I spent days searching every online job board that I could think of in hopes of finding the “perfect fit”. The realization set in that I would not be Instafamous or the next wunderkind designer (Sorry, Mom!). After seven years I had found myself in a job that changed me. I had to check my morals and ethics at the door each morning. Putting on a metaphorical space suit to protect my bleeding heart. Even considering a change was like a heartbreak. I felt like I had given up on the daydream. But the impulse to have my finger on the vein left me with blood on my hands. Dramatic, sure.
Did I mention that the Industry has a way of manipulating you? Your boundaries disappear to your own detriment. Your line in the sand fades into the horizon. Your threshold of what’s normal is only reflected in the concerned eyes of civilians. Excess feels like it feeds your soul and allows you to escape reality. Why wouldn’t you want to live in a place where everything is curated? The people are larger than life and eccentricity is worth its weight in gold.
All the rumors are true. What you see in the movies about the garment industry is not not accurate in every way. Hollywood glosses over the impact on the people and the environment. The first time you unbox samples and the fumes burn your eyes and numb your throat, it doesn’t phase you. A million girls would kill for this job. So, I worked faster. Faster meant less time to inhale these toxic chemicals that stain your fingers. It wasn’t until I made myself sick after sorting boxes of shoes fresh from the factory that gave me pause.
My soapbox is out and mounted: the impact the apparel industry has on our planet is dramatic. Coal power plants, strip-mined mountaintops, and raw sewage piped into our waterways are grim. No one thinks that the shirts on their backs or the shoes on their feet are pollutants.
Fashion is a complicated business. Fashion involves varied supply chains of raw material and manufacture, then finally disposal. Fashion is the second largest polluter after oil. If anyone in the industry has concern for the future, that’s uncertain. What is certain is that the fashion carbon footprint is tremendous. The factory worker’s conditions, the toxic dyes in manufacturing, and the waste discarded clothing created never left my mind. Not to mention, the way we borrow trouble with the extravagant amount of natural resources used throughout the process.
The idealized design job has you focused on the customer and seeking the next thing. In reality, in design, it’s the bottom line and reinventing the last thing. Moving production from one third world country the next, before the worker’s rights unions or environmental safegaurds can catch-up. OK, so you think I’m a baby. Fine! I should have opened my eyes sooner. Probably! All that glitters isn’t gold. Beauty is pain. That’s the problem with continuity errors when you’re watching your life film. Once you see them there impossible to ignore.
I devoted the better half of my quasi-adult life, to the process of finding a home in fashion. I had made it to the Emerald city, looking for Oz. I pulled back the curtain to find it’s a grumpy old man running the show. Focused only on his own agenda, with no care to where you call home.
So, I left.