The Truth Behind that 10 Dollars Dress

For some reason, the issue of sustainability in fashion has been popping up everywhere in my life lately. Not that I was completely unaware or unconscientious about the issue previously, but for some unseen force of attraction, I have been gravitating towards the topic through multiple informational interviews and fashion podcasts.

Sustainability: To keep a ecosystem or an industry working in such a way that the environment is not depleted in natural resources for the long run.

The conversation sparked in a coffee chat between me and an Art school grad, Peter, who went to NYC to pursue fashion design. My lovely art adviser connected us via email, and the click was almost instant. Peter shared his intern experience in NYC and touched upon the amount of waste produced in the fashion industry and how it has been corrupting the entire ecosystem. He reflected that although clearly he is passionate about fashion, merely designing for the sake of producing collections to sell is not his calling. He suggested me to listen to the American Fashion Podcast during my downtime to learn more.

Listening to his advice, I tuned in the podcast while working over night alone in my studio. An episode featuring Simon Collins, the former Dean of Fashion Design at Parsons, pointed arrows at the vicious cycle of fast fashion.

While Collins is a fan of H&M and a consultant for their sustainability strategies, he reflected that the brand is in no means a savior to the problem. He also mentioned the undeniable convenience of fast fashion for people with lower income (aka. college students).

Fast fashion and cheap clothes has been so ingrained in our daily lives that it is extremely difficult to change our shopping habits at once. Being constantly broke college students, most of us can only fuel our passion for fashion and style through shopping at H&M, Forever 21, Zara and maybe occasionally sale at Aritzia and Nordstrom Rack. We are glad that these stores exist to offer that $10 party dress when we are in need, while we throw the issue of sustainability behind the back of our heads.

So we can’t just blame it on the factories or the designers. We as customers hold responsibility. Bloggers and Influencers who encourage a completely different outfit every 3 hours hold responsibility. We as millennials shopping online excessively just because shipping was free hold responsibility.

So, what can we do?

  1. Well, first thing is the dilemma between NEED vs. WANT.

Ask yourself candidly do you really need a new $20 dress for this party tonight? Or can you move your creative juices and assemble an outfit. Are there at least 3 occasions you can think of wearing this particular garment? Are you impulse buying after work because you spilled coffee all over your MacBook? Are you blindly following trends?

2. Then, while trying the dress at the fitting, ask yourself again.

Does this satin navy mid-calf dress really look that much different from the midnight blue velvet skater dress you bought 2 weeks ago? How is the fit? Are you lying to yourself that maybe after losing 10 pounds, it will fit just right? Does the material even feel nice or does it just look nice and won’t even last 2 machine washes?

3. Lastly as you approach the cashier, think about your depleting savings and poor children.

Your bank account is bleeding. How much you will save by refraining to buy a $20 dress in a year (say, twice a month, then it’s $480! That’s enough for enrolling in a online course at Parsons). Then think one last time about all the crying children in Bangladesh trying to sew up this dress late at night…

Thinking about our shopping habits is just as important as spreading the knowledge about sustainability. After all, every social change start with ourselves. Not everyone is an outspoken activist, not everyone has the platform to express our views, but the littlest thing like not buying a dress can spark unexpected ripple effects in your community and beyond.

Fashion Networking 101

Thriving in the fashion industry is all about meeting the right people at the right time. There are many talented young designers and creatives but not all of them will succeed in the long term. And what set the mere talented from the truly successful is often the power of their professional network. Though I am far from being a fashion networking expert, I’ve been to a fair number of events/workshops/meetings and parties that helped me to master the basics of fashion networking. Here are 5 essential tips that will transform you into a memorable social butterfly!

1. Invite Fashion Friends

Going to a networking event alone is brutal. Especially if it is your first time. Be sure to invite friends who are interested in fashion. Go to the event together and work as a group. Even when you spilt up and meet other people, you can always come back together and introduce each other to more professionals. Plus, having a close friend in a room full of professionals is a mental savior.

2. Introduce Yourself with Passion

Fairly easy said than done. How do you make a killer introduction in a spilt second to a fashion expert? First, talk about your role and your aspirations and goals. Be sure to explain what brought you to the fashion networking event and what are your biggest interests in fashion. Even if you don’t necessarily know what aspects of the fashion industry you want to work in, show your passion by saying that you are actively looking for fashion opportunities.

3. Show your Portfolio

Showing your creative work is very important. Before the event, make sure you have a physical portfolio ready. Include a variety of work including research and development phases, sketches and fabric swatches. Some young designers may worry about revealing too much inner details of their collections and would frown on this advice. But I think this portfolio doesn’t exactly have to be current. This is not a portfolio review for a program, so bring work that reveals your brand and voice but not necessarily details for your upcoming shows. Also, if you can wear your original designs to the event, that’s even better!

Even if you don’t have your portfolio ready, be sure you have an online portfolio on your phone or iPad to show. This can be your website/ blog or digital scans of your designs.

While you show your portfolio, be ready to answer questions about every piece. Talk about your concept and vision and engage the listener with your story. Having an unique story is often more powerful than a mere pretty picture.

4. Ask Questions (LOTS)

Most people in there are likely to be professionals in the industry, all having more experience and expertise than you. So instead of talking all about yourself (though an appropriate amount of self-marketing is important), you should take the time to seek advice of their expertise. Ask what made them interested in their field, what is their daily working routine, what are their current projects, etc. Asking these questions basically scored you an informational interview on the spot!

Of course, you should always be professional and sincere with your questions and refrain from asking overly personal questions. And lastly, kindly ask for their contact information (LinkedIn or business card or email NOT Facebook).

5. ALWAYS Follow-Up

This last tip is essential! You took the time to dress up and go to the event. You took the time to talk to 50 people, so be sure to stay connected. Always remember to email a short thank you note to the people you met. For those you wish to stay connected and seek for further advice, make sure to schedule a coffee chat and ask more about their expertise.

From past experiences, it is best to email during office hours (10am -5pm). Also, it is better to contact within a week of meeting so the connection stays fresh.

If the person does not respond or doesn’t wish to meet you after a few tries, don’t fret. There are many more fashion professionals who can mentor and help you. He/she just wasn’t meant to be.

 

 

Being in a room full of professional strangers can be quite daunting. But it can also be really fun and interesting to meet people and learn the inner scope of the industry. Try out these tips and always keep a positive attitude! The next person you meet may be your next employer, life-long mentor or best friend!

White Shirt: Madewell

White Skirt: Original design by COCOHO

Platforms: Urban Outfitters

Purple Tote: Long Champ Le Pilage

PHOTO: NINA DUBINSKY & ALEX YU