Between the 24th-30th of April, was Fashion Revolution Week. The campaign, promoted by the #whomademyclothes hashtag, was aimed at increasing transparency within the fashion industry, and also to support and encourage more sustainable and ethical forms of fashion. I saw the hashtag floating around on Instagram when people shared their lingerie made by ethical, indie, brands, and quite honestly, joined in and hashtagged one or two of my own posts without much thought. Half my mindset was that of following a trend, the other half being, I knew the brands I featured were ethically made, and I wanted to show my support and share that knowledge with the world. However, this got me thinking about how much I, as a consumer, actually cared about the ethics behind an industry operating predominantly on fast fashion, which was exploitive, opaque, and environmentally damaging.
A few days ago, I finally got around to styling this look I've been imagining in my head for nearly two months now. Unintentionally, all but one of the pieces featured in this look were purchased from brands and designers whose business was operated on ethical labour.
Creepyyeha is designed and handmade by Yeha Leung and her partner, Alejandro Lafontant, in New York City. I've been following her brand since late 2012, and made my first purchase, which was a spiked leather choker with heart rings in mid-2013. Since then, I've continued to support her brand with a few purchases I've made over the years, including this cincher, and have also had the pleasure of speaking to Yeha multiple times on Instagram where we mutually follow each other.
While I do not personally know the people who made my Bordelle Kinbaku bra, I have interacted with members of their team either at the biannual London Lingerie Sample Sale, or through email exchanges regarding order queries. Bordelle, as a brand, also openly advocates for fair and sustainable production processes. All designs and patterns are created, graded, and sampled in-house within their West London atelier. In order to ensure ethical manufacturing processes, they also choose to work only with manufacturers who support the same cause.
My trousers on the other hand, have an interesting story behind them. In February when I visited my dad's childhood home in Chiayi, Taiwan, his friend of over 50 years showed us around the city and introduced us to this couple who lived up in the mountains of Alishan. They were avid tea drinkers and ran their own clothing business, making garments from organic, natural materials. We were fortunate enough to visit their home, and I purchased this pair of oversized trousers/mock-skirt directly from their studio after trying it on.
I will be honest and say that shopping ethically is not my biggest concern when it comes to purchasing new items for my collection. I don't shop with the notion of contributing to a larger picture, i.e. the fashion industry, nor do I shop with the intention of supporting brands that may not be ethically produced. I certainly do not shop ethical, slow fashion, exclusively, as many of my clothing are from high street shops like American Apparel, Missguided, Zara, H&M, etc. In fact, while writing this post, I went onto eBay to see if I could find a replacement/second piece of the mesh turtleneck I'm wearing in these pictures, which I bought for £2.39 last year. Instead, I ended up purchasing three different mesh tops made disgustingly cheap in China for less than £5 altogether. I even made sure that the items I purchased were the cheapest of all the available identical listings.
Does this make me a bad person for not putting much thought into how much the person on the other side is being paid to mass produce a top for £1? I don't know, but I also don't think this makes me a hypocrite for simultaneously supporting conscientiously made garments. A very large proportion of my lingerie collection is in fact made up of pieces from smaller, ethically produced brands, such as Hopeless Lingerie, la fille d'O, Baserange, DSTM, and Karolina Laskowska. Hopeless Lingerie for example, was created by owner and designer Gabrielle Adamidis. Every single piece is designed by magical-witch-mastermind Gaby herself, and produced in-house on a made-to-order basis. She is also responsible for the creation of a piece from start to finish, from pattern making, sampling, grading and sewing. There is a huge amount of transparency in Hopeless's production, as often times on Snapchat, Gaby will post a series of clips documenting the creation of a Hopeless garment. She is also assisted by a small group of women who help with sewing and cutting, and occasionally, grading and sampling, in order to keep up with the overwhelming amount of orders they receive. While this might not be true for every ethically produced brand, this is perhaps the most transparent one I can elucidate on.
I am therefore more than happy to spend my money on pieces the average lingerie-consumer would consider 'too expensive', as some of these brands are not just brands to me. They are people I have a personal relationship with, who's work I admire and love, and who I want to support. In this instance, my purchase is a statement and a contribution, as it is made with full intent and knowledge that customers like me are what keeps their business running. I can't say with certainty, whether this is true for all my purchases that just so happened to be ethically produced, however I can more-or-less confidently say that I know #whomademyclothes for around 80% of my lingerie collection.