WHAT: In fashion, supply chains (which can extend from a garment sewer all the way back to a cotton farmer) are fractured and faceless. Fashion Revolution Day is an annual event that invites us all to ask questions and advocate for a more responsible and transparent clothing industry.
WHEN: April 24, 2015
WHO: Tens of thousands of people participated in the first Fashion Revolution Day on April 24, 2014. The goal is to go even bigger this time around!
WHERE: People in more than 60 countries took part in the Fashion Revolution last year. At least 71 nations are expected to be represented during Fashion Revolution Day 2015.
WHY: 1,133 people were killed and more than 2,500 were injured on April 24, 2013 when the Rana Plaza garment factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Sadly, this was neither the first nor the last social and environmental catastrophe created by the global fashion industry. Fashion Revolution says enough is enough.
Related Story: Remembering Rana Plaza
HOW: Take a selfie showing the tag or label on a piece of clothing. Tag the brand and ask #whomademyclothes? Advanced option: Wear your clothes inside out. When friends and well-meaning strangers point this out, explain why.
Together, we will use the power of fashion to inspire change and reconnect the broken links in the system. The more people who ask #whomademyclothes, the more brands will feel challenged to take responsibility for the people and environment in their supply chains.
Sold? Start by joining the #FashRev Thunderclap campaign, and visit fashionrevolution.org to find events in your city.
When we say Laura Siegel is a fashion designer of today’s world, we truly mean world. The rising star of global, socially conscious fashion is keen on growing her artisan base, everywhere. “Today, we’re investing our efforts into research, into regions of the world with communities that share our values,” says Siegel. With previous and ongoing projects in India and Bolivia, as well as blossoming collaborations in Peru, Guatemala and Bangladesh, the designer envisions these efforts as ways to help artisans of a region preserve and further their craft.
In October of 2014, Siegel’s work was recognized by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which named her a semi-finalist in the CFDA/Lexus Eco Fashion Challenge. That same month, director Jennifer Sharpe’s documentary, Traceable, premiered at the Raindance Film Festival in London. Siegel is a main character in the film, which follows her journey to bridge the current disconnect between consumer and creator. There are risks and rewards for investing in socially conscious fashion, and Traceable explores how Siegel’s consciousness as a designer can turn fast fashion on its head.
No doubt, the most fun aspect of Siegel’s job is crisscrossing continents to learn from the people and places that inspire her collections. We caught up with the globetrotting, rickshaw-riding designer and asked her to share her field notes. Part interview and part travel diary, it’s a look at the inspo behind her designs, the relationships to her artisans, and what she craves most when she’s working abroad.
Your scope as a designer is positively eclectic. What makes it into your collections? At the beginning, it was an experimental process. I used to travel a lot before I started my line, so I was familiar with certain regions and cultures. I’d spent time in Southeast Asia. That’s where I would say it began: me doing research, connecting with people, seeing how the NGOs worked and functioned, and what crafts I strongly connected with. It was meeting amazing people that helped foster relationships in the beginning.
Do you work with mostly women artisans? It’s a mix of men and women, depending on where you are in the world. There are certain crafts that through tradition and over time only women have practiced. Same thing goes for the men. I work with some copper belt smiths, in Kutch, India. The men work on a portion of the belt, the women will work on another. These crafts that I work with are so ancient. It’s a representation, the way that their craft is woven. It’s a portrayal of their ancestors.
“These crafts that I work with are so ancient. For the artisans, it’s a representation, a portrayal of their ancestors.”
How do you shift something ancient into something fresh, modern? No matter how you're working, that’s always going to come with design. That’s a huge part of the design process. Experimenting, seeing things physically, you have to change what you initially had in mind. We scrapped one project where we had tried 15 colors in a piece using a hand-dyed process. But portions of the fabric would bleed, and a lot of fabric might be wasted [if we continued to pursue it]. And of course, we don’t want to waste fabric!
What are some home foods you miss when you’re traveling? Definitely salad and raw food. While I eat plenty of fruit and cooked vegetables, I actually want lettuce. Sometimes, I’ll be in a population that’s vegan and there will be times that I crave meat. Other places are dry, so I will want a glass a wine. I’ve spent a lot of time in India, but one time after I’d had a glass of water at a friend’s home, I asked, “Is this filtered?” and they said no!
What’s your favorite way to travel? Rickshaw? Plane? It depends on the city I’m traveling. When I first backpacked in India, I would take a public bus for eight rupees, but now, I only have so much time to run my business. So I take whatever method is quickest–train, plane, car.
For Project Eleven27, artisans in western India create scarves in memoriam for each of the lives lost in Bangladesh during the Rana Plaza factory collapse. What a beautiful connection to make across South Asian borders. It’s a whole process! The artisans we employ to handweave the scarves are very passionate creative minds. A portion of the proceeds go to Sreepur Village, a UK-based NGO in Bangladesh. We did a lot of research leading up to launching Project Eleven27 and felt they were doing an amazing job taking action. They’re helping people in the right way, like making sure surviving families receive care and helping keep children in school. We went last October to Bangladesh–my first time in the country–to meet with the charity and give them the proceeds.
How are your artisans seen in the final product? I want to hold on to the stories of the women I’m working with. I want to incorporate what surrounds their lives visually. The way that I drape is influenced by my early travels when I was a student at Parsons, where I established my aesthetics. My fascination with these cultures, the nomadic lifestyle, the colors, textures and fabrics, also lends itself to how a stylish woman seeks comfort but doesn’t want to sacrifice style.
No one wears an article of clothing quite as well as the person who designed it. Case in point: Miakoda’s Julia Ahrens, who chronicles her OOTDs on almost on the daily on Instagram, showing us how to style her vegan loungewear for snow and sand, and setting the bar for how to work casual cruelty-free looks from head to toe. If her feed were a photobook, we'd title it 101 Super Cute Ways to Wear Slouchy Pants.
Corsetry, garters and mesh? Not this year. It’s time to give your underwear drawer a makeunder instead, with a focus on better-for-you, back-to-basics styles. From bra-and-panty sets in stark white to sporty tape bras paired with high-waisted briefs, the intimates we’re loving right now are luxuriously comfortable and beautifully minimalist–in other words, fit for real-world, everyday wear. Even better, these collections are made from natural and organic materials, meaning fewer pesticides and chemicals coming into contact with some of your body's most sensitive spots.
1. Brook There
Made in Maine from U.S.-milled organic cotton, Brook There is all about construction and comfort. You won’t find wires to “push up” parts of your body, or spandex-like synthetic fabrics to compress others. Instead, designer Brook DeLorme flatters the figure through precise fits and clever details, such as slimming color-blocking and strategically placed stripes.
Launched via Kickstarter last fall, the Najla range consists of just five classic styles: a balcony bra, a full-coverage bra, a camisole, a bikini brief and a thong. Each of the understated designs is available in black or white, crafted from organic cotton and made locally in NYC.
Best known for its bright prints (created with AZO- and formaldehyde-free dyes), Alas sleepwear is the stuff of dreams. The brand’s PJs, teddies and undergarments are made in India from certified organic cotton–which is also grown, spun, woven and dyed in-country.
4. Base Range
The vision behind this French brand is spelled out in its name, an acronym for Basic Aesthetic for Sustainable Easywear. But while the concept is simple, the execution is elevated–think smoky-black bodysuits made from stretchy bamboo, and sporty, waffle-knit bras cut from undyed organic cotton. Production is based at small, family-owned factories in Portugal and Turkey.
5. Only Hearts
This line of "inner outerwear" is a collaborative effort between a former pastry chef and a boutique owner–in other words, dotingly made and designed to appeal to a discerning customer. Made in Peru, Only Hearts’ Organic collection is made from GOTS-certified pima cotton and spans undies, tanks, PJs and loungewear.
The sustainable fashion set loves Kowtow for its unisex aesthetic and structured, oversize styles. But the New Zealand-based brand’s more casual Building Blocks collection is our go-to for minimalist basics. Find bikini briefs featuring Kowtow's latest prints, as well as camis, leggings and light-as-air layering pieces.
Designer Daphne Javitch favors Italian cotton over organic for her Ten Undies collection (the brand says Italian mills are renowned for producing superior textiles). But whatever sustainability points Ten loses for using a conventionally grown fiber, it makes up for with quality construction and on-point design. The U.S.A.-made line consists of just five styles–three panties and two bras–that have developed a feverish following in fashion circles.
Finding the perfect middle ground between basic and boring is the goal at Nico, an underwear brand from Down Under. The first lingerie line to be accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia, Nico works with bamboo and organic cotton fabrics, and manufactures all of its garments locally in Brisbane.
As might be expected of a brand whose name pays homage to the largest organ in the human body, Skin makes underthings that are lightweight but protective, with an additional emphasis on the health of the women who wear them. All clean lines and solid colors, the brand’s underwear is made of certified organic pima cotton and treated with low-impact dyes. Manufacturing takes place at small factories in Peru.
One way to stay on top of those New Year's resolutions? Tackle two at a time. At these four fitness studios in New York City, your cardio fix comes with a side of sustainability and social consciousness.
Get fit and go green...
The Studio: Green Fitness, greenfitnessstudio.com
The Workouts: From Bikram to boxing to boot camps, there's a lot to choose from at this boutique gym in Bushwick. Also on offer: Pilates, spinning, yoga, hip-hop, kettle bells, circuit training, TRX, and mixed martial arts.
The Mission: With details ranging from fitness equipment that’s fashioned from recycled metal to reclaimed-rubber floors in the weight room, Green is second only to nature itself in terms of where to score an eco-friendly endorphin rush. You’ll shower under low-flow showerheads, detox in an energy efficient infrared sauna, consume local and organic produce at the juice bar–there’s even a living roof. Click here to check out the full–and long–list of Green’s pioneering eco features.
The Studio: Aqua, www.aquastudiony.com
The Workout: A European fitness fad whose rumored adherents include Pippa Middleton and Beyonce, aquacycling or hydrospinning is exactly what it sounds like–a spinning class in a pool, with riders up to their waists in water. It's the water that provides the resistance during this low-impact workout, which is said to be an effective cellulite buster.
The Mission: Regularly home to workshops on clean eating and healthy living, this Tribeca studio is as green as it is gorgeous. Repurposed materials were used throughout the three-story space, where the locker room is appointed with natural bath products and workouts take place in a saltwater pool (requiring fewer chemicals for sanitation than its chlorinated counterparts). When it comes time to change out of that wet bathing suit, don't expect to find any plastic bags here. Members are asked to either bring their own or purchase an eco-friendly and reusable Terra New York tote at the reception desk (which, btw, is made from reclaimed floor boards).
Get fit and give back...
The Studio: The Movement, themovementfitness.com
The Workouts: Be prepared to sweat hard during this studio's mantra-driven mash-ups of yoga, cardio intervals, dance, core exercises, and strength- and resistance-training. No matter which combo you choose, count on the staff to keep you inspired and motivated.
The Mission: The Movement donates $1 per student per class to the National Brain Tumor Society, the largest nonprofit dedicated to the brain tumor community in the United States.
The Studio: Studio 360, my360nyc.com
The Workouts: Yoga, cycling, or both during the studio’s hourlong Signature Series classes
The Mission: Studio 360 donates $1 per student per class to a different charity each month. For January 2015, that charity is Calvary Hospital. Operated in connection with the Archdiocese of New York, this voluntary, not-for-profit hospital provides palliative care to adult patients in the advanced stages of cancer.
The joy of giving is felt even more deeply when a present stands for something positive. And in the case of our top holiday gift picks, "positive" doesn't begin to cover it.
At a prison in Mexico City, a group of female inmates worked by hand to cross-stitch the leather for Study’s pretty keychain pouch. In doing so, these women learned or honed craft skills that can translate into a sustainable income, as well as a life free from crime upon release.
In Nairobi, workers in a “trash for cash” program collected discarded metal goods ranging from belt buckles to door handles. Under the direction of a Kenyan metalsmith named Kine, who uses his craft to empower underprivileged youth in his community, the reclaimed metals were melted down and artfully reshaped into contemporary jewelry. The result: striking accessories like Soko’s Cross Kizimba cuff.
In Cambodia, artisans repurposed metal shells from bombs that were dropped on the country during the rise and reign of the Khmer Rouge. Plated in 24-karat gold, these former weapons became the hardware and chain straps used in Mettle Fair Trade's recycled-lucite clutches, among other designs.
Inspired? That's just a sampling of the stories represented in our selection. Whether your budget is big or small, each of these feel-good finds is packed with purpose.
For those of us who enjoy fashion but prefer it without a side of environmental damage or excessive consumerism, days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are potential rollercoasters of disgust and delight.
On the delighting side: moving a long-coveted item from your wishlist to your closet; that tingly moment when you think to yourself how much better it really is to give than to receive; and the simple satisfaction of supporting brands and businesses you believe in.
On the less-delighting end: footage of people literally being trampled by deal-hungry mobs; contemplating other uses for the $36.7 billion that Americans are expected to spend this holiday weekend; and knowing that some families will congregate at malls, instead of around a meal, on Thanksgiving Day.
With extremes like these, it's tempting to take a "can't beat 'em, so join them" approach, or skip the holiday sales entirely. But unless you've taken a strict no-shopping vow, don't throw in the towel just yet. There are savings to be had this time of year, and a more efficient use of your financial resources can lead to less waste, both short term and in the long run.
Whether it's Black Friday, Cyber Monday or a plain old sale, shop consciously using these tips.
1. Use sales as opportunities to invest in quality pieces.
Instead of buying more, take advantage of the sale season to buy better. A well-constructed item made from high-quality materials is likely to stay in your wardrobe for years to come. Think about cost-per-wear and replacement expenses, and not just an item's upfront price, when determining if it's a good value. Beyond the financial benefits, we can put a dent in our levels of landfill pollution if we make a collective effort to buy fewer things with longer lifecycles.
2. When shopping for yourself, set intentions for your wardrobe.
From major markdowns to savvy sales people, there are plenty of forces pushing us to make impulsive, on-the-spot purchases. Having a clear vision of the closet you aspire to build (or maintain) helps to mitigate these influences–if an item falls short of the standards you set, discounts or sales pressure shouldn't persuade you to buy it.
Seeing the big picture is also helpful in avoiding redundant buys. Great finds can be hard to resist, but ask yourself whether an item fills a gap in your closet or moves you any closer toward the wardrobe you're trying to create. If it doesn't, take a pass.
3. And while you're setting intentions, set a budget also.
Interest charges have a way of making discounts disappear. Once those credit card payments are tallied up, sale items can end up costing more than the original retail price. To actually reap the savings from holiday sales, it's critical not to overspend. Deferring payments (a.k.a., charging it) can make it easier to shop in excess of what we need and can afford, whereas working within a budget requires us to give each purchase due consideration.
4. Beware of BOGO offers, package deals and gifts with purchase.
It's not that BOGO deals should always be a no-go, but remember that tactics like this are designed to make you spend more. Before opening up your wallet, ask yourself if what you like most about that second pair of shoes is that it's half-off, or whether you'll ever use the lotion in that fragrance set. If you've walked out of a store with things you neither want nor need, you haven't gotten more bang for your buck–unless "bang" means stuff that will sit around your house and eventually get tossed. As for freebies? There's nothing wrong with politely declining samples or "gifts" for which you have no use.
5. When shopping for others, look for extended return policies.
The thought counts, but (from an environmental perspective) so does how much use or value a recipient will derive from your gift. When shopping for a present, check the store's return policy to ensure that your giftee has enough time to make a return or exchange if necessary. Many stores offer extended return periods during the holidays.
6. Do your research on for-charity products.
The holidays can bring out our philanthropic leanings, but research shows that shopping is an inefficient way to channel that impulse. In the words of Charity Navigator, "sending a $25 check to a charity does much more to help that organization fulfill its mission, than if you were to make a one-time purchase of a $100 product for which the organization only received $0.50."
If you'd like to supplement direct donations via your holiday shopping, keep in mind that not all charity-linked goods are created equal. To evaluate an item, start with Charity Navigator's list of pre-purchase questions, including whether the product is something you actually want or need.
7. Never mind how much stores drop prices. How low will you go?
On discount-centric days like Black Friday, we're practically hardwired to look for the lowest price possible. But there's a point when these record lows become a little too much like actual "steals," and we should ask ourselves what big costs are not reflected in that tempting price.
It takes a whole bunch of people to make a single garment: farmers, mill workers, fabric cutters, patternmakers, sewers and truck drivers, just to scratch the surface. If a dress retails for $5, it's inconceivable that the workers who made it were paid a living wage. Also unlikely: that the manufacturer used non-carcinogenic chemicals to treat the textiles; that effective steps were taken to protect the environment from toxic pollutants; and that you'll still be wearing that dress this time next year.
To distinguish a deal from a steal, decide in advance what you think a fair price for a piece of clothing is–even by Black Friday standards. Reference companies you trust to see how low their prices get. If you come across a frock that's priced more like a Frappuccino than the number in your head, move along.
Still triple-crossing your fingers that your find was (at least semi) ethically made? Take a look around. If rock-bottom prices are an anomaly rather than the rule, maybe you just scored the deal of the century. Otherwise, remind yourself that dirt-cheap items often come at the expense of your health, the planet and other people's basic human rights; no matter what sticker says, it's a high price.
8. Your wallet is an influencer.
For all the downsides to consumerism, it can also be a powerful agent of change. Use your purchasing power to support social enterprises, ethical companies, and local and small businesses. When properly harnessed by mission-oriented companies, every dollar you spend has the potential to help create jobs, clean up the planet, and bring about social good.
It’s not often that fashion choices can be reduced to mathematical formulas. But there's a reason that cashmere is a wintertime staple, and it boils down to one compelling equation: its warmth-to-weight ratio. Put another way, this fine natural fiber–which is said to be eight times warmer than sheep's wool–offers maximum toastiness with minimum bulkiness.
Another plus? Cashmere is one of the most long-lasting fibers around. Connoisseurs claim that garments made from this paper-thin yarn can last up to 30 years–just as long as you show them a little TLC. Heed these six tips, and your cashmere should keep you cozy for years and years to come.
1. Shave regularly. Knits made from natural fibers can pill–a.k.a., form fuzz balls–in areas where friction occurs, such as under the arms, along the inside of the thighs, or where you carry your handbag. Pilling occurs most frequently when cashmere is brand new; use a razor blade, lint tape or special device like the Gleener to keep yours fuzz-free.
2. Don't wear and wash. Assuming your day was free of stains, spills and sweating, you can wear your cashmere more than once before it requires cleaning. Laundering is recommended after about three wears, but you can up that number if you're wearing yours over a base layer, or if you air it out after each use (tip: try a special freshening spray if needed).
"A cashmere knit is like a book. It is something to save and go back to time after time. It is the feeling of an embrace." –Brunello Cucinelli
3. Ignore what the label says. Because it's a delicate yarn, many cashmere items are labeled “Dry Clean Only.” But cashmere comes from goats, and goats' fur–like human hair–gets fluffier and more lustrous after it's washed. By contrast, dry cleaning* will damage and break down the fibers over time.
When to make an exception: If your item has special buttons, metals, embroidery or beading, follow the care instructions on the label, or do further research on the best way to get it clean.
4. Wash your cashmere in cold water and use a mild detergent. Hand washing your cashmere items is always your best bet. Some cashmere buffs advise soaks of up to two or three hours to achieve that aforementioned fluffiness, but anywhere in the vicinity of 20 minutes will do the trick. And while purists staunchly oppose the idea of ever popping precious cashmere into a machine, some of the more laidback experts agree that turning a cashmere garment inside out and putting it in the washer for a brief, gentle-cycle spin on occasion is ok.
Two important things to remember when you wash: any form of heat will shrink cashmere faster than you can say "crop top," so make sure the water's cold. And regular detergent is too harsh for cashmere; use two teaspoons of organic baby shampoo or a biodegradable wool wash instead.
5. Time is the best fabric softener. Can cashmere even get any softer? Incredibly, the answer is yes–but it's best to let that happen naturally over time. Adding fabric softener will likely have the opposite effect. If you're absolutely compelled to soften, try an all-natural, DIY version made from white vinegar or baking soda.
6. Lay flat. Be patient. Cashmere is at its most delicate when the fibers are wet, so this is the stage that requires the most care. Unfortunately, wet cashmere can take days to dry, so this is also the stage that requires the most patience. The cardinal rule here is no wringing; to gently press excess water out of your garment, place it on a dry towel and carefully roll it up. Once the towel has absorbed as much of the moisture as possible, shape the garment and lay it flat in a shady spot to dry.
We don't recommend doing this every time you wash, but if you need a dry garment sooner rather than later, you can put it in the dryer for five minutes to speed things up. Then lay it flat to complete the process. It bears repeating that heat causes cashmere to shrink, so remember to use the air dry setting only.
Bonus Tip: While some of these facts are cashmere-specific, you can follow this process to clean and care for any pure woolens. Do not follow these steps if your garments are cashmere or wool blends with synthetic components (acrylic, nylon, polyester, etc.), or for lined items like wool jackets and suits.
*That's not all we have to say about dry cleaning; see #4 in our 5 Laundry Rules To Live By.
Mother Earth, in our book. But officially, the top honor went to K/ller Collection for the duo’s handcrafted, recycled-metal jewelry. Designers Kate deGuzman and Michael Miller coax beauty out of organic objects that others might consider waste, delicately casting oxidized metals over items like fox claws, naturally shed porcupine quills, and horns sourced as byproduct from the farming industry.
AND! We were oh-so proud to see Study’s Tara St. James take a runner-up slot in the competition. Among the many reasons we’ve long considered her prize-worthy: her process bucks the traditional fashion calendar, she expresses the importance of ethical fashion through poignant projects like her Makers' Hands photo series, and she created the most flattering dress in the world.
We’re also tipping our hats to two of Ethica’s newest designers, Laura Siegel and Amour Vert, for ranking among the finalists.
The other finalists in this year’s challenge were Blair Lauren Brown and Aurora James of Brother Vellies. Reformation’s Yael Aflalo was the other runner-up. Get to know them all in this video from the CFDA.
There have been criticisms in the past that the standards for the CFDA / Lexus challenge are too lax (30 percent of the materials used by the brands are required to be eco-friendly, up from 25 percent at the inception of the competition). But what’s clear from this year's group of finalists and winners–all of whom have made significant commitments to sustainability and social good–is that they each set their own bar, and they set it high.
"An epic struggle between innocent angels and menacing demons" plays out in Daniel Silverstein's fall collection, with the Gothic theme elegantly articulated in the designer's custom prints. Based on an illustration created with frequent collaborator Kayleigh Martin, the prints depict landscapes that have captured artists' imaginations for centuries: Heaven and Hell.
The otherworldly imagery makes for spellbinding designs, but anyone who's ever met Silverstein will tell you he radiates far more light than dark. Follow him on Instagram, and you'll see him staging a fashion show to raise funds for cancer research, playing host to the American Sewing Guild in his studio, designing t-shirts to benefit New York's Save the Garment Center campaign, sharing his expertise with students, and speaking at a fundraiser for the Jersey Battered Women's Service (with his mom on his arm). And, of course, there's the fact that he's dedicated his career to promoting responsible American manufacturing and pioneering zero-waste fashion design.
To frame it another way, one might say that Silverstein possesses qualities like kindness, diligence, charity and humility–all ranked among the Seven Heavenly Virtues–in spades. So where is the part of him that inspired all of this season's ghoulish glamour? Glimpse the designer's devilish side as he details his Seven Deadly Sins in this fill-in-the-blanks-style confession.
The current object of my desire is... a new tattoo.
My binge food is... potato chips. I can have... a family sized bag ...in one sitting.
There’s no such thing as too many... shoes.
You'll never lure me out of bed... if there's no coffee.
Waste ...brings out my inner Solange-in-the-elevator.
I’d kill for... straight hair.
At the risk of sounding like Kanye, I’m the greatest... at impressions.