Rags to Riches to Rags

Marc Levin’s HBO documentary Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags  was backed by, supporters of NYC’s shrinking Garment District who gathered  for a Save the Garment Center rally. T

here was a sizable turnout for the event at the corner of 39th Street and Seventh Avenue, which was organized by a mix of cit

y officials and led by designers Nanette Lepore and Yeohlee Teng . The crowd spanned the entire northeast side of the block reaching to 40th Street. “The Garment Center is the lifeblood of New York City…and we need to preserve it,” said Lepore, standing on a small stage, to the assembled fashion students, designers, and Garment District workers.


“The city has already lost enough of what keeps us unique,” she added.

Designer and CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg turned up to lend her considerable support, as did Michael Kors, Victoria Bartlett, Maria Cornejo, Rag & Bone’s Marcus Wa

inwright and Chris Benz. “I produce my entire collection here,” said Benz. “For a young designer, the quantities for production lots overseas are enormous. They ask for 1,000 pieces at a time.” Erin Fetherston, who was part of the cause but was out of tow

n filming a broadcast for her line with QVC, had similar thoughts. “The Garment District is so important to New York and New York fashion,” said Fetherston, before the rally. “Big American brands and young designers alike all have access to the same gre

at resources for making clothing.” Or as one of the posters cheekily but effectively summarized, “It’s Sew N.Y.”
—Bee-Shyuan Chang via Style.com

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The Ethical Fashion Show


A few weekends ago I visited the annual Ethical Fashion Show, an event hosted in the heart of Paris at the Tapis Rouge (one of Paris’ oldest department stores). Whilst there I attended a workshop facilitated by Fashioning an Ethical Industry.

The workshop invited a series of speakers to explore ethics within fashion, the presentations alternated between French and English (headsets were given out to tune into translations). The workshop was action packed and covered a range of topics for example:

Social responsibility  – highlighting the role of the consumer and what alternatives are available. How do we engage with industry to promote ethical production strategies? 

Student awareness – what is the role of Universities and students? 

The workshop was designed to promote ethical literacy and practice and the audience was comprised of students, tutors, designers and industry. The speakers introduced a variety of past and present projects tailored to address these issues. 

The Univeristy of Delamore ran a practical workshop connecting their students directly to industry. Their objective was to demonstrate considerations for the design and development of “sustainable garments”. The students were divided into groups focusing on different areas such as social, use and concept. The students were linked directly to IPC, a Factory School in Honduras and worked collaboratively to deliver end outputs which was a series of garments. Visit their blog for further information. Ethicalfashionproject.wordpress.com

I liked that their project was a tangible example of design interventions that were both functional and deliverable… there was also end outputs so the theories were met with practice.

IFM in Paris were also working directly with industry through a global collaboration project linking Paris, FIT New York and China. This live one year project allowed the students to meet at each location once and work to experience every aspect of the supply chain. This offers the students a real time perspective through a hands on learning strategy. It looked like this really informed their decision making process and promoted a sustainable actions.
Fashioning an Ethical Industry delivered an inspirational presentation with an introduction to what they do and their resources . Visit FEI website to access these resources there is an educational handbook available and lots of papers and pod casts available to download.

They advised delegates to engage with others via social networks this can help build a dialogue around “sustainable fashion” but also link up institutions, students, designers and industry. I think identifying opportunities to connect and promote global conversations which can lead to exciting collaborations through thinking and practice.
The Ethical Fashion show itself was a fantastic showcase of ethical fashion that was both functional and desirable. The designers were on hand to introduce the thinking behind their collections, explain the production process and answer any questions.