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.