“Americans spent roughly $340 billion on clothing and shoes last year, which is about 25 percent of the global market, and virtually all of it — 99 percent for footwear and 98 percent for clothes — came from somewhere else,” reported the New York Times last year. This sobering stat impacts the places I work and live; South Norwalk, Connecticut (I live in a 101-year-old home there) was once the epicenter of hat manufacture in the US, and when you walk down the hill from my house, you can still see the gorgeous old brick buildings where the toppers were once made (they are now mostly condos). NYC, my other home (my great-grandmother, grandmother and father all grew up there), was also once the center of America’s garment industry, which has diminished so that it is now a shadow of its former self.
Instead of supporting American workers, we now get cheap clothes to the tune of Bangladeshi workers being paid just $43 a month to make them for us (that’s how fast fashion – and cheaper-than-ever clothes happen, my friends).
It’s a bummer that we have shipped great jobs and local industry abroad, but there are a handful of strong, resourceful designers, most ethically minded in one way or another, who are holding on to Made-in-USA clothing that has a soul.
Tara St. James sewing her next design for Study NY in her Brooklyn, NY based studio. Design and production location is just one of many elements that helps to build a sustainable fashion line to be considered for your Green Closet.
Enter Ecover’s Green Closet project, which is all about supporting Fashion 360 degrees, including boostering independent designers, promoting sustainable fabrics, and (of course, since they make supergreen laundry detergents and other cleaners), helping us take care of our clothes (the use phase) in a sustainable way too.
“We’re joining forces with these designers to make a bigger impact,” says Valorie Luther, who represents Ecover, explaining the genesis of the Green Closet project.
Auralis Herrero-Lugero, the designer behind the colorful and naturally-dyed (in Brooklyn) Auralis label, explains why she got involved with Ecover: “Being that I think of the whole cycle involved in making and wearing clothing when I design it, partnering with Ecover seemed like a perfect fit, since they are promoting what I was already doing.”
Tara St. James and her studio
Tara St. James, the creative force behind eco fashion line Study, which aims for zero-waste processes, is the other designer who is working with Ecover to promote responsible and smart clothing choices. “I like to design with textiles that don’t need a lot of maintenance, since the impact of the garment lifecycle matters. I also like to create designs that don’t become irrelevant over time – timeless means that pieces can be worn for decades,” says Tara. (All of her pieces can be – carefully – washed by hand).