Clothes shopping can be an utterly escapist experience, especially in San Francisco. One can get educated on fair trade wages and ethical fashion exponentially, but once you’re surrounded by pristine, stylish interiors and lured by soothing music, all may as well be forgotten.
The Presidio’s picturesque lawns and historic buildings are similarly light years away from Cambodia, Indonesia and India, where dozens of brands manufacture their elevated garments. And yet it’s here that the San Francisco nonprofit Remake is trying to change the way we see clothes productions in these countries.The 2-year-old group is planning a trip to Asia at the end of this month with the assistance of the Levi Strauss Foundation. Fashion design students from San Francisco’s California College of the Arts and New York’s Parsons School of Design will come face to face with factory workers in Sri Lanka. But that, according to founder Ayesha Barenblat, is only a part of the story. Barenblat comes to the nonprofit from Better Work, a World Bank and United Nations organization that focuses on safety and working conditions within clothing factories around the world. Having advised the likes of H&M and Nike on manufacturing strategy, she decided to switch gears and dig deeper into the troubling realities of the garment industry that are often glossed over.The nonprofit’s main focus is producing and sharing engaging written stories and videos highlighting factory workers from Pakistan, Haiti, China and beyond. On the Remake website, each woman, photographed in her workplace, is telling her story in first person, each story is embellished with relatable and personal details.“We’re really centered on hope and and inspiration,” says Barenblat. “All these years, we haven’t moved the needle by calling for boycotts, but breaking down the supply chain and lamenting the fact the women who produce our clothes are also Millennials, also girl bosses — that really builds empathy and connection.”
“Remake is a storytelling organizations, humanizing a core part of the industry we have forgotten,” she says. That part is often “a woman, in her 20s. We’re bringing her back into the Millennial women’s consciousness.”The trip hopes to add an important dimension to the technical and theoretical education design students acquire: “Schools these days don’t teach you anything about the human effort behind production, about how design affects sustainability,” Barenblat says. The journey, one of many in the future, she hopes, will provide that missing piece of the puzzle, and will help inspire “the next generation of Donna Karans and Tom Fords, which will think about designing with intention.”This spring, in addition to glimpses into the lives of Cambodian seamstresses and Indian weavers, Remake selected a capsule collection of dresses, shirts and accessories by ethical brands, shot by the Remake on local models and displayed on the nonprofit’s website. The impetus was consumers who had become more aware of ethical issues, but still sought guidance on how and where to shop.“So we help them get a taste, by taking the best brands out there, putting them through a rigorous screening, and applying a style factor to it.” Currently, the website offers 16 items from Reformation, PACT Apparel, Levi’s and more — “just the basics, a better T, the little black dress,” Barenblat says.
While some brands featured in the capsule collection are higher priced than others, nothing costs above $200, which is intentional. Barenblat is often asked whether even those prices are out of reach for average consumers. She acknowledges that while “our primary audience is indeed urban, educated women,” there are parallels with organic food.“Once there’s more demand, the prices for go down and the movement starts to mainstream. This scenario keeps us hopeful.” Besides, she says, there are other ways to be mindful; “buy better, buy less, do Rent the Runway, consider vintage and consignment.”On that note, across the bay, the vintage aspect of smarter, environmentally and ethically friendly consumption is getting support from a recent initiative, the Consistency Project. Created by Oakland resident Natasha Lo, it marries secondhand jeans with a hefty side of agenda. At the Consistency Project’s Etsy online store, floral Hawaiian shirts share the screen with kimonos, denim jackets and high-waisted jeans, but there’s a bigger picture involved.Lo says, “This is a ‘gateway’ vintage shop. We focus on essentials and classic everyday pieces, while truly truly sticking to this idea of promoting a lifestyle.” The way to do it, according to Lo, is combining pop-up events, workshops and online sales with eye-opening information about the importance of vintage clothing, the hidden costs of buying brand -new garments and more.After leaving an event coordinator position at Airbnb to focus on the Consistency Project full time, she held her first event, Closet Marketplace, in February. “It was an opportunity for people to get together and sell unwanted items from their closets,” she says. Attendees, among them several Bay Area fashion bloggers tapped by Lo, were invited to sell their clothes, customize them by using an embroidery machine, and talk to one another about the role of vintage in their lives.
“This event really established why the Consistency Project was going to be different than just another online store or vintage seller,” says Lo. “ It spoke to this idea of building a community and allowed for people to take a moment to reflect on their closets, consuming habits and what secondhand meant to them.” Quite the opposite of shopping escapism.In June, Lo participated in two offline events in the East Bay and San Francisco, bringing a rack of carefully curated vintage clothes and her styling skills to a pop-up at Fresh, a skincare boutique, and Berkeley’s recurring Bouquet Marketplace.Read more at:princess formal dresses | black formal dresses