29 April 2015

Slow Fashion: A Rant #slowfashion

I was going to tell you about another one of the Unicorn Tapestries, vol. one patterns today, but you are going to have to wait on that because I have to rant. I will return to our regularly scheduled programming with a quick + purly on Friday (any category requests?) and more pattern info next week.

If we are friends on Facebook, you may have already seen some ranting from me inspired by the hilarious and sadly-all-too-true story John Oliver aired Sunday night (go, watch it, it's very good - I'll wait).

 My rant-y highlights include:
The thing is that we are all paying a LOT for those lower prices. Skilled workers can't get jobs and have to go on unemployment and welfare. Then they can only afford "cheap" clothes and food (don't get me started on cheap food) that put small companies out of business.
I am as guilty as anyone of buying cheap clothes, especially for my kids, since I am in no position to buy $500 Burberry dresses for them. (And let's not even get into the fact that those ridiculously-priced dresses are ALSO made overseas because the diffusion and kids' lines of Big Name designers are the parts of the lines that support the high-end stuff that might actually be well-crafted. Oops, kind of just did get into it.)

But stop and think about it: People who don't have jobs still have to wear clothes, but they can't afford to buy Made in America, even if they could find it. Because everyone wants cheap clothes, even the people who don't need them. Except more people need them because they can't find jobs they are qualified for. Every single major retailer constantly pushes down on their supply chain to make things cheaper, so that WalMart and Target and Amazon can sell you lots of stuff for very little money (a dress for $5?!). Because America has been edumacated to want cheap stuff and lots of it. Because quantity now trumps quality. Because you're nobody unless you have ALL the stuff.
And all the people who feel they need a new outfit every week so they can be "in". And all that trickles down in the worst possible way to poorer countries where the work force is disproportionately made up of women and children making clothes they can't afford to buy out of cheap, disgusting fabric that will shortly fill our dumps. Crap.
Why isn't this a bigger deal? We've gone from 50% of our clothes being made here in America (many of them in the Fashion District I so adore here in Manhattan) to 2%. Two percent!?!

I am a #slowfashion queen - creating one of my designs can take weeks (sometimes even longer). And I wear all my work. But not everyone can (or even wishes to) do that. Knitting (and crocheting and spinning and dying and weaving) and sewing have become rarified arts. Most people don't even know how to sew on a button. Because we can pay someone a pittance at the dry cleaners to do it. Or we throw that thing out (or donate it, which creates its own set of issues, I'm sorry to say) and go buy another cheaply-made-because-it-has-to-be shmatte to fill that gaping maw of desire.

I'm not saying that knitting yourself a sweater will solve the world's problems, but I do think pausing a moment to reflect on where your clothes come from is a good thing. We all wear clothes. Every day. Ask yourself why you need 50 pairs of jeans or 72 cheap t-shirts or 100 pairs of shoes of questionable quality and durability. Does it make you a better person? Are you more important that way? The one who dies with the most stuff does NOT win. They just leave more stuff to be dealt with (ask me how I know).

Of course, the other side of the coin is that it is increasingly difficult to find well-made clothes. Period. Even mid-level brands put more and more money into sales and marketing than production. Know why cropped trousers are such the thing? Because they seem like there is more design/thought in them, they can charge more money, even though you are getting less fabric (with my long legs, I'm always in danger of wearing too-short trousers so am hyper-aware of this cheap, annoying trick).

And that "silky" blouse that Kathie Lee fingers in John Oliver's piece? Ooh, a silk-poly blend that feels like silk. Stuff and nonsense. Silk is silk. And extruded petroleum-based fibers are not. Don't try to pull the wool over my eyes. Or the poly blend.

When I got divorced, I had to leave most of my stuff behind. And it made me realize that most of it was unnecessary. And after the divorce I had almost no money. Whatever there was went for necessities, and seven identical t-shirts are not necessary. I am grateful to have an improved perspective on all my stuff, and I still have plenty of it (I'm SO far from perfect). But we shouldn't all need a crappy life situation to open our eyes.

Clearly, I don't have the answers. But we do need to be asking the questions and thinking about what we are doing, not just to our over-stuffed closets, but to the world and her people.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen
P.S. Let me know what you think in the comments, my dears.


  1. Growing up, we were incredibly poor. We wore uniforms to school, and otherwise had one or two sets of "play clothes" and one or two sets of "church clothes." They were often hand me downs, and often crappy, but they were clean and we wore them until they were unwearable.

    As an adult, I have more clothes than that. But I still feel a twinge when I see people donating things that are just crappy because they are better than nothing for some people (and yes, that is valid). They are however, still crappy. And even when you are poor and have nothing else, crap is still crap.

    Occasionally, I allow myself to buy something that I really have no reason to buy. But the saying that you get what you pay for really is true, in my opinion.

    OK, my rant is now over. :-)

    1. Bridget, I was a uniform-wearer, too. And I still feel comfortable wearing more or less the same thing every day. Agreed on crap still being crap in the donation system.

      I think the first step is being mindful of the problem.

      Thanks for joining in on my rant :) xoxo, k


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