If we want fashion to be sustainable, we must slow down (Part II)

sustainable fashion

From luxury retailers to fast fashion, the fashion industry’s main concern is getting to the next trend and getting consumers to buy into it. Creating needs instead of producing items consumers actually need. I launched Senza Tempo, an accessible luxury women’s clothing line, because I couldn’t find a simple, well-made, black A-line skirt — a style that’s never really out of style.

Globalization accelerated the retail life cycle and ultimately created a vicious circle that’s wreaking havoc on retailers bottom-lines (it’s no secret the fashion industry in crisis) and the environment (most don’t realize that the fashion industry is the second dirtiest industry behind big oil and rife with labor abuses.) We live in a world of short-lived micro-trends brought about by the collapse in trade barriers in the late 90s. Manufacturing was outsourced to the lowest bidder and the overall quality of our clothing declined along with prices. Clothing is cheaper than it was 20 years ago, but there’s a cost in terms of its impact on the environment and the human condition.

Ethical, organic, sustainable, fair trade — they are all great buzzwords, but if consumers really want to shop responsibly then they need to shop mindfully. In order for fashion to be truly sustainable, we must slow down. Fashion companies need to get back to basics and produce fashionable high quality, versatile wardrobe essentials. The market is missing a brand that makes garments that are meant to be worn repeatedly and last for years. Consumers need to buy less and buy better.

In order to buy less, every garment you own needs to be truly versatile. Versatility starts with the design and ends with the fabric. The designs must have clean lines and classic silhouettes. Three timeless silhouettes anchor Senza Tempo’s collection: the hourglass, shift and A-line trapeze. The shapes flatter a wide range of body types and personal styles — and they are always available. We also keep our designs deliberately simple with clean lines and European style tailoring

If you inventory your closet and identify the items you’ve worn the most, I’m willing to bet there’s an inverse relationship between the number of times an item was worn and how ornate it is.

Fabric is the second aspect that determines a garment’s versatility. At Senza Tempo, we use only the finest natural fabrics, and line all of our garments in silk. Using silk linings is common in high-end ready-to-wear, but less so at the advanced contemporary price point. Silk linings are a luxury and necessity in our view. Silk is breathable and adjusts to your body temperature — cooling you in the summer and warming you in the winter. It isn’t necessarily the wool that makes a suit or dress unbearable during the warmer months, but the fact that it’s lined in acetate, which is a plastic derivative. The one detail helps a garment better span the seasons, thus increase its wearablity. The seasons are blending, unseasonably hot or cold temperatures are the norm no matter where you live, yet most retailers continue to produce highly season specific garments.

Buying better quality items isn’t about the label, but the design, fabrication and construction. Details like interfacing around the neckline or armholes, which give it a clean finish, are skipped since the consumer can’t see them. All the consumer sees is the label. Most garment workers are paid based on the number of garments they complete in an hour. The factory where our garments are made in downtown Los Angeles, which has some of the strictest labor laws in the world, are paid by the number of hours it takes to make a garment. Whether I produce 12 or 1200 Jackie dresses my cost of labor is the same. Volume doesn’t change the fact that this dress takes approximately 11 hours to create. If volume is the goal, then quality will never be a priority.

Versatile items in classic styles that are fashionable season after season — that’s what’s sustainable.  High-quality garments made by people paid a living wage — that’s what’s sustainable.   At Senza Tempo, we’re doing both.