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Routed

Many Problems: Even more Solutions

Many Problems: Even more Solutions

 

The end of my read of Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline was exactly what I was hoping: a personal story of Cline's journey towards a conscious or "slow" fashion closet.  She lays out how she and others have changed their purchasing, clean-out and mending practices to improve the impact they were personally making with their clothing.

 

The Solutions:

1. Altering your own clothes - For so many years now we have worn clothing straight off the rack, no one notices or thinks twice about pieces that don't fit them well.  In previous generations, everyone altered clothes, guaranteeing that they would be cut and shaped to fit their body type.  When we take clothes to Salvation Army only 15% of those pieces get resold, the rest literally get thrown away!  Cline dramatically decreased the amount of clothing she was giving away by changing the pieces the already had.  She dyed shoes difference colors, shortened skirts, altered t-shirts, removed linings and moved buttons.  Small changes can make a piece a completely different item, updating it and making it new!

She says that now: "Anything we wear can be altered and changed into something else, something more personalized and expressive.  I take pride in wearing things that fit my frame."

2. Have shoes repaired - When we purchase shoes that are a slightly higher quality they can almost always be repaired when the soles break down or seams separate, by having shoes repaired we extend their life!

 3. Make your own clothes - I have a neighbor who started making her own clothing years ago and now runs a shop where she sells other local maker's pieces and her own (check out www.stlunionstudio.com).  She was an attorney, honestly, if she can do this, so can I.  Even if it is simple pieces made with recycled fabrics on a borrowed machine, the best way to learn is to try! 

4. Purchase Ethically - Need we say more?  This is who we are and what we do.  The way the mainstream garment industry functions is wrong on so many levels, and sometimes we don't have time or patience or interest in making or mending our own clothing.  LET ROUTE DO THE WORK FOR YOU!!  We have several great seamstresses that we LOVE to partner with to help tailor our clothing, and hopefully you don't need it when you buy from us.  We carefully choose pieces that work together and if we don't have it, we are happy to hunt and find it!  Buying from Route increases the ethical fashion industry, spreads the word about how important it is and improves the impact of your wardrobe!

So now we are feeling seriously challenged!  Next up: Zoe, Jessica and I will be tackling The Conscious Closet Challenge!  We want to actively move towards a closet filled with clothing that has little impact, lasts a long time and is fashion forward...here we go...

 

 

 

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Overdressed on Overproduction

Overdressed on Overproduction

At this point we all know well that the garment industry as it currently exists is largely about pumping out quantity (at varying levels of quality) cheap and fast.  

As I continued reading Overdressed, Cline spends a significant portion of the book retelling her travels and experiences visiting both factories and middle men in a variety of countries.  What is so interesting is that she has no access to the sweat shops or buildings with poor working conditions, the factories that she visits are for the most part positive workplaces that are at least (from the worker's perspective) supplying their worker's needs.  

I loved this portion of the book because it reveals just how complicated the whole situation is.  Here are some of the issues she runs into on her journey:

1. Cultural norms and values effect worker's perceptions and opinions of their working conditions.  In the factory she visited in China, the hours that employees work and the conditions that workers live in may seem inappropriate to Westerners, but were sufficient and acceptable to the makers that she met with.

2. "Sewing should be a good job; it should be a great job" - Even the factories with the highest technology require people who are experienced and knowledgeable about sewing.  Beyond that, sewing as a profession is rewarding, communal and can be so much fun.

3. "The Race to the Bottom"as controlled by customer's insistence on the cheapest fashionable clothing has dictated and driven manufacturing, pushing manufacturing out of countries with higher minimum wages or where workers require better compensation or treatment.  

4. China is not the ultimate perpetrator of workplace abuse.  Over the last 5 to 10 years workers in China have increased their savvy, entire generations of people moving out of the country into cities are better educated and more fashionable themselves.  Factories have the highest technology, provide housing, food and often other job benefits.  However, producing in China is becoming more expensive (a 10-30% increase yearly) and several designers and retailers have moved production to less expensive countries.

5. Whether or not consumers like it, we may have hit rock bottom with clothing prices and it is highly possible that regardless of ethical fashion movements, clothing prices are on the rise because as manufacturing has now been in countries for almost a generation, cost of living is increasing, wages are increasing and workers are requiring more (as they should be).

I am excited and overwhelmed by all of this information.  As consumers the veil needs to be lifted on the production chain and primarily the factories that are producing our clothing.  Not only out of concern for the people making them but the environmental impact is important.   What dyes are being used on our clothing, how much air and water pollution is being caused?  

Did you know that when you pay more for a piece, you aren't necessarily getting a higher quality?  How do we learn fabrics and clothing again so that when we purchase we aren't purchasing just a brand, but also a well made piece of clothing.  (Could you pick a french seam out of a line up?)

I think it is absolutely possible for us to look at tags and just from the information given know more.  We can know that if it was made in China, it's likely a higher quality piece and working conditions were possibly slightly higher than other countries, however, there was likely no concern for environmental impact in production.  In Bangladesh or Vietnam it's all bad.  In the U.S., what does "Made in the U.S.A." may or may not mean that it is ethically made, more homework may be involved.

                         

 

Where does our journey to an ethical wardrobe begin?  I think in the tags of the clothing we already own....

We've been talking a bit around my dining table (our online team's frequent work place of choice) about this and wondering where our current wardrobe stands on an ethical scale of 1-10. YIKES.  A "come to Jesus" may be brewing for our closets.  More to come...

Happy shopping,

Christina

Photo Cred: NYT and Hercampus.com

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