I started to experiment with the way I dressed in middle school, and when I reached high school I began sewing and designing clothes. Choosing my outfit in the morning became my favorite part of the day, and this obsession carried over into my adult life. All of this time spent fussing over color schemes and silhouettes is very important to me. From an outside perspective, a habit such as this might seem unhealthy and vain, but to me it is pure bliss. I have never had feelings of negativity towards this way of thinking, in fact, it has lifted me up more than anything in my life. During high school, I felt better about the sewing patterns I was finishing off, than the grades I would receive in my classes. Yet, I was caught between the four-subject priorities of high school, and when college came around, I felt as though I had to choose one of these subjects to be "passionate" about for the rest of my life. I have had strong urges to pursue a career where I could freely express myself through clothing for years, and I thought about applying to art school. However, I was afraid that I would be choosing a life that had no immediate or positive contribution to society, and that terrified me in a very existentially driven purpose of life kind of way. I found that science was the closest alternative I had to the feeling that art and design gave me, and I believed that I could do some kind of good for the world with this career choice. So I decided to be an environmental science major, specifically studying botany. (I can't help but feel now that my preference for floral printed fabrics inspired this decision.) For awhile, I did feel as though I had a knack for the discipline; science intrigued me in the way that I was visually inspired by the Earth and the way it functions.Yet recently, I found myself in what felt like a quarter-life crisis- not knowing what the heck I was doing taking cross-sections of leaves, and not even sure if this would contribute to society in the way that I had hoped it would. These events in my life made me want to start sewing again, and my identity crisis mixed with nostalgia for the goals I made as a fourteen-year-old, sold me on this creative lifestyle that I was beginning to miss.
Running from the aesthetically-driven side of myself for so long proved to be too much for me.I have stopped lying to myself about what I want to pursue, and I now recognize that I will basically do anything related to the wearing, crafting, or designing of clothes.However, this choice did not come without some pretty strong guilt and apprehension, and this is strictly to do with my morals. To be blunt, what I want to do for a living is deeply selfish- or at least I can't get it out of my head that it is. Most of these feelings of guilt come out of the mainstream fashion industry which in my humble opinion, is so awful. The big brands can be so predictably messed up, that I sometimes feel like the word 'fashion' holds too many negative connotations for me to even want to be apart of it or contribute at all. If you were to look in my computer history, you'll find lots of google searches like, 'is the fashion industry evil?', or desperate attempts at finding shops with 'ethical' or 'eco-' fashions designers. I guess through this I am trying to reverse my guilt and maybe find something that I can hold on to, but unfortunately, with that kind of research I've only come to realize more that there is no other industry that is more waste-producing, culturally desensitized, and not to mention damaging to unique and diverse images of beauty. Probably the biggest issue in runway fashion, at the moment, is that most successful brands manage to appropriate cultures while simultaneously choosing models that are almost all white. (I am completely throwing shade at Moschino's line for 2017, in which the designer uses aspects of Hindu religion and then refer to it as "hippy".) In fact, there is a very disheartening statistic that "78.2 percent of the models in the Spring 2016 ads are white."
"Hippie Hindus" at Moschino Resort, in L.A, 2017 for Hint Fashion Magazine
So there you go, fashion design is basically the most evil career choice you can make. However, I'm trying to hold on to a state of mind that tells me that the necessity for alternatives will open up. Where there are issues, there will always be creative and smart people that are going to be there to defy it. There are a lot of designers that are working towards more sustainable alternatives to mass production and the proper use of resources. A lot of this comes from younger and defiant fashion students who agree that the thing that we are most passionate about has become monotonously overruled by people who are not making the right decisions for the world. Although I am no longer aiming to be an environmental scientist, I know that these issues are important to me. There are ways to design in ways that are not damaging to the Earth so that I don't have to give up what I believe in. However, as a consumer, ethical fashion is not easy to come by and not readily available to those who aren't looking for it... but this is where room for advocacy and work comes in. So, if you're like me, and you wanna give Vetements and its overly priced, overly hyped, and irresponsible clothing the finger, you should totally support these brands:
Study-NY- This brand uses reused and recut fabrics from the garment district in New York, while also incorporating much of its knits from artisans around the world.
Nomadic Me Design- With a very earthy and minimalist design, Nomadic Me creates all of its clothing from organic cotton.
Auria London- Literally the cutest swimwear ever, but believes that 'style and substance can coexist.' A motto that I can totally get behind. This brand uses recycled fishing nets in their bathing suits!
Birdsong- A brand created under the motto 'no sweatshops and no photoshop'. This self-proclaimed feminist fashion is created by and for women.
Zady- Designed around the idea that fast-fashion is wrong, Zady combats everything you know about the industry by using handmade designs no matter what.
Glacier Girl- This style icon is trying to make being eco-friendly an aesthetic (and she's doing a really good job at it). She advocates for only second-hand clothing and you can follow her style on instagram and facebook.
Then of course, there are veteran designers like my favorite lady, Vivienne Westwood, who is currently a vocal activist for issues such as climate change, but...is that really enough if what your selling doesn't reflect the same message? However, even as I say this, I remain a huge fan of her work. So the question is, how can the quality of art that Westwood is giving to the world actually become good for it as well? Perhaps, the adorably haute pieces that Westwood might make aren't going to be the same if using organic or reused materials, but that doesn't mean that there are not innovative fashion students who are not trying to solve this problem in their own way. In fact my whole thing is that I want to figure out some way to make bio-degradable sequins...
So there you have it, the confessions of a girl who is obsessed with couture but also ashamed of it. Nevertheless, what I am so struck by, is how something that is supposed to be an "art-form" can become so damaging to the people who create and consume it. Perhaps, the mainstream fashion industry isn't even art anymore (if your definition of art is that it should be as emotionally stimulating as it visually...) I still feel things when I see clothing that I find beautiful, and I know that smaller-scale independent designers feel the same, so how has the industry become so void of meaning? When I think clearly about why I love the art, it is because the medium that it is based on is the human body. Creating in this image is what excites me the most, and I do believe that clothing design can be the celebration of the human-being. This is where passion in the field lies, yet, what some designers miss out on is the responsibility to respect the life that it is creating for. Not just by gaining inspiration from one shape, size and color of person. I believe that when you see things that are messed up about the thing that you love, a place opens up for you to change it. So yes, there are waaay more important things than what one wears on an everyday basis, but high-fashion is not going away and the least that the people who involve themselves (me, ugh...) can do is to try and change the way it works. So lets hope that I don't lose myself in the years to come and that, somewhere along the line, the place for change does open up within the mainstream fashion world- that I have such a love-hate relationship with.