from the finished garment back to the cotton plant in the field.
I'm a human rights activist, turned ecologist. The price tag on the fashion you buy rarely covers the real social and environmental costs – and here is why. Developing countries end up competing with each other to be the world's garment factory, in what has been called a "race to the bottom" for wages, health, safety, job security and environmental protection. The system that keeps the world's people poor also destroys the environment.
I don't have any firm conclusions to make. Just a continuing wonderment as to where we as people are headed when it comes to taking care of both ourselves and our planet. In watching the documentary, and reading about those who made it, I have no reason to doubt what I saw or what they reported. Those reports are substantiated in other places. Makes me wonder: with 7 billion people on the planet, how will all of us be able to work and support our families? And keep our industries safe and sustainable?