During the middle of New York Fashion Week, I happened to get a book I had pre-ordered downloaded to my Kindle. Ironically, it was a book about fast fashion. More than just a presentation of statistics which quite frankly after a while you stop paying attention to, it told the history of how fashion came to be one of the worst polluters. This fact is so upsetting to me because like finding out someone you love did something terribly wrong, I am finding it challenging to reconcile my love of clothing with such evildoing.
The name of the book is Fashionopolis and the author is Dana Thomas, a fashion journalist based in Paris. It’s the kind of book I wish I could write. I have read some of her other books which are also well-written: Deluxe: How Luxury Lost It’s Luster and Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano.
The big epiphany for me in having this issue situated in time was the realization that I began my love affair with clothing well before fast fashion began. Our relationship with clothes was more like a personal one. We gave them the same level of care; mending, repairing, cleaning, cherishing, that we might give to other relationships and people in our lives. When we looked at them they were full of memories that lingered like a favorite perfume and we loved the feel of them because they were made from wool and cotton. We bought way less but higher quality (my view on friendship as well). It hit me so profoundly that the accelerated pace and scale of change has caused us to become careless, not only with clothes but also with how free we feel to treat each other badly. Reading this book and having this realization made me not want to look at the clothes during fashion week, especially when so many of them are not meant for wearing or living a real-life in. Perhaps they were meant only for Instagram pictures. That means they are designed to be disposable.
It’s been percolating for a while now as longtime followers know, but all of this has made me want to not buy anything new. But for someone who craves innovation and change, who’s identity is frequently shifting and who has come to make a living as a “fashion blogger”, this presents a creative challenge. Yes, I can shop vintage or consignment but it is still adding new “stuff”. It made me realize despite many people wanting me to, I will never start a brand. I can’t bear to add to the pile.
So how do I solve this creative challenge? Next week I am meeting with two MFA students from Parsons School of Design and we’re going to take some of my clothes apart. Then we’re going to collaborate on how they may be put back together in a new and modern way. We will be asking and addressing wonderful questions about identity, texture, drape, society and the addition of color to a wardrobe that for many years was like the results of photos taken only with a monochrome camera. Somehow I know that a garment created through collaboration and relationship will make me love it more than anything that I could buy in a store. I have found during my long career doing social justice work that the only thing that changes peoples minds and opens their eyes is when they start caring about “the other”. This is achieved by having a personal relationship. Care is the motivation that can make us do hard things, become angry about bad things and have the will to do something about it. So maybe in this age of superficiality and social media (don’t get me wrong I love it when it is used productively), we need to craft clothes and experiences that access the ability of humans to care.
I’m treating myself and my family to vacation but I’ll be back next week. Working on The Syllabus so stay tuned, BTW I’m wearing a reconstructed piece made by Re;Code, I’ve written about them before but click on the link; they are doing amazing work. For those who missed it here is a link to an earlier post about a piece they made for me from some old clothes and recycled materials. And YES those are cotton ball earrings!