Well, glitz and glam will be shimmering up the press as New York Fashion Week is in full swing this weekend, and London, Paris and Milan will be following on throughout September so it’s timely to imagine what’s going on behind the scenes of the big fashion brands.
Supply chains in the fashion industry are similar whatever level of the market the clothes are destined for: one factory known for it’s embroidery or print can be producing orders for all sections of the trade. Whether it’s an item for Primark or Chloe, it could have passed through the same worker’s hands and their pay would remain the same. Luxury prices sadly don’t percolate down to the invisible hands skilfully piecing together our garments, however much we pay for them, and living conditions, sanitation and the ability to pay for basic necessities are a constant struggle.
And there’s something else that seems contentious – the idea that the clothes in our shops are not ‘handmade.’ Though mass-produced, certainly, they are produced by human individuals, skilfully manipulating fast machinery. But, essentially, they are workers with sewing machines… Would a small producer in the UK making clothes on a domestic machine and selling them at a local artisan market call their products handmade? I expect so. So, the change in perception that consumers undergo when engaging with clothes as ‘machine made’ or ‘factory made’ de-humanises this process and disables the imagination. It is difficult to comprehend the amount of labour hours and skilled hands needed to produce the tonnage of new clothing that is consumed everywhere daily, but we all need to wake up to this.
So, come on Six Items Challenge! Let’s show the fashion world what can be done with a recipe of: 6 items of clothing; a good dash of creativity; several pounds of determination and grit; seasoned well with accessories and fun. We can take on a month of fashion weeks any day!