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Friday, February 3, 2017

Guilt-Free Fashion.... is it possible?

A few of the garments available from my shop made from sustainable bamboo fabric.

We are living in a modern world of "fast fashion"... clothing made quickly and cheaply, by workers who are underpaid, working in dangerous conditions, and with little thought to the sustainability of the materials used. Big clothing manufacturers operate for the most part outside the USA to avoid safety regulations. Factory fires and building collapses have been responsible for injuring and killing hundreds of people at a time. Dangerous conditions persist until something terrible happens, and even then very little changes. As far as the environmental impact, it is troublesome as well. Dye is dumped into rivers, air pollution standards are a joke, and chemicals being used for processing fabrics are "lost in the manufacturing process" (so where is it going? on the workers, and into the ground and water).

As a small clothing manufacturer, on initial view of the situation, it would seem there is very little I could do to counter all this bad juju on the clothing industry. How can I, as one person, make a difference? But... over the years I am proud to say I have come up with many ways to make my own production process as ethical and earth-friendly as possible, including:

1.Using upcycled fabrics. This includes clothing I have donated to me, or from thrift shops (always thoroughly washed/cleaned before use) as well as fabric salvaged from vintage linens (curtains, tablecloths, lace, etc). This is in my eyes, the best, smallest-footprint way of doing things. In fact, you might even call it a reverse footprint, because in many cases the things I use would have ended up in a landfill, and instead are made into a precious, beautiful creation, well-made, that the customer will keep longer than a regular store-bought garment, not only because of it's beauty, and quality, but because of the specialness of being made by an artist. Simply by my having touched and changed the clothing into something new, it has added artistic value to it. Even if the customer gets rid of the garment, it probably will be given to a friend or thrift shop and not the garbage (I hope!).

2. Dyeing my own fabrics in small batches with zero waste (I use just enough dye that is absorbed into the fabric, no more, and the dye molecules bond permanently into the fibers, so any small amount of liquid left is basically just water). I have also started using plant-based dyes such as indigo and coffee.

3. In my fabric-cutting process, there is almost zero waste. I design my patterns to use the fabric as efficiently as possible, making pieces that either fit together like puzzle pieces or are cut in panels. Often times when I cut a garment I literally have zero scraps left because even the small pieces are used to make bindings, pockets, and button loops. Any scraps I do end up with are saved for future projects that use smaller pieces such as scarves, bags, and to make appliques.

4. I have added bamboo fabric to my repertoire which is a truly wonderful, low impact, earth-friendly material. Bamboo grows very quickly and needs no irrigation or pesticides. It produces more per square foot than any other natural fiber fabric. It's also breathable, and naturally resists mold and bacteria. The company I get it from guarantees it is made in ethical conditions. It is expensive but I buy it in bulk so I can keep my prices reasonable.

Who wants to feel guilty about the clothes they're wearing? Not me.

My hope is that people will decide they don't want to feel bad about their clothing anymore, either, that it IS important, and take individual action. Myself and many other artists are making some stylish and creative alternatives to the fast fashion offered at chain stores. While most people probably can't afford to buy an entire wardrobe of handmade clothing (although if you can, you totally should), if you buy a mix of thrifted, vintage, and handmade clothing, it will cost less than buying everything brand new from a chain store. Even with a chain store's low prices, or mad sales, the clothing will wear out and have to be replaced much more frequently than with quality clothing, so it's not such a great deal after all. And who wants to all look the same, anyway?

Look at it this way: every item you don't buy from a chain store, is one less thing in your closet that may have been made in awful, unsafe conditions, with little regard for the planet or the workers making it... and if you instead buy that item from a local artist, you do several great things: you put your dollars back into the local economy, you support a small business, you don't contribute to the destruction of the planet, or to the fat pocketbooks of overpaid CEOs, AND you the consumer are the true winner because you end up with unique clothing that nobody else has, that will last a very long time. It's really a win-win-win-winner situation. I encourage you to investigate where your clothing comes from... do the manufacturers have a good history of ethical conditions and ecofriendly practices? And if not, are you OK with that? You as the consumer have the power of the almighty dollar; your dollar is a vote for success wherever you spend it. Choose wisely.

Thanks for reading!


Right now is a great time to check out my clothing because I have a bunch of cute new designs AND I'm having a 25% off sale. All you have to do is type the code "shopsmall" in the coupon box at the checkout and it will take 25% off your total. As always please let me know if you have any questions. I am always happy to help you shop.