I was taught that it's better to buy one well-made, special item that you absolutely love rather than 10 pieces of poor quality, trendy items that will be thrown out or "donated" at the end of the season.
A well-made, special piece will give you joy for a long time, and help you show off your own personal style.
When other kids would go "back to school shopping" and buy a bunch of junky on-trend items, my mother would take me to unique specialty stores where I would pick out 1 special piece. This is how I've always shopped throughout the years.
When I've travelled abroad to Europe or even just down to LA, I would buy a special piece that would create my style and persona in a way that was evergreen. Now, whenever I wear any of those items, I remember where I was when I bought them and the great times I had when I wore them. I continue to receive compliments on my unique items 10 years after I bought them. To me, fashion is art and should be treated as such!
This is slow fashion. Buying clothes that are created in a way that promote a long life to the garment. Clothes that are made with care and ethically without exploiting workers in the process.
In my past years of working as a Designer for importers who sold to big box stores such as Walmart and Target, I learned about what went on behind the scenes. The importance of price was a major concern. I needed to come up with on-trend, great items at a competitive price point.
I travelled to India, Turkey and East Asia to visit factories and work with them to see their capabilities and create sample lines.
Here I am in the Hong Kong office of our agent Armstrong Industries, with the beautiful Josephine Chan in the late 1980's
Here with Richard Lam and Kenny Wong.
Working closely with people all over the world was very exciting and rewarding in many ways. I was able to foster beautiful relationships and learn about the many cultures around the globe. I'm truly grateful for this experience as it really opened my eyes to the whole world.
I was one of the first designers to go into mainland China. I remember being followed by 5 men who I didn't know what they were really there for except that they were on my tail the whole time!
I've witnessed children working in factories, toxic dyes being dumped into rivers where people bathed and large factories with little ventilation and no AC. The workers often are housed in dormitories and work there until it's time to go back to their small town in rural China. The factories are so desperate to take orders that they are willing low-ball the price just to get order. Their concern is that if they're not busy they will lose the workers and then be left with no staff, so they take the orders to just stay in business at break even or even at a loss.
These pictures I took on my trip to Guangzhou, China
It is after all these experiences that I found myself in a place where I wondered:
What happens to all these clothes that are manufactured in hopes of selling at a certain price and then don't sell?
I know that retailers ask manufacturers for "mark down money" to cover their loss, if the item doesn't perform to their plan. So, the vendors take a hit and then include this in their pricing structure in order to keep their relationship with the store. But eventually all those clothes wind up at a discounters or off-price stores and then shipped to other countries or finally put into land fills. See below:
I don't want to be a part of this any more. I create and make all my goods locally in small batches using leftover fabrics, hoping I can contribute to a new way of doing things. So I buy leftover fabric from Designer runs and make a limited quantity right here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I'm careful to not have extra pieces left over. My styles are timeless and special and can be worn for a lifetime. My hope is that people start thinking of clothing as something they can honor in response to what's happening around us today.
Here I am cutting out one of my "Faux Fur Stoles"
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