I refrained from posting last week because talking about fashion seemed frivolous given the outcome of the election. I was wrong: while we need to work for a better America interpersonally and systemically, we must also do so within our lifestyle choices and (for the privileged among us) our professions.
For a long time I've struggled with what seems like two near mutually exclusive options: make an ethical brand or a profitable one. It shouldn't come as a surprise that designers who choose to produce slow fashion face a lot of challenges. The research, money and time spent to create one-of-a-kind, American-made goods with low minimums is many times greater than what most brands expend. Because of these tradeoffs, I've refrained from promoting myself as an ethical clothing brand and blog. Additionally, I just wasn't ready to deny myself a visit to Zara or H&M once in a blue moon. I also wasn't prepared to swear off partnerships and distribution deals with the big brands and retailers that put you on the map. For instance, you can scroll back in my posts to see that I recently participated in a contest sponsored by H&M. I thought the tradeoff for winning would outweigh my ethical incongruence with the brand but even then I knew that wasn't quite true... I have no illusions that Mia Vesper could fail to support me; that it will be much harder if not impossible to find investors; that I will have an insurmountable PR task in finding the customers willing and able to buy OOAK American-made clothing... But that's ok. Maybe I can't make this into a lifelong career but for my entire working life I've wanted a job where I didn't have to make concessions. Now that I have that chance, I'm not giving it up.
I should stress that I'm definitely not promoting myself as the perfect model of ethical and eco integrity (there's lamb leather in the current collection for Sheep's sake!), but there are things I promise not compromise on. I'll list them here and now: I promise to keep my production batches small and my manufacturing fair wage (I refrain from promising exclusively American-made goods as there have been instances where the expertise necessary is unavailable in the US). I also vow to stop buying fast fashion but to choose instead thrifted or vintage clothing and small designers with conservative distribution (like myself). Finally, and most importantly for me, I vow to never design for sales. I won't produce a product unless I truly believe it's artistically worthwhile and worth its carbon footprint. I refuse to saturate my follower's feeds with "passable" fashion. (You might argue that most designers and artists try not to do this but that's a total lie -- we 100% know when we've made something that doesn't deserve to be seen or consumed).
In closing, I'll say this: no matter who you voted (or didnt) for, the President has more control over environmental issues than almost any other. 3 million people die each year from pollution; more than malaria and aids together. This is a number that's on track to double by 2050. We may not have control of what happens if Trump pulls out of the Paris Agreement or drops bombs, but we can make changes in our daily lives that cost us virtually nothing and help the environment hugely: swear off fast fashion; use a re-usable cups for iced coffee; cut out beef, STOP ACCEPTING A PLASTIC BAG FROM THE DELI WHEN YOURE A BLOCK AWAY FROM HOME AND YOU ONLY BOUGHT CHIPS. Lets work together to leave a better world for our children/kittens, k?
And in case none of this interested you and you were just wondering what materials I used for this cherub shirt, the answer is acrylic paints on silk! Silk is a great canvas for paint (it's also a natural fiber!) because its oh-so smooth. Make sure to water down your acrylics so they glide well and your creation doesn't look too overworked.
Photos by Vrinda Jagota @confident_leader