thoughts

Shopping Ethically for Vintage Repro

shopping ethically for vintage repro

Fashion Revolution Week finished up almost exactly a month ago now, and though I had originally planned to share some of the 2017 stats etc. as well as some of the highlights of the global event, that information hasn’t been released yet by Fashion Revolution. So instead, today I would like to share some of what I learned and researched during Fashion Revolution about several vintage repro (reproduction) brands, and how to successfully shop vintage and repro with an ethical mindset.

I know I’ve mentioned it so many times before, but shopping true vintage and second hand is an inherently ethical way to shop. The clothing already exists, so by shopping second hand, you are giving it a second life. Where it gets tricky is in new clothing. Clothing made up into the 1980’s was for the most part produced in an ethical way. So much of the mass produced clothing of earlier eras was made domestically, not outsourced to factories in other countries. You see many of the vintage clothing ads selling garments based on quality, proclaiming things like dresses “made of good quality fabric”, shoes that feature “unusual durability”, and one of Sears children’s brand was even called “Ucanttear”, which was made to withstand the rigours of children at play.

There were abuses within the textile and fashion industry of course, dating back to the 1800’s, which is why we see union labels in many vintage garments. For the most part, though, clothing was not suspect. You didn’t automatically assume back then, like today’s clothing landscape, that clothing was unethically made. Today, every $5 t-shirt and $30 dress that sports the tag “Made in Bangladesh” is questionable. It might not actually be the case, because there are plenty of factories that are safe and paying a living wage (one factory in India even took part in Fashion Revolution Week) but, because of the abuses we have seen over and over again in the industry, with cheaply produced clothing made at the expense of the garment workers, we now tend to presume guilty until proven innocent, not the other way around.

One of the problems I find with so many sustainable fashion brands today, is that they are so modern, and hardly any of their clothing fits into my personal style. I love vintage silhouettes and styles, not unstructured, loose, trendy clothes. So, I decided this Fashion Revolution Week to ask the question “Who Made My Clothes” to a few vintage repro companies, to hear what they had to say. I also researched a few other companies to come up with this small list (I am sure there are plenty more) of companies who are making their clothing in an ethical manner.

As a disclaimer, while I would not consider these companies to be “sustainable” since that they don’t share their supply chain, where the cloth and materials come from, or what the environmental impact of their dyeing processes and farming processes are. However I would still consider them to be ethical from a human rights point of view.

heart of haute

The brand Heart of Haute is made in the USA. They have several locations in LA and many of their employees are actually fashion graduates. The garments are “cut to order in San Dimas and assembled by three contract sewing shops in the Los Angeles area”. This way, not only are they supplying local jobs, but they can proudly say ‘Made in the USA”. They do not share their supply chain, but they claim to make high quality garments, designed to last. I would agree with that statement, since last year I purchased a blouse from Heart of Haute. Sadly, I ended up returning it, as I realized that it was too tight and the buttons pulled on the front. The blouse was made of a smooth and sturdy cotton, and all of the seams were finished nicely. The blouse included details like a tie front, and covered buttons, as well as dart shaping so it wouldn’t ride up. I truly do think that it would have been a long lasting purchase. All in all, if I were to come across another item I liked from Heart of Haute, I would not hesitate to buy it.

retrospec'd

Another brand which I have tried on in person at a store, is the brand Retrospec’d, which is made in Australia. On their website, they say “All Retrospec’d garments are made in Australia to the very highest standard. The majority of the fabrics themselves are the product of many months spent finding colours and design elements that are “just right”. The result is fresh, vintage-inspired fashion that simply can’t be found anywhere else in the world.” The dresses I saw were made of a lighter cotton sateen, which had a very nice finish and drape, and many of them had border prints, which are always fun. I can’t recall how the insides were finished, but I think that the dresses were lined- I know that the bodice on the 1950’s full skirted dress I tried on was lined in the same fabric as the outside of the dress was (minus the border print). I didn’t end up purchasing the dress, as it didn’t fit well, (sadly!) but had it fit, I believe I would have purchased it. These dresses are definitely more of an investment, but I think that for a well made garment, ethically made in Australia, and with so many yards of fabric in the skirt, and fun touches like border prints, it is well worth it.

emilyandfin

A company I have not purchased from (or tried on any of their garments) is Emily and Fin. I know that Nora from Nora Finds owns a few dresses from Emily and Fin, and that she likes them. I was pleasantly surprised to discover on Emily and Fin’s website, a page which states that to ensure their products “are made to the best standard possible and in a safe working environment, we aim to work alongside like-minded businesses; visiting them regularly in order to build strong working relationships and guarantee best practice of manufacture and care” and that all of their pieces are “designed and developed in-house in our London studio” taking the time and care to “ensure a high level of attention is paid to the fit and quality of each garment.” It sounds like they are committed to producing well made, quality items. This seems to be confirmed with a browse through their website, (in which I wanted to add so many items to my cart). They have garments made of fabrics like Tencel (which is a natural and usually eco friendly fabric), viscose (another natural fibre) and 100% cotton (though no mention of organic cotton). Again, the prices are an investment, but this is for a high quality, natural fibre garment, made in ethical conditions. The styles are elegant and timeless, so a dress or blouse from Emily and Fin would definitely withstand the trends.

pretty retro

A company I just found out about from Porcelina’s recent post, is Pretty Retro. This is a UK brand, which offers “affordable, wearable clothing without compromising on style or quality.” And that it is “one of a family of brands run by 20th Century Clothiers Ltd. based in the North of England. All garments are ethically manufactured in Europe and to a high standard.” There are a lot of companies in the UK, which sport the tag “Made in England” etc. I don’t live in the UK, so that doesn’t help me much, but for my UK based readers, this might help you! I can’t testify to the quality of their items, but Porcelina mentioned that she already considers her purchase of their tie top to be a “great staple”, and after a few washes, it seems to be holding up well. They have some fun and pretty styles, and don’t seem to be too badly priced either.

Hell_Bunny

Another company which I own two items from is Hell Bunny. I purchased my black trench coat from Hell Bunny last year and then instantly regretted the purchase- not because of the style, (I love it!) but because I didn’t know how or under what conditions it was made. Now a smart thing to do at that point, would be to email their customer service department and ask them that very question. I, of course, never thought of that until Fashion Revolution rolled around, and then I suddenly realized how silly I had been about it. So, I asked via Instagram, in order to be a part of the “online movement” and also emailed them separately asking them how their clothing is made. They don’t have any kind of information on their website, which is really too bad, as I think that that kind of information should be front and centre, but they were very quick at replying to my message to them. They said, “a lot of our items are made in the same factory. If they say ‘Made in China’, that means they’ve been made in our main factory, which is our closest contact. We see and speak to the staff daily, we’ve been with them for almost 10 years I believe, so the relationship is very strong and as you can imagine we know everything we need to know about the factory to make sure everything runs well. The owner of HB is the one who is the first person to check our factories and he asks a lot of questions and asks for a lot of paperwork before going ahead. He’s very hands on and makes sure there is no bad business going around before we start with them. If there are any items you’re interested in buying you are welcome to mention them to us and we can let you know where it’s made before you purchase.” All in all, I am satisfied with that answer- again it is not a sustainable company, and they don’t seem to be making a claim for “quality” as much as style. However, I have been very happy with the quality of my trench coat, and the only “complaint” I have about it is that it isn’t tan! Would I purchase from Hell Bunny again? I already have 🙂 (That purchase will be coming up in a future post.)

collectif

The last vintage repro company I got an answer back from, is Collectif. This is a very popular UK brand, and though I have never purchased anything from them yet, I was interested in one of their garments. I sent them an email about it, and received a reply back right away from their helpful customer service staff. In regards to a specific item I was looking at, they said “it is made in our own facility in China (as with most of our garments.) We work closely with all of our factories to ensure that the garments are ethically made. We have our own facility in China with a team who manage our production. Some of our production and design team have visited our factories there and seen first hand that the working conditions are ethical and the company owner and Chinese Facility Manager visit the factories every week.” They also have a page here in their FAQ’s that outlines their policy. I wouldn’t say that Collectif is a sustainable fashion brand quite yet, as they don’t make any mention of environmental credentials etc, but it is great to see them taking a step in the right direction, by using ethical fashion processes, and also making that information available on their website for the customer to see, without even having to ask. I decided against purchasing the garment I had been looking at, for now, but if I came across something I liked, I might decide to purchase from them. I know plenty of other bloggers have been very happy with their Collectif purchases.

Those are the companies I heard back from. Two companies whom I never received a reply from are Trashy Diva and Retrolicious. Trashy Diva’s garments are designed in the US, but they make no mention of where they are made- and since I never got a reply back from them, I unfortunately can’t tell you! Do any of you know? Retrolicious is another brand from the US. I did purchase from them last year, this dress. I bought it because it was made in the US, but I don’t know about the rest of their line. I was satisfied with the quality of the dress, although in recent months, it appears that the hem has stretched a bit and is now a bit lopsided. I think this is because it is a circle skirt, and it was perhaps not hung long enough to stretch out the bias.

I also asked Joe Fresh, a Canadian brand, where their clothes were made, but did not receive any reply back from them either. I wasn’t really expecting to, but it is too bad, as they have so many cute styles- but have a terrible track record of human rights abuses. I used to purchase a lot of clothes from them years ago, before I knew about “cheap, fast fashion”, but I don’t buy from them anymore.

shopping ethically for vintage repro, who made my clothes, the artyologist

So what was the one thing I learned during Fashion Revolution Week? You can ask “Who made my clothes” all year round, and if you don’t see the information on a company’s website, you can ask them directly. It’s so obvious, but somehow I had just never really thought about it before. We can do our homework, and research brands, but if we don’t find a satisfactory answer we can also ask companies directly. And sometimes, if you ask the question, you might be pleasantly surprised by the answer.

Fashion Revolution Week may be over for this year, but Fashion Revolution is not! I know that this is not an exhaustive list of ethical vintage repro companies, so if you know of other companies that are producing ethically made clothing, let us all know in the comments! I’d love to find new repro brands to buy from.

And, if you want to ask a brand yourself, about their clothing production methods, here is an outline of the letter that I emailed to the brands:

“I have been wearing vintage styles for a few years now, and I love that there are vintage reproduction companies making beautiful vintage inspired garments today.

I have in the past purchased _____ from you,” orI have never purchased from you before, even though I Iove so many of your styles, and I have seen a fair number of vintage bloggers feature outfits by you.” However the one thing I couldn’t find any information about, is where the clothing is made.

The most important concern I have when deciding to purchase new clothing, is in making sure that is produced in an ethical and sustainable way. I want to make sure that when I wear something I feel great about it, not just because it is a lovely style, but because I know that the people who made it are being treated in a fair manner. Where are your garments being made? Are they being made in an ethical manner? I would love to know that those who make the clothes are being treated fairly, have the freedom to speak out, work in safe conditions and are being paid a living wage in order to live with dignity, opportunity and hope.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions!

Sincerely, ____ (your name)”

What are your top ethically made vintage repro brands? Have you ever purchased from any of these vintage repro brands? Have you ever asked a brand where their clothes are made?

Fashion Revolution Love Story: An Ode to a Humble T-Shirt

Fashion Revolution Love Story: An Ode to a Humble T-Shirt, clothing love stories

Care for your clothes, like the good friends they are – Joan Crawford

Fashion Revolution Love Story: An Ode to a Humble T-Shirt, clothing love stories, horizontal

This year, Fashion Revolution has suggested several ways to get involved, one of which is sharing a fashion revolution love story. “We love fashion. We love how clothes can make us feel, and how they can represent how we feel about ourselves. They’re our message to the world about who we are. Rather than buying new, fall back in love with the clothes you already own. Share your story about an item of clothing that means a lot to you. The more we love our clothes, the more we care for them, and the longer they last. We are asking fashion lovers from all over the world to join the fashion revolution and create a love story.” Want to see more clothing love stories, or get involved and share your own fashion revolution love story? People are sharing on Instagram or Facebook this week with the hashtags #lovedclotheslast and #fashionrevolution.

 – –

Dear cream coloured peasant style t-shirt,

You are such a sweet, yet innocuous garment. I bought you about six years ago now in the first big clothing “shopping spree” I ever had. There I was, just out of college and in desperate need of some clothing. I had a job and money to spend, and after so many years of hand-me-downs which were on the verge of wearing out completely, combined with years of a negative body image, in which I didn’t wear nice things, I was ready for some new and pretty clothes.

Fashion Revolution Love Story: An Ode to a Humble T-Shirt, clothing love stories, detail and outfitmy most recent outfit featuring this peasant style top

On that day, while browsing the sale racks, I found you. In fact I found two of you. I bought two of the same shirt, because I thought that I would tie dye one. I am very glad that I never got around to doing that- because, well, tie dye isn’t really my thing and I am sure that wouldn’t have lasted long in my closet, and also because I can now wear “you” twice as often. I was drawn to you that day because, quite simply put: you were perfect. Basic, but different. Classic, with a twist. Vintage in style, yet made of comfortable knit. Long enough to tuck in and loose enough to be blowsy, but soft enough to drape. And on top of all that- you are a wonderful shade of cream that magically seems to coordinate with everything I put you with.

Fashion Revolution: An Ode to a Humble T-Shirt, 1anne of green gables worthy puffed sleeves

You work surprisingly well underneath my pinafore dresses, and make me look as though I belong in The Sound of Music (this is always a good thing). When I pair you with a full skirt, I look like I’ve stepped out of a 1950’s picnic. You work with all of my casual outfits, and function surprisingly well as a “shell” too, underneath blazers and cardigans. You are so neutral that you go with everything, and your “puffed sleeves” have just the right amount of puff without being overdone. When in doubt, I always know I can fall back on you.

Because you are cream, of course, I have spilled all manner of things on you- curry, spaghetti sauce, beet juice and many other staining kinds of things. And yet, every time, the stains have come right out- I don’t know how you do it- but I’m glad you do!

Fashion Revolution: An Ode to a Humble T-Shirt, 1with a pleated skirt

I bought you cheap from a fast fashion brand. You were probably less than $15.00 brand new, less than $5.00 on sale. All of the clothes I bought that day were on sale. That day, I bought cheap clothes, because I didn’t know differently, and I don’t think I could afford anything else either. Because you are so cheap, I am actually surprised that you have lasted this long. Yes, I do have two of you, and yet I thought you would have worn out years ago. I wear you at least once a week. . . probably twice a week, which means that I have worn each individual shirt at least 150 times in the last six years (but probably more). Look at how many times I have featured you here on the blog in just over one year!

harem pants with a vintage style blouse the artyologistperfect with harem pants

You were made in Bangladesh. I don’t know who made you. I wonder who cut out your fabric, sewed your seams, gathered your puffed sleeves and trimmed your errant threads. At the site of the Rana Plaza factory collapse four years ago, in the rubble, tags were found bearing the logo stamped on the inside of your collar. Were you made in that factory? I wonder about the garment worker who made you. Was she or he there that day? Where are they now?

the artyologist- vintage style dutch wax print skirtworn as a “shell”

I didn’t know about fast fashion in those days when I bought you. If I saw you today, I would have to pass on by. And yet, despite your questionable history and supply chain, you have without a doubt been one of the best garments I’ve ever purchased. If I was told to choose a favourite garment from my wardrobe, and pick something to write this “Love Story” about, my first thought would be something showy and exciting. Perhaps my grey fur coat, or a true vintage dress or a pair of pretty shoes. . .  but in reality, while those are the fun things in my wardrobe, I don’t wear them all that often. At least not when compared to you!

A Limited Knowledge of Alice's Understanding, The Artyologistwith a suspender skirt

I wash you in a cold gentle wash, and hang you to dry, to try and keep you in good shape. But, the other day I found a hole. It is near a seam, so I think I can mend it. But, I started to wonder- what ever will I do when you are gone? I know that I can never replace you, and you will surely be missed as one of my most loved garments of all time. As much as one can “love” a piece of clothing, I do love you, my humble and ordinary cream coloured peasant t-shirt!

Love, Nicole

– – –

What is your favourite garment in your wardrobe? How long have you had it, and what is the story behind it? I’d love to hear your fashion revolution love story too!

leave a little sparkle, holiday outfit, the artyologistunder a cardigan

What is Fashion Revolution Week? (And How to Take Part)

What is Fashion Revolution Week, the artyologist

Here we are already, almost at the end of April, and this means that Fashion Revolution Week is almost upon us. Next week, April 24-30th is Fashion Revolution Week 2017, and I am getting ready to take part. I thought though, that some of you may not know about Fashion Revolution, so I thought I would share with you some of the “events” going on next week, so you can get ready to take part too.

So, what is Fashion Revolution Week? Well, it is a global movement which seeks to create transparency, sustainability and ethical standards within the fashion industry. The fashion industry is one with more than a few dirty secrets, and the Fashion Revolution organization works to generate awareness about the issues and injustices garment and textile workers around the world face. In their own words, “We want to unite the fashion industry and ignite a revolution to radically change the way our clothes are sourced, produced and purchased, so that what the world wears has been made in a safe, clean and fair way.

Fashion Revolution Week comes once a year, and falls on April 24th, marking the anniversary of the tragic 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Rana Plaza factory collapse, which is the largest and deadliest garment industry tragedy to date, resulted in 1,138 deaths (including both garment workers and rescuers) and injured over 2,500 people. Sadly, even though it is the largest tragedy, it was not the first to take place within the fashion industry, and it has not been the last either. There are many factories which are, quite simply, disasters waiting to happen. When word of the Rana Plaza building collapse hit the news, back in 2013, many consumers at the time, expressed outrage, claimed that the situation was terrible, and shameful and demanded transparency within the industry and improvements in the working conditions of the garment workers. But, like many other tragic news stories: people move on. Fashion Revolution was created in order to keep the issues alive, to keep people aware of what is going on within the fashion industry, and to keep asking questions, and encouraging us, the consumers, to ask brands and retailers, “who made my clothes”?

The fashion industry is one that is not fully “automated”. Someone, somewhere in this world made the clothing on the rack at your local shop. It may have been sewn by a machine, but someone was running that machine, and feeding the fabric through it. There are an estimated, 60-70 million people worldwide who work in the garment and textile industries, and about 3/4 of those workers are female. Some of those workers are treated well and are paid a fair wage, but many are taken advantage of and mistreated. Fashion Revolution Week gives people an opportunity to ask questions about how are garments are being made, who made them and what conditions they made them in. And of course, the goal is to be a part of helping to create change for the lives of these workers.

This year, Fashion Revolution has come up with several great ways to get involved in the event.

The first way to be involved is to ask brands, “Who made my clothes?” You can do this by showing the label on your clothes (like my picture above) and then asking the brand #whomademyclothes? You can do this on twitter, instagram or facebook. I’ll be taking part on instagram. Don’t forget to tag the brand in your post, so they’ll get the notification, and see your question!

There are a few new ways ways I am going to be involved, outside of social media, this year as well.

One is by sharing a fashion “Love Story”. I thought this was such a great idea on their part- by getting people excited about the clothing we already own and love we will start to think differently about impulse buys, cheaply made garments and “fast fashion fixes”. I’m going to be sharing one of my fashion “love stories” next week.

Another idea, is to share a “haulternative”, (fashion “haul” and “alternative” combined). This is a chance to refresh your wardrobe, without buying new clothes. I will be sharing some of my recent thrift shop finds next week, but there some other ideas for ways to take part in the haulternative.  Some of their great ideas for taking part are upcycling, mending, swapping or second hand finds.

They also have a template for writing a letter to a brand, in order to ask more directly, “who made my clothes”. I might be sending a couple of letters next week too. As for as other ways, last year I remember that there was also an “I made my clothes” event going on, where seamstresses and textile makers were sharing what they have made for themselves etc. so I might be taking part in that too. A lot of this will be going on over on Instagram, but I have those two posts lined up for this blog.

*UPDATE* I have since found out that, yes there will be a #makersforfashrev event going on this year too, hosted by Emily of In The Folds. Here is the “poster” for that. And feel free to share this image, Emily said, as the more people know about this event, the better!

makers for fash rev

If you want to take part in the event this year too, (last year there were over 70,000 participants) there is a pdf created by Fashion Revolution, with all the ideas on how to take part, here. Also, check out to see if there is an event in your area, on their page here. I am really excited for this years Fashion Revolution- because as each year passes, the event gets bigger and bigger- and though at times it may seem like an uphill battle, I know that changes are taking place in the fashion industry, ethical fashion is becoming more and more available and some of the bigger fashion brands are taking transparency seriously as well. Little by little change is coming, and it feels so good to be a part of that, in my own small way. We can’t be responsible for the actions of others, but we can each take a bit more care in the fashion and purchasing choices that we make for ourselves. I can’t wait to see what everyone is doing next week, and I hope you’ll join in the movement too!

Life Lately: Changing Seasons

Life Lately: Changing Seasons, the artyologist, tree

Hello everyone! It’s just been one of those weeks, where you seem to be running the entire time, but when you get to Friday, you look back and are not really sure what you did, since nothing seems to be checked off of your list, and yet you know that you were occupied with something during that time. . . Here it is already Friday, and I haven’t even had a chance to get a blog post up until now!

The past couple of months have really seemed to be very busy for me, for some reason. My photos from the past couple of months, when I looked through them, are mainly of a few things: snapshots of my artwork in progress, photos where I was testing out new photography techniques and playing with my lenses, and lots and lots of photos documenting this changing of seasons from Winter to Spring.

It feels like I am going through a bit of a “change of seasons” right now in my life too. Lately it seems like I have been running around in circles, trying to do everything, but not getting much accomplished. I seem to have lost my rhythm somewhere along the way, and in pouring more of my energies towards my artwork, (and starting a creative business) I have in turn been neglecting other areas of my life, like this blog, and my sewing and other crafts, and even, dare I say it, fashion.

I am finding it difficult to balance my all of my interests and responsibilities. By focusing more of my time into my artwork, I have taken my focus away from other things, like reading blogs, sewing, and crafting. I have tons of ideas of things I want to do- blog posts, clothes to make, illustrations to paint, hats to create, work to do, and the list goes on, but- alas- there are only 24 hours in the day. Finding the balance between all the things I want to do, and all the things that I can realistically do is hard. I’ve never been good at multitasking! I think I need to take some time to refocus and narrow down what is really important: the personal things I should be prioritizing, like studying my Bible, focusing on my health, being a good employee at my paid job, and even taking time for simple things like reading books (remember those things???).

Maybe I’m just feeling this way because I am tired and it is 11:30 at night and I am trying to get this blog post published before the clock strikes 12! So, before I risk rambling on ad naseum, I will just end this now. 🙂

Do you have a difficult time balancing all the things you want to do and don’t have time for? How do you find a balance between prioritizing the important things, and yet still enjoying the less important things?

Life Lately: Changing Seasons, the artyologist, artwork

Spending time on some new artworks, and a happy sight: a brand new pack of pens!

Life Lately: Changing Seasons, the artyologist, teacup-and-stationery

Always make some time for some tea and letter writing.

Life Lately: Changing Seasons, the artyologist, spring-storm-and-growth

We got a Spring snowstorm, then a few days later saw these crocuses popping up at my Grandma’s house.

Life Lately: Changing Seasons, the artyologist, barbie-and-pencil-box

Testing out my 1.8 f/stop with a pencil box and Barbie. That blurred background is making me all heart eyes 🙂 ❤

Life Lately: Changing Seasons, the artyologist, spring-images

Traveling, and trees and muddy country lanes.