Browse Tag by garment industry
Fashion

We’re All Just Copycats: Style Icons

Style is as unique as it is a total sham. We copy, we remix, and we take from those in the spotlight, people otherwise known as style icons.

There are the staples, women that all women love and want to be like: Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor, Rihanna, Beyoncé, or whatever supermodel of the year is being indulged by Vogue Magazine…Karlie Kloss for some time, now one or both of the Hadids and so on.

If you speak with those entrenched in style you might find some cult favorites: Carine Roitfeld or Leandra Medine, for example. And as for men, I’m afraid I’ve not heard many of them claim to be inspired by anyone (dirty liars, they’ve got to have eyes on someone.)

Personally, I’ve got more than a few and I’m certain some of them are obvious, but today I want to tell a story about one of my icons. She keeps coming up in my mind and I suppose these days she’s emerging as my inspiration more than others.

caroline in menswear

Caroline de Maigret, Wanda Nylon, and my first Fashion Week

It was the year 2016. The month of March, early March. Still chilly in Paris, but with some bright sunshine attempting to filter through the city’s characteristic gray, especially beautiful during what the English call “the gloaming” and what the french refer to as “le crépescule.”

My first fashion show ever. I had popped into a presentation for a brand called Sixth June, but it was hardly fashion week caliber—this was the real deal. My friend Hannah and I, invitations late to our mailboxes, shouted our names and our publication at the bouncer amidst the beautiful people.

Inside the drafty and unfinished building I wondered how this was a venue just as much as Grand Palais, but I liked the grittiness.

hannah walking through show venue
Location of the Wanda Nylon show.

The show was Wanda Nylon. I had done very cursory preliminary research on her. Apparently she made some very interesting outerwear.

When we climbed the dark stairs we stumbled upon a makeshift runway, the lights necessary for good photos were all that seemed important. There was hardly anything else save for two or three rows of white benches for guests. I would be standing room, of course.

clear invitation on the floor
An invitation on the floor.

I huddled close to my friend, my only comfort. There might have been champagne, seemed to always be free champagne at these things. And then I gasped quietly and jabbed Hannah in the side. There she was.

Caroline de Maigret right here at the same show I was at. In the flesh. Wearing her typical look: the leather jacket, messy hair, and excellent jeans. She looked so casual, like she had just come in off of the streets to grace us at this show, hardly Chanel or Dries Van Noten. (That’s a thing to like at Paris Fashion Week, it’s not all about status.)

cdm street style
Caroline de Maigret—iconic Parisian model, music producer, and admirable person.

In my fervent excitement, I wondered if I should get a photo or video for our publication, but I thought no, that’d be exploiting this moment. And I couldn’t annoy her in this way, film her like a wild animal. I was jiggling with joy, my legs jittering and I think maybe she noticed because she looked up and smiled at me.

Looked straight at me and smiled. I’ll never forget it. That’s a kindness many who’ve made it in the industry wouldn’t bestow on a nobody.

Eye-skimming bangs, unbrushed hair, and je ne sais quoi

Caroline de Maigret is not your typical fashionista, nor your typical model. She’s not full glam and she has plenty of physical flaws on view. She does not work out, in fact she quite detests it. And, as a New York Times interview so aptly puts it:

“Ms. de Maigret…is a count’s daughter who left the Sorbonne to model, left modeling to produce rock music, and left music to return to modeling.”

Not your run-of-the-mill indeed.

More and more, I find I am reaching for the kind of style she represents, a look that says I don’t have to wash my hair or perfectly blend an eyeshadow. I’ve always loved the unstructured look of loose menswear—clothes that allow you to eat while you’re out.

cdm reading

I should mention too, that’s she’s written a book with her parisian friends, Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, and Sophie Mas, titled How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits.

And of course it’s one of my bibles, since my day to day lifestyle is attempting to be as parisian as possible.

cdm with wallpaper

To me Caroline de Maigret represents not only a style, but a lifestyle and her decision to write a book about being parisian shows me she understands this concept and is consciously considering her style as more than outward appearance.

There is a sort of preoccupation with the “je ne sais quoi” (the “I don’t know what”) of French women by American women. We’re obsessed with trying to find ways to be them, even if our lives and our culture make that almost impossible. This was made more obvious when I couldn’t even find a copy of the book in France, in french bookstores, that were written in french.

Caroline de Maigret wryly understands this and finds ways to pinpoint the paradoxical, complex, and hypocritical nature of French, specifically parisian women. I especially like her features in YouTube videos on the subject.

Light reading au café

It only makes sense that when I mentally return to de Maigret that I return to the book in question.

A lot of the blathering fashion and life advice I often give (unsolicited most likely…I send warm gratitude to friends who have amused me) is along the same vein of this book. The truth is out. I had to let you think it was all me for as long as possible.

illustrated page

The kind of particular advice in here is enough to make you consider your every move and I’d be confident in claiming that every style icon you follow or genuflect to follows the same kind of meticulous consideration, even if that attitude is to be seemingly carefree. After all, appearing to be careless takes a lot of work.

Parisian women, and I would venture to say this book as well, give us the sort of insight that can lessen the insecurities we may have about our lack of “Riri-ness” or “Chung-ness”, that all of us have a practiced look and attitude. After all, an entire city has a famous practiced attitude, why shouldn’t everyone else?

Pretenders pretending

The above quote caught my eye and its ironic appearance in a book telling me exactly how to be something I may not actually be is the essence of the parisian. She’s just grasping at her passions and trying to pretend she’s doing so casually. It’s exactly why I subscribe to my own blend of stolen icons. The reason we all pretend what we’re doing is natural.

And I think, much with any sort of art, that the art of being a person is rooted in this balancing act. It will be paradoxical, hypocritical, and fickle. It will change from full-glam to au naturel in mere months, days, or seconds.

Much like the constant minute changes in our personalities and philosophies, we have icons to look to, to find inspiration in and to formulate, at the very least, our outward appearance, our armor.

Because you can go to battle with the best ideology, but you’re nothing without some really excellent armor.

Bisous,

 

 

 

 

Who is your current style icon? Or icon in general?

Fashion

Work Wear

Labor day was yesterday and it struck me that I did not remotely know what Labor day was for and why we had it off.

So of course I googled it and scored through a few sources to bust that mystery open (if it’s still a mystery to you.)

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it’s always the first Monday in September and it is in recognition of “the social and economic achievements of American workers.” (Source.)

Can you believe I didn’t know that? Especially given the name of the day! It got me thinking about how we take a lot of those achievements for granted, along with the day itself (I mean, some people ironically still work.) But this is a blog that concerns itself with clothing, among other things, and I thought about how a lot of our favorite styles come straight from the bodies of workers. So without further ado, here are some fantastic fashions that came from laborers themselves.

(And maybe next time you wear any of them, you can spare some silent gratitude their way.)

Boiler Suits

I know, I know. You have no idea what that is. Let me enlighten you.

Now clearly not all of these are vintage workwear, but the inspiration is clearly working class. The boiler suit’s origins are quite similar to their namesake: the men who maintained coal-fired boilers wore these to protect themselves. They are, after all, perfect for protection: rough materials, no gaps in the garment, long pocket in the front for tool storage, etc.

They are also fantastic one-piece fashion statements. Of course, like other borrowed pieces, you have to be willing to work with the lack of fit (or, if you’re very attached, tailor it to you) and to roll up your sleeves quite literally.

Mechanic Shirts

You’ve seen these. Likely on the backs of rebel teens from movies set in the 60s. Or in your local vintage store, waiting for someone to take up the name Earl once more.

The fun in these shirts is imagining who these people once were and taking up their name as a badge of legitimacy. Oh you have a cool tee? I have Earl’s shirt.

julian casablancas garbage collector shirt
Source: https://www.last.fm/music/Julian+Casablancas/+images/b04a1e6bc8914913b5e3b23f86b39057

The photo above is, if you’re a huge Strokes fan, a classic Julian Casablancas look. It’s unforgettable, this garbage collector shirt. You don’t even know.

The origins of these shirts are rather obvious as well: automobile workers wore these, embroidered with their company logo and name and the style spread to other professions with uniforms. It’s a classic look that bled into the rebellious counter-culture and then, of course, into fashion.

The Flat Cap

(You may be more familiar with its popular name, the Newsboy Cap.)

This headwear goes as far back as 14th century England and it really hit the ground running when parliament passed a law in 1571 to protect their oh-so-precious wool trade, decreeing that all non-noble men over six wear wool caps on Sundays and on holidays, lest they pay a fine.

You can imagine it became a popular look and the flat cap became The Look of all non-nobles and, in the 19th and 20th centuries, the working-class signifier.

With the working class in decline since the mid-20th century, the cap has found its home in the middle-class and sometimes the upper class, despite its peasant origins.

 

I do hope you enjoyed your day off and all the work that people in the past put in to get you that day off, as well as all of the fabulous clothing they brought us because of their jobs.

Try not to feel too guilty while you’re wearing a flat cap and thinking about how it was the signature look of the plebeian types! Eek.

Bisous,

 

Fashion

Made In The USA…And In Sweatshops

sign-ask-more-questions

Due to increased global awareness of textile worker’s conditions abroad in Thailand, China, and a collective of other developing nations, most Americans think the clothing that they purchase in the US is above such conditions.

They would be incorrect to assume a “Made in the USA” label meant guaranteed ethics. After all, the Federal Trade Commission’s requirement for adding such labels as “Made in the USA” includes determining the “last country in which a ‘substantial transformation’ took place” (FTC, 1997.), meaning the processes or manufacturing that create a different good than the one existing before these processes. As for advertisement and marketing materials, implications can be made as no origin country is required to be mentioned. Essentially, it’s a very gray area indeed.

The US garment industry can’t possibly be that archaic or third-world, can it?

In fact, it can be. Reminiscent of the 19th century conditions, to make a comparison. The US Department of Labor found a continuation of wage violations in a February 2016 News Release, saying that in the previous five years that they’ve paid workers over 11.7 million dollars back after over 1,000 investigations.

Not that any of these violations are news, this is an old narrative for the garment industry, an industry rife with historically exploited employees. In 2012, a sweep of one building in LA’s garment district garnered a shocking amount of wage violations against the Fair Labor Standards Act. The companies that employed this factory included: “…Aldo Group Inc., Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp., Charlotte Russe Holding Inc., Dillard’s Inc., Forever 21 Inc., Fraisier Clothing Co. (Susan Lawrence), HSN Inc. (Home Shopping Network), Rainbow Apparel Inc., Ross Stores Inc., TJX Cos. Inc. (TJ Maxx and Marshall’s), Urban Outfitters Inc. and Wet Seal Inc.” (WHD News Release, 2012.) The investigators went as far to describe the conditions and violations as “sweatshop-like employment conditions.”

woman-sewing

WAGE VIOLATIONS

But what does the Wage and Hour Division mean by wage violations? What is the extent of the issue? According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, workers must be paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour with time and a half for overtime (over the weekly maximum of 40 hours). Employers must keep detailed records and time cards for their employees.

The minimum wage in the state of California is, as of January 2016, $10 per hour. What the Wage and Hour Division discovered in 2012 was a piece rate system, meaning that workers are paid for garments that they cut or sew without following minimum wage requirement. According to the 2012 News Release, workers made less than $6.50 per hour on average. At the time the minimum wage was $8 per hour. Since the WHD has continued to find violations and continues their investigations, it’s safe to assume such piece rate systems are still in place.

Federal investigators also discovered tampered time cards and “under-reporting” of the hours that employees worked. None of the workers received overtime pay, according to this 2012 investigation report.

In the next two years, another News Release  revealed yet another slew of violations. That year, 2014, saw 221 investigations of garment industry employers in LA, finding “$3,004,085 in unpaid wages for 1,549 workers.” Coming to about $1,900 per employee, the pay back equalled five times the usual paycheck of sewing machine operator in one week.

WORKERS FIGHTING BACK

Outside of the work that the Wage and Hour Division has and is conducting, the Garment Worker Center focuses on exposing the conditions of garment workers in the LA area, releasing reports  and gathering information from the workers themselves.

In their 2016 Health and Safety report, they report that 80% of garment industry workers never received training for their health and safety in the workplace before beginning work. They also report workers were unable to locate first aid services should an accident occur. Garment machinery, hardly safe and complex at times, needs to be well-understood to be operated properly. However, due to the large amount of immigrant workers in this industry, communication is poor and employers fail to communicate training effectively.

Exits are blocked with items or unknown to workers, with poorly lit working spaces. Should an emergency occur, many workers are at a loss for what to do. As for rest breaks or water, there is a shocking deficiency of both.

worker-near-fashion-ad

MOVING FORWARD

Both federal organizations along with worker-led groups are making progress in just pay and conditions, but the existence of the continued exploitation of garment workers in the 21st century is shameful in of itself. The fact that it’s a topic of note in the year 2016 in America is one that continues to jar readers, despite all of the information that is available to consumers.

Thankfully it’s the spreading of such information that aids in smart purchasing decisions, with the hands behind the clothing in mind. The issue of immigrant discrimination and exploitation, however complex and deep-rooted, can be abated with the money that we spend on clothing and where we choose to buy. It’s up to consumers to remain informed and use their money as their voice, especially as the holiday buying season ramps up.

Bisous,

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Fashion

Why I Sew

I asked my roommate to borrow a sewing kit earlier this year—a button on my coat had fallen loose—and found myself utterly shocked when she produced one.

She is a rarity among my generation. Most of us hardly sew buttons or over holes and tears these days. We simply throw the piece of clothing away. So removed are we from the ways in which our outfits are produced that we see no value in understanding their make. What if we did? I hypothesize a number of results from this awareness:

  1. Less money expenditure.

  2. Increased clothing quality.

  3. Increased attractiveness.

To make my case, as I flounder in my sewing sprint course, attempting a straight stitch that doesn’t stray a millimeter away every once and awhile, I cannot confidently say that making your own clothing is less expensive. As the cost of fabric, thread, a machine, needles, notions, the pattern, and whatever else you may need is not a cheap buy.

However I can say that knowing how a garment is produced drastically changes the way in which you view your clothes—recognizing one hem over another means that some of the horrible work you’ve accepted before is no longer acceptable. After all, if it’s obvious when a garment is a slipshod job versus a more solid one. What does this mean? You’ll buy the good stuff (and there’s less of it flying around.)

 

sewing-machine-vintage

The other magical benefit to buying well-made (and therefore more expensive in general) clothing is that it makes you far more attractive. Why? These clothes tend to be more tailored and, if you so choose, you can tailor your clothing or get it tailored. Both of these options cost some more money and more skill, but they absolutely elevate your look.

Sewing is one of those dusty, domestic skills that not many people see as necessary these days—why should they when new clothes are waiting by the bucketful? Today is not the day of darning socks; it’s the “see now buy now” era. If we understood the blueprints and methods of making clothing, how much it really, truly takes to make a simple dress, would we be so blasé about sewing? Would we buy eight pairs of jeans just because they were super cheap?

In the interest of budget, in the pursuit of knowledge, and out of respect for the art, I am learning to sew. Maybe, in a few weeks or so, I won’t look at my closet the same way and that favored garment of mine will no longer be a mystery, but a map of making.

Bisous,

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