Fashion Revolution Week 2020
April 22, 2020

April 20-26 is “Fashion Revolution Week.” It’s held every year on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse.

As a general thing, I choose not to bring politics into my business. But it simply doesn’t make sense to be any part of the fashion industry without talking about the impact of materials, production and disposal of clothing and accessories.

I use the term “industry” loosely. As a one-woman business who doesn’t follow trends or produce large collections, I am the teensiest part of the fashion industry. Still, this week is a good opportunity to talk about and reflect on fashion choices and think about the impact. Especially when it comes to “fast fashion.”

It’s difficult to be perfectly sustainable when it comes to fashion. Insisting on sustainability every step of the way is a lot to expect of everyday consumers. I don’t do it myself. But knowing the types of things to think about can at least make it easier to choose the ethical option when it’s available. Small changes and choices can still make a difference. There are three main areas:

Production impact on the environment.

Certain materials are more polluting to produce. Synthetic fabrics are the worst in terms of pollution. Cotton may use a lot of water. Fabric dyes and transportation may also contribute to the pollution. When a garment is made, how much material is wasted in the form of scraps?

Production impact on human beings.

Some fashion brands are becoming more transparent. Push for your favorite clothing and accessories manufacturers to let you know #WhoMadeMyClothes? Though some improvements have been made, there are still deplorable factory conditions around the world, with crowded, unhealthy conditions, meager pay and even child labor.

The garment’s impact on the environment.

It could be polyester “fleece” fabrics polluting waterways through microplastics shed in the normal washing and drying your clothes. Or it could be that the piece is — whether because of cheap materials/construction or a short-term fad — destined to be thrown out too soon.

Kristin Silverman displaying a hand-sewn brim edge on a fedora.
Showcasing a hand-sewn brim edge on a yellow fedora at the “Holiday Humbug” maker market in December 2019.

Handmade millinery is sustainable.

As a “solopreneur,” I recognize how fortunate I am. I am grateful to know that my small place in the fashion world does not contribute to the crisis.

I work in a lovely and healthful home studio as my own boss.

I use natural materials, such as wool felt, fur felt, cotton, silk, etc. I try to avoid synthetic fabrics and other plastics. I collect and use vintage materials, which are even better for the environment!

And — my favorite way that millinery is sustainable — hats are not designed to be fast fashion! A well-made hat can last longer than a piece of clothing. It’s not meant to be thrown out.

A hat is a special accessory. It’s wearable art. You might even pass it down to your kids or grandkids. 🎩👒

Even before I became a milliner, I had an interest in “fewer better things.” That dress that you splurge on and wear every anniversary. The fabulous cashmere sweater that you wear as many times as you can and take care of for years. And, of course, the perfect hat that’s the cherry on top of your favorite outfits.

What are your favorite sustainable fashion or accessories brands?

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