On Sunday, Dana Thomas, author of Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes, hosted a discussion with Natalie on Instagram. Dana, in the South of France, and Natalie, in her kitchen in Florence, Alabama, shared their thoughts and experiences about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting day-to-day life and the fashion industry. Their conversation—shared through a screen and continents apart—was an example of the symbiotic relationship between globalization and technology, which are themes that show up throughout Dana’s book.
From Fashionopolis: “Slow fashion champions localization and regionalism rather than massification. It honors craftsmanship and respects tradition while embracing modern technology to make production cleaner and more efficient. It’s about treating workers well, Chanin said, and ‘buying from the person down the street whose face you know and love.’”
Natalie expressed that while she celebrates and concentrates her efforts on the slow, local movement, she isn’t labeling globalization as bad. When it comes to sourcing materials, she’s looking for the highest quality which is often geographically specific; we’re fortunate (and have worked over a decade) to source what we feel are the best organic cotton fabrics so close to home—Texas grown, then spun, knit, and dyed in the Carolinas; but she’ll look to China for the finest silks and to France for the best laces. Our hand-sewing Button Craft thread is produced in Mexico; it’s the strongest and best quality thread Natalie has found for hand stitching. The 100% organic cotton thread for our machine-sewn products is sourced from Holland—one of the few places that is spinning organic cotton thread. And so, while geography does matter, clothing has no borders.
With our local production and by practicing lean method manufacturing, we are fortunate to be able to pivot our Bldg. 14 manufacturing operation to produce face masks during the COVID-19 crisis. We produce our garments to order rather than keep large quantities of finished goods. This has allowed us the flexibility to use our stock of raw materials and allocate them as needs arise—in this instance, to make masks. We’re doing everything in our power to keep our team safe as they work to fill orders. We’re tapping into the talent in our community and have begun working with our independent contractors on production.
Will there be a resurgence of local jobs in the fashion and garment industries—pattern makers, seamstresses, and tailors servicing cities and towns? Will big-box fashion companies rethink their overstock of finished goods? What can designers do to maintain a secure and sustainable supply chain? What will retail spaces look like?
We can’t be sure where we, as a society, will land, or where the cultural impact will lie, but we are hopeful that new, better ways of thinking, making, and doing will come out of this crisis and the actions that are necessary to take for the safety of the collective.
Watch their entire conversation here.
Follow Dana on Instagram @danathomasparis for other engaging conversations on the future of fashion.