In my almost seven decades on this planet, I have seen the fashion industry explode from one of the more expensive line items in a family’s budget, to a cheap runaway commodity that is out of control. The damage to the planet and population serving the needs of this industry are becoming more and more transparent every day, and yet as consumers, we continue to buy and throw away clothes at an alarming rate. Because our pocket books are fueling this disaster, it is our duty to withhold spending money on fast fashion as a matter of protest.
While we are learning more and more about this disastrous industry, it does not seem to be changing our behaviors. We continue to indulge in this fashion ’addiction’; buying cheap clothes, and tossing them. How do we change our behaviors when the destruction of the industry is over there, rather than here. How do we stop buying clothes when they are so cheap, and shopping is fun! Doesn’t it help third world countries that are making our clothes put food on their tables and afford roofs over their heads if we buy fast fashion?
I think we really need to ask ourselves what we need and why do we need it. We all want to look our best, just as we want to eat healthy foods and keep out bodies in shape. But learning to regulate consumption in our diets is just as important is learning to curtail spending on our clothes.
Labor is cheap and human rights a low priority in third world countries where fast fashion is manufactured. The factories producing these clothes are not regulated or inspected, so standards are non existent, and working conditions often unsafe. The well established corporations contracting for these goods are not responsible for the conditions of these workplaces; building owners are not regulated; no one is financially responsible for the devastation that this industry produces.
Fast fashion boils down to cheap fashion, which is one of the keys to understanding this industry’s problem. We are not paying the people who make our clothes a living wage. The money we spend on fast fashion is not financing a healthy industry. Employees are at risk, buildings are collapsing, pollution is widespread with no end in sight. None of the money we spend on fast fashion is paying to solve any of these problems.
For fashion to be healthy, the cost of your clothing has to have enough overhead built in to be redirected into improvements. The money you currently spend on inexpensive clothing will have to increase to account for these changes. The cost of fashion will have to cover reversing pollution and improving the infrastructure. So just as fashion used to be one of the more expensive line items in a family’s budget, for this industry to repair itself, it will have to become that way again.
As a circular fashion economy begins to explore and experiment with fast fashion alternatives, new cost structures are emerging that are both effective and fashionable. While some of them may go by the wayside, and others catch on like wildfire, my personal believe is that reuse is at the core of fashion health. Reuse keeps clothing out of landfill. None of the pollution that resulted in producing that original garment will be repeated. Business models such as trading or renting clothing provides the freshness of ‘new’ that consumers expect.
Reuse also buys us time. As we learn to shop responsibly, and keep the clothing that we have rather than replacing it, we are slowing down the fast fashion engine. And while reuse does not immediately invest in a healthy industry, it does allow us to step on the brakes while we reflect and build on more sustainable practices.
Fashion boils down to a simple common denominator: we all want to look good to others. The growth of the personal health and fitness industry is an excellent example of this. According to PolicyAdvice, this industry is growing at 8.7% year over year. Personal Trainers, a career that did not exist until the late 1900s, now brings in an average salary of $40,000/year.
So when are we going to apply our interest in health and fitness to style and fashion? When are we going to slow down and spend the same amount of time that we spend at the gym on our personal wardrobes? When do we adorn our beautiful bodies with environmentally healthy and personally flattering clothing?
My fashion advice is to invest in a stylist, friend or professional, who can help you understand and define your personal style. Take them shopping with you, or invite them into your wardrobe to help you evaluate what your best styles and colors are. This will go a long way toward helping you make fashion purchases in the future that will not end up in the recycle bin. Because frankly, you are worth it! And so is the environment.
Photo by @suzmcfaddenphoto
To follow Darcy Fowkes, check out her Instagram handles @darcyfowkes (for green fashion designers), @couturedarcy or @darcycouture2021 (for her upcycled fashion designs).
Designer Darcy Fowkes dresses identical 'twin' models in the same garments coupled with different tops and accessories to illustrate how extensibie a few core garments can be. In this photo above, Darcy couples a repurposed pashmina scarf with baggy hammer pants (made from damaged linen yardage) as her core ensemble.
Both outfits are coordinated with different tops, hats, and belts. The outfit on the left picks up the blue in the vest, for a more spring/summer look. This outfit's cloche style hat is trimmed with a thrifted men’s silk tie that also picks up the detailed pattern on the vest.
The outfit on the right supports the brown colorway in the ensemble and a longer sleeved top for a more fall/winter look. Fish leather belts in blue and brown add detail at the waist for final accessory touches.
In this photo both models are wearing home sewn tie-dyed jersey capris coupled with two different tops and headwear. The oversized green linen top on the left is accessorized with a green snood scarf, repurposed from a t-shirt. The thrifted orange tank top on the right is accessorized with a hemp linen cap designed from seasonally discarded upholstery samples.
Again, the outfit on the left features fall colors and styles, while the one on the right is clearly a summer ensemble, complete with bare feet! Just by adding these two tops and their corresponding head wear to this one pair of pants, these capris can now be worn from summer to fall.
In this photograph Darcy dresses the twins in a pair of repurposed capris cut from a thrifted pair of bell bottoms. Darcy tops the outfit on the left with a gifted, altered top, and a matching cap and neck scarf designed from a piece of scrap lace. The model on the right wears a thrifted tissue jersey cap sleeve top with a coordinated thrifted scarf. Sandals are upcycled/painted with Jacquard Lumiere leather paints.
While both outfits are indeed summer attire, they do not look anything alike. Refreshing one pair of pants/capris with different 'looks' helps us keep our clothing out of landfill.
All three photographs illustrate how extensible any one item of clothing can be when you style them into different looks. This is an effective tool for updating core garments, keeping your wardrobe fashionable fresh all year long. Bottom line: by thrifting and repurposing, you can use extensibility to practice sustainability.
Photo Credits: Suz McFadden
At the Pivot Fashion Show at Mark and Anne's Art Party in 2016, the cameras (and audience) loved Ella, our model pictured on the left. In a crowd of 12 models all wearing beautiful hand crafted hats, one attendee came running over as she picked Ella out from our crowd of fashionable beauties. While it is obvious her hat, designed by Stella Shen (email@example.com), is sensational, it is important that our outfit supported rather than coordinated with this floral creation.
What this boils down to is that the hat takes center stage in this ensemble, and that the outfit supports the head wear rather than competing with it, or for that matter, matching it. If we had dressed Ella in yellow or green, the outfit would have cheapened, ruined, or tarnished the elegance of the hat. Instead, by dressing our model in the softer hues of the grasses supporting the blooms in the hat, the color pop of the flowers speak for the entire ensemble.
This is a good rule to follow if you do not want to be challenged with coordinating different prints and colors, which is hard to do tastefully. The term 'color pop' refers to a digital
image in which part of an image is shown in color, while the rest of the image featured in grey or a dull monochrome. In fashion, using color sparingly, but
dramatically, can often be a key to creating drama without going overboard.
Photographer Richard Arbuckle
Edgy, yet conservative, this kind of styling works for all ages, young and old. And most events, casual to dressy. In this picture we have featured a black and white design, but imagine the colors and patterns this style garment can support, and the combinations and permutations go as far and wide as the mathematical computations our minds are capable of can go.
Stripes and polka dots, contrasting plaids, primary color contrasts with trims to bring them together, the design palette for creating this garment is unlimited. And the garment itself provides a spectacular fashion lift to a simple camisole or tank top. And the beauty of this style is that it is simple to construct. No darts, princess seams, or hard-to-fit challenges. If you want some help designing your pattern for this top, let me know!
This pin was borrowed from Etsy, but the source was not available, so I do not know who to give credit to for this wonderful photograph.
The thing I love about upcycling is that I can almost always find an unloved garment that goes with something that could use a facelift. This ensemble combines old and new upcycles comes from 5 different garments, representing a collective ensemble of 12 shades of gray. The hat (a two year old upcycle) features a circle design of triangle stripes from a discarded t-shirt, and a band of silk from the man's silk tie that was used to make the neck scarf (a new upcycle). Capri length leggings, also new (folded under belt and shoe), are upcycled from a man's short sleeve t-shirt. The belt (a five year old upcycle) combines the collar and cuff of a man's snap front dress shirt, that circles below the waist. One of the cuff's snaps connects to the center front snap on the collar. which gives the belt an asymmetric curve.
Shoes are new (Blow Fish from Fine-Things in Arnold, California). Outfit was pulled together and designed to coordinate with the detailed pattern on the shoes. Tops
(second hand rescues not shown) are a charcoal gray tank top, and a dove gray lace top for dressier occasions.