This is Fashion Revolution week, and I’ve been struggling with what to write. I’ve expressed some of my views and stated some of the facts on fast versus slow fashion before: buy less, buy quality not quantity, the fashion industry is the second most polluting, the fashion industry is rife with human rights abuses, and on. Today I’ll concentrate on telling you about Fashion Revolution and then telling a slow fashion tale.
What is Fashion Revolution?
Fashion Revolution is a non-profit global movement with membership in over 90 countries. It was created in 2013 in response to the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh. Designers Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro in the UK used the factory collapse to mobilize and forge change in the fashion industry.
Transparency is the watchword of the movement.
The supply chain is every link that transforms and moves raw materials to you, the customer. It includes, people, resources, organizations, information, and more. It’s an enormously complicated system. Without transparency there can be no change in the fashion industry, and one can’t know what’s slow fashion, what’s fast fashion, what to buy or not.
The anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, April 24, is Fashion Revolution day. No doubt you’ve seen the hashtag #whomademyclothes on social media platforms. Much to the delight of slow fashion activists everywhere, the hashtag has become one of the most popular and long-lived on Twitter, and it’s estimated that more than 60 million people have used it!
Sometime in my mid-twenties I became aware of the designer, Romeo Gigli. It was probably in one of those lush, plush Vogue spreads I have always loved. Well, maybe it was his name—I was also a big Shakespeare fan—that made me fall in love with his designs. To me they are the epitome of a kind of Italian chic and romanticism that I still long to own and wear.
The words most often used to describe his designs are: fluid, wrapped, cocooned, swathed.
These days I don’t think many people are aware of Gigli, but at one time he was considered an innovator in the style, if not the extent, of Chanel. His designs are romantic, worthy of a modern-day Juliet, if I can stretch the allusion a bit. His colors are muted but rich. Gigli seemed to create for the woman with both femininity and strength; he seemed to have faith in a woman’s body.
Gigli was a welcome antidote to most of the overwrought fashion of the 80’s.
In my by-now-extensive trolling of thrift and vintage stores, I had never, ever seen a Romeo Gigli. I’d seen Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, but never Gigli — until I recently walked into Housing Works (one of the better thrift shops in Manhattan) and there it was: my little Gigli!
So what does my Gigli have to do with Fashion Revolution week? This: Shopping for secondhand or vintage is one of the ways we can lessen our fashion consumption “footprint.”
Unfortunately, I think some of us have a kind of “yuck” reaction to secondhand clothes.
I’ve heard women say they’re afraid of getting bugs, or that the clothes will be dirty, or that it creeps them out because the garments could have belonged to a dead person. Well honestly, yes, secondhand clothes more often than not will not be newly cleaned; you will have to wash or dry clean them yourself. About the bugs, I’ve never heard anyone report bugs in a secondhand find. As for the memories,
I like to think of the former owner of my new find drinking champagne at an art opening, pondering buying a piece of art with her Italian boyfriend.
If you still have that yuck feeling about secondhand, you can patronize “better” thrift and vintage stores. The people who own these stores are usually in it for the love of it, and they know that just one bug or really nasty garment could jeopardize what is already a precarious existence. The news would spread like wildfire through the community of thrift owners and patrons. They really do care for and about fashion as well as their reputations.
Shopping for secondhand and vintage is very different from walking into Bloomingdales and buying off the rack. You do have to be extra picky, you do have to do the work; but once you get the hang of it, it’s worth it! It can be fun and funny looking at things you’ll wonder how anyone could wear. You can find truly unique items, as well as items you probably never could afford new. If you’re very lucky, like I was, you may even find your Gigli.
Where do you stand on secondhand?