Hey Strangers, this weeks blog post will be focusing on Fast Fashion.
As you all know, Strange Bikinis is a small business and we are a boutique that provides quality products. Since we are a small business, our turnover rate is slower than the big name companies like LuluLemon, Gap, H&M and other big corporations. We make our swimsuits in house, where big name companies simply put an algorithm into a machine which subsequently creates hundreds of suits within a couple of hours. For us to make two pieces (essentially one bikini), it takes anywhere from two to three hours to hand sew.
Not only does it take us longer to make the suits in the warehouse, we also release a limited collection of suits for the season, where the bigger name companies release collections continuously.
Our prices reflect our small business practice. We don't have the ability to do lots of promotions, or last minute deals like you see very often on the Forever21 website. We don't get major discounts on fabric because we are not ordering mass quantities of yardage. We only buy what we need for the collection that we release. Smaller businesses like us, end up paying more for a smaller amount of fabric. Compared to bigger companies that end up paying two cents a yard when they buy 20,000 yards of fabric.
*so for all of you asking for more colors from us each season, this is the reason why we can only offer the amount we do
We have a special guest blogger, Courtney Cain, weighing in on what fast fashion and sustainable shopping means to her. Courtney is originally from Nebraska but has relocated to LA. She is an avid blogger who strives to educate her readers on her recent travels abroad and what valuable lessons she has learned while traveling. Whether its learning new tips and tricks for backpacking in British Columbia or brunching in Harajuku, Japan, she's your guide! Not only is she the perfect guide for traveling abroad, she does this all while being one of our favorite ambassadors! Read below to get her take on Fast Fashion and Sustainable Shopping.
My Ongoing Transition From Fast Fashion and Sustainable Shopping
Written by: Courtney Cain
I used to be a shopaholic. I would pride myself on my ability to find the cheapest, cutest articles of clothing. Darting to the sale rack of every store, combing through piles of cotton until I found just the right thing. Then I’d maybe wear it twice. I, like many suburban teens, spent entire weekends at the mall, buying new sweaters and crop tops, hip jeans and bright sneakers. I was obsessed with fast fashion, always wanting to be in style, always wanting to feel fresh. I relied on new outfits to feel cool and worthy of attention.
Justice and Limited Too as a little girl. Victoria’s Secret and Hollister as a teen. Ann Taylor and Lululemon college student. I would buy new skirt suits for speech competitions and new yoga pants for the gym (and let’s be honest, everything else, too).
My closet had a fast turnover time, and I lived for the speed. The instant gratification of it all. My style was evolving, and my clothes needed to keep up.
As I’ve gotten deeper into the fashion industry, however, I have learned more about the true cost of fast fashion, the world I’ve lived in for 20-some years. A cost that’s two-fold: ethical and environmental.
When I started asking myself questions while shopping, I realized how little I actually knew about what it takes to make a garment of clothing. During the early phase of my transition, I had a myriad of mantras. Questions would lead to answers would lead to more questions. The one I found myself drawn to most often was this: “Who benefits from my purchase?” Fast fashion, the Forever21’s of the world, the Gaps, the Targets… they all focus on speed. They want to source materials quickly, create garments quickly, ship them quickly, and sell them quickly. They are made and sold at an incredibly low price point to ensure that they turnover quickly as well, because it’s good for American Eagle if your white, floral-embroidered denim jeans go out of style. It means you have to go get new jeans! The need for speed, coinciding with the Industrial Revolution, has lead to an international culture of corner-cutting. Attention has been brought to these efficiency-inspired shortcomings throughout the years by mass casualties a direct result of negligence for the sake of speed. The Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 shocked the world by bringing this conflict to light. Over 1,000 garment workers were crushed to death in the collapse of an unsafe garment factory building. I remember this event — watching the news and the out-pour of information about sweatshops from some of my favorite brands. My family swore off Nike during early 2014 because of these revelations. I felt, as I went to college and then moved into my adult life, that conditions were improving. The world talked about it, and I assumed the problem was fixed.
But it continues to persist.
In January 2018, Oxfam published a report about the international wealth divide. While several industries have massive (and growing) wage gaps between the wealthiest and most impoverished workers, the global garment industry stands out as one of the largest inequities. To understand the scale of this crisis, a January 2018 Quartz article notes that, “it takes a CEO from one of the world’s top five fashion brands just four days to earn the same amount a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn over her lifetime.” Most Bangladeshi garment workers are women, working 12 hour days to feed their family on less than $1,000 a year. For context, Stefan Persson, the chairman of H&M, boasts a net-worth of $18.1 billion, according to Forbes. So, when I inevitably find myself in Lululemon, admiring $108 leggings I don’t need, I ask myself the question: “Who benefits from this purchase?” The answer is multifaceted, of course. It would benefit Calvin McDonald, the current CEO. It would benefit the 3,000-some employees in the company making just above minimum wage to sell leggings. It would maybe benefit the manufacturing employees in Southeast Asia, making likely below a living wage. Maybe it would benefit the community organizations Lululemon supports, like free yoga classes for their shoppers on Sunday. Maybe their size 0-4 models would benefit, as well as high-profile photographers and advertisers. That answer gives me pause.
Then I compare, and think about buying a pair of $119 lounge pants from Matter Prints, a female-run, slow-fashion small business with ethical craft at the forefront of their sales. They value the storytelling of clothing and work collaboratively with craftspeople and artisans from around the world to create one-of-a-kind styles where tradition meets modern fashion. So, back to the drawing board: “who benefits from this purchase?” A global network of empowered craftspeople benefit from it, many of whom are women, being paid fairly for their craft. The leadership team made up almost exclusively by women of color would benefit, as sales drive growth. The artisanal crafts being sustained by this model would benefit from the support. Meaning: MP uses centuries old practices in the creation of their clothing instead of the chemical quick-fixes normalized by the fashion industry as a whole. For example, a line of their tops is naturally dyed and stitched in Ahmedabad, India by Indigenous Industries. A process that employed 25 individuals in a safe chemical-free environment. The models and photographers, many of them in the queer community, also benefit from my purchase here. Instead of being five, six, or seven degrees removed from the women making the garments, Matter Prints is building relationships to empower garment workers by crediting their work, techniques, and paying them a fair wage.
That answer makes me feel motivated, eager to support this very clear and transparent network.
Imagine doing this same mental exercise in Victoria’s Secret during the semi-annual sale, contending with the prison labor force that’s manufacturing sequins panties. Often, it just takes a quick google search to turn up information on who’s making garments and how they’re treated. The human cost of fast fashion is overwhelming, and by asking this simple question, I have come to learn more about the implications of my sale-hungry shopping behavior.
Fast fashion does not just impact the world’s people, it also impacts the world.
Farming materials for garments is a water-heavy practice. Cotton, one of the thirstiest crops, is essential in sustaining the fast fashion behemoths like Forever21 and Zara. What’s more, to protect these crops, farmers use pesticides and herbicides that end up in the global water supply and soil, negatively impacting communities and wildlife without sufficient resources to protect themselves from drought and contamination. Synthetic fabrics — nylon and polyester — have a dirty conscious, too. These fabrics are made from fossil fuels and chemicals. Making them creates greenhouse gas emissions and requires immense quantities of energy and water. Moreover, synthetic fabrics are not biodegradable. This means that when my Alo Yoga leggings end up in a landfill — along with the 86 billion pounds of textiles and clothes currently in landfills — they will take decades to decompose.
Additionally, the practices used to style and color fabrics once they’re produced rely on bleaching, dyeing, and washing using excessive water and chemicals. Fabric dyeing with chemicals contributes to rising levels of lead, mercury, and arsenic in our water supplies. These practices also release microscopic debris of plastic into the water, which ends up being eaten by plankton and works through the food chain to humans, as it is incredibly slow to biodegrade. Fast fashion manufacturing, distribution, and waste is incredibly destructive to our environment. When American Eagle sells screen-printed, chemically-dyed cotton shirts that boast, “Protect Mother Earth,” they are not putting your money where their mouth is.
Through this on-going journey into slow fashion, I have found and outpouring of inspiring creatives, Instagram accounts, and businesses that highlight the consequences of fast fashion and propose solutions, like Matter Prints. These leaders are pushing ahead into a better world of slow, sustainable fashion. They speak out against the goliath of an industry, and are working to build an army of Davids, eager to change the course of this destructive narrative. Some of my all-time favorites are…
Matter Prints: As I mentioned above, their gender-neutral garments highlight the unlikely intersection between modern style and timeless artisanal craft. With each item you purchase, you receive information about the technique used, the makers that created the piece, and the physical journey the garment made from inception to your doorstep. They are truly the most transparent brand I have yet to come across
White Rabbit NY: The first time I put on these bamboo-based underthings, I was hooked. Bamboo is less-thirsty than cotton, which makes it more sustainable to farm, and it shares many of cotton’s tactile characteristics. WRNY also manufactures their products in a family-owned warehouse that employs only women in Mexico City. The women are paid fairly and receive benefits like PTO and social security. Mariana and Christian, the co-founders, also donate a percentage of every sale to Fabrica Social, a nonprofit working to empower female artisans in rural communities.
Wasi Clothing + Vanessa Acosta: Vanessa Acosta is a Bolivian-American designer based in Los Angeles. She personally sources all of her fabric from South America and hand-crafts her pieces without appropriating a culture that is sacred to her. Her pieces are bright and bold, one-of-a-kind creations made to be worn by all peoples, regardless of race, genet-expression, or size. She is a fearless, talented woman that I couldn’t be prouder to know. Plus, her advertising + models are incredibly diverse and highlight the care she puts into each company decision.
Mate The Label: Mate The Label is a California-based company that takes “locally-made” seriously. They only partner with factories within a 5-mile radius of their DTLA office. Their pieces are incredibly airy and timeless; they reflect the laid-back California lifestyle that inspires their styles. They also have an educational and sassy Instagram presence that is worth following!
Simply Liv and Co.: I found Olivia, a Colorado-based blogger, through Instagram and instantly adored her candid presence. She writes honestly about her life as a woman, a mother, and a wife. She’s thoughtful about her content-creation and collaborates with exclusively sustainable companies. Her tagline, “this is a resources for those who wants more from life than just more,” hits me right in the heart. She lives by her values and literally always inspires me. Absolutely worth reading.
Strange Bikinis: Ali Conway is a loud and proud female-run and owned small business making the coolest, most unique swimwear in Reno, Nevada. She hand-makes each swimsuit she sells and organizes events to empower and bring women together. She is very vocal about the hard work it takes to run a small business, and I value her candid, unapologetic nature in such a superficial sector of the fashion industry. She constantly reminds me of the dedication and hustle that goes into creating high-quality, responsible fashion made to outlast thin seasonal swimwear.
Yoga Democracy: 336,000 plastic water bottles have been recycled by this affordable, US-made yoga clothing company. Their gear is incredibly breathable and unique. They are always having sales and adding new patterns to their site, so there is guaranteed to be something for everyone. Each deep color stays true through workouts and washes due to the eco-friendly, non-toxic dyeing process. Plus, they carry XS-XL and multiple lengths of in-seams.
I could honestly go on and on about the influences I have found during the early-stages of this transition, and this is just a fraction of the incredible humans I have met in the last year.
So what now?
If you’re looking to learn more or start your own transition out of fast fashion, find people that are doing this work and support them. You can start with the aforementioned list and you’ll undoubtedly find rabbit holes into this necessary movement. I love the people and companies listed above because they’re my style, and if they’re not your style… keep looking! People are out here doing incredible things in this space. They just take a little longer to find because they don’t have the same money to spend on market campaigns as corporate fashion giants.