Muses True Cost event galvanized Seattleites to change the way they consume and think about clothing

More than 80 participants filled Youngstown Cultural Arts Center on October 1st. The theater was packed with change-makers from different professions, backgrounds, and communities, from green manufacturing and eco-fashion to sustainable design and refugee rights. After viewing Andrew Morgan's poignant, moving documentary, a panel of experts discussed the implications of the True Costs of fashion. Co-founders of Prairie Underground, Camilla Eckersley and Davora Lindner joined Cheryl Campbell, leader of the Women's Enterpreneurial Grant program for the Eileen Fisher Social Consciousness team. Each shared their thoughts on how to address environmental and social issues that stem from fast fashion. The thoughtful conversation, moderated by Leslie Hayes, raised several questions:
  • How can we influence human behavior? Educating designers and consumers about the complexity of the supply chain remains a challenge.
  • What policy shifts need to happen to support humane, sustainable design and apparel production?  Implementing new policies that will help regulate sustainable manufacturing practices worldwide is critical.
  • How can women and front-line workers be brought into solution generation? A majority of apparel workers are women. Apparel workers need further opportunities to talk safely about their condition of work. Women apparel workers have limited access to leadership positions and decisions that affect their job and work environment.
  • How do we attract people to what is a gritty industry? There is a growing demand for U.S made clothing. Accessing skilled machine operators, sample makers and pattern makers is difficult. Local solutions, such as the apparel production training offered by Muses, are needed to help make industrial sewing professions more attractive by guaranteeing fairly paid jobs and opportunities to grow.
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Despite these challenges, panelists mentioned local solutions that could help foster a more sustainable local apparel industry:
  • "No more stuff!" A growing number of local designers are creating innovative designs using up-clycled and recycled fabric or by re-purposing fashion items. Aware of the finite resources of our earth's ecosystems, small business owners are willing to limit exponential growth of their businesses to help create a more sustainable industry.
  • Developing a local network and increasing more intentional linkages between conscious consumers, makers, designers, researchers, policy makers and investors will help strengthen the local industry.
  • Addressing cross-cultural challenges of today's workforce is critical. A majority of apparel makers are non native English speakers which can limit business negotiations and challenge day-to-day operations. Helping employees access industry focus English classes and offering cultural diversity training to employers could help improve cross-cultural communication in the work place.
  • Consumers must demand more transparency from products. Consumers can drive positive change. Growing consumers' awareness about the unethical faces of Fast Fashion will increase demand for consciously made products.
  • Educating people on how to care for their clothing. Fast fashion doesn't always mean that garments won't last. Learning how to care for what we wear will make us treat our clothes as valuables and not disposable commodity.
That night, individuals from the public had a chance to share their thoughts on what they, as individuals, can do to drive positive change. Some of their thoughts were captured on pieces of paper:

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Seeing the positive reactions and engagement among the audience and the panelists, shows that a tipping point is imminent. The industry is already moving towards more sustainable manufacturing practices.

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