This weekend I had the pleasure of joining two distinguished women to speak on a panel about the future of sustainable fashion. Kimberly Hunter and Grace Gouin are both local leaders in the industry, Grace of Appalatch Outdoor Apparel Company and Kimberly Hunter of Prolific Consulting which is the result of many professional years in the fashion world.
The panel was called "Changing the Face of Fashion" and it was part of Women's Business Weekend in Asheville, North Carolina.
Looking at fashion through the eyes of a person who has been in the industry for a long time, as well as from a new manufacturer's perspective, and keeping in mind the customer's view, while also my own, was valuable. I spoke with a woman after the talk who told me she hadn't bought a new piece of clothing in 30 years - and she raised boys! Kimberly has worked for apparel companies operating in 5 seasons who design years out. Grace has fought battles sourcing materials and manufacturing in the US. Rhetorical Factory has been sifting and analyzing the product of the fast paced fashion scene as we know it.
None of our visions fits with the way things are. We all want to add value and slow down this manufacturing monster. We want people to have a choice.
The fashion world has sprung up out of the courage and ability of some very capable artists. The idea of personal style has finally been epitomized, with billions of garments worn and unworn to choose from. The very notion that we can wear what we want as individuals despite class or gender would rock the mind of recent ancestors. It's a beautiful thing indeed.
It can continue to be that way - changing and continuing to capitalize on the individual. But it cannot continue in the same way. It can't continue to exploit and it can't continue to exclude. By creating valuable jobs instead of deadly ones we can change slave labor into free trade. By wearing recycled and artistically enhancing instead of replacing our clothes we can reserve resources and even the playing field when it comes to style. When we do buy new, we can support an entire chain of valuable energy exchange and end up with a product we can hand down.
I am someone who likes a challenge when it comes to style. I like to "pull things off" instead of follow trends. It's interesting to be so involved in conversations like this because I have never seen my self in the Vogue world. It seems like this must be the time for the two to meet in the middle. Big fashion is intimidating! I would like to hear from some of you who have mastered it, because I wonder if it really does need to melt into something new. Do the super models of today feel as strong and beautiful as they look? Do your favorite brands make you feel part of something good? What steam is the gigantic world of fashion running on? Can we replace it with something closer to home?
I think the runway is exciting and intriguing - a work of art. I want to see each street become a runway, not a herd of sheep.
We want fashion to grow sustainably. It may hurt a little but that's how growing works.
Buy less and shop more. Question Everything.
Spread the word! And please, tell me what you think.