who made my clothes?

In 2012, I counted all of the items in my closet.  234.

And then I counted the number of items I had purchased in the past year.  64.

Turns out, I was spot on with the average American in purchasing 64 items of new clothing in a year.

At the time of this experiment, I was a senior in college.  I wasn’t abundantly wealthy – but I was thrifty.  Probably half of these purchases came from a thrift shop or ebay, and the other half came from stellar black friday sales (RIP The Limited) or clearance racks.

As a consumer (and as a college student) my attitude when purchasing clothing was to “get the most bang for my buck.”  And what that translated to was “GIMME AS MANY CLOTHES WITH THIS $20 BILL AS I CAN GET.”

2012 was the year I began to learn more about the phenomena of fast fashion and the direct impact that my behavior had on the entire system.

2013 was the year that Rana Plaza, a factory building in Bangledesh housing mainly female garment workers, collapsed.  Lives were lost.  1,129.

The Rana Plaza collapse brought a spotlight to the realities of creating mass amounts of really cheap fashion.  People were mad.  People started asking questions.  People came to realize that shopping at Forever 21 and Primark drove factories to push their workers into unsafe situations in order to fulfill fast-paced orders.

A Fashion Revolution begun.

April 24th-30th is Fashion Revolution Week.  It’s a time to be curious and ask – “Where did my clothes come from?”

Pages 4-5 of Fashion Revolution fanzine #001


Now when I shop I check the labels and ask a series of questions in my head:  What is this garment made of?  Where did it come from?  Who made my clothes?


If you want to learn more…

(images from fashionrevolution.org)



choice as a reflection of environment




Our choices reflect our environment.

Our environments are largely designed.

In regards to the Nelson Mandela quote above, hopeful choices reflect an environment designed in hopefulness, versus a fearful choice reflecting a fearful environment.


Choice architecture explores how structures and context influence individual feelings and subsequent reactions – choices if you will – whether those reactions are blaringly conscious or quietly determined in the subconscious.

The people responsible for designing our environments (HR professionals, politicians, interior designers) have massive responsibility on their shoulders.  Once you consider the many ways that our environments are designed to provoke a certain reaction (productivity at work, reception to public policy, comfort in the lobby of a restaurant which in turn compels you to spend more) … you can’t un-consider it.

Ah – but wait.  These people in positions of power aren’t the only ones responsible for the design of our environment.  We contribute too, if we choose to engage.

Employees.  Civil participants.  Community dwellers.

Are we designing environments of hope?  Or are we designing environments of fear?


(shortly before pressing the ‘publish’ button, I saw that Seth Godin recently wrote about a similar idea in his post Who cut down the last tree? – It’s a great read.)

Restricted consumption in a “you can have it all” world.


Example of a modern day “capsule wardrobe”. (source: decoist)

Capsule wardrobes.  Smart cars.  Whole30.

In the land of a million (or more) choices, people are choosing “less”.  Why?

-To find refuge from the deluge of marketing messages to buy more?

-To rebel against “the system”?

-To make a political statement?

-To protect the environment?

-To identify as a revolutionary?

-To search for more stillness, more peace?

Trends such as the rise in minimalism indicate that people are looking for a break from our consumption-heavy culture.  Individual reasons vary, and I’m sure the list above is non-exhaustive.

I’m curious about this because I’m in this camp; feeling exhausted from all of the options of the many things I’m encouraged to want.

Western wealth makes room for a relatively boundary-less environment.  The muscles of discipline, focus, and intentionality wither.  The abundance yields boredom.  So we create systems to place boundaries on our boundary-less environment.

We thirst for discipline, focus, and intentionality.  For entertainment from our non-consumption.

Capsule wardrobes.  Smart cars.  Whole30.

These challenges to live smaller, more contained, more compliant… can be noble and freeing and statement-making.  But I’m reminding myself that the choice for less is ultimately for the able.

There is magic in the ‘publish’ button.

I swear by it.  When it comes to writing privately, I can think through ideas, scribble them down in a journal, or if I’m on the go, Evernote.  I can organize thoughts, erasing and back-tapping and delete-delete-delete.  But eventually I leave the story unfinished, incomplete, an idea hanging mid-air.  Blogging is different.  Faced with the concept of ‘publish’, hard internal dialogue pursues.  The art of crafting a sentence and communicating an idea emerges.  There is magic in the ‘publish’ button.

I am facing a new adventure (more on that later) which calls me to develop and communicate ideas effectively; to stretch the bounds of current knowledge.  My hope for this platform is that it fosters a process of idea creation.

During college one of my favorite wine-down activities (yeah, wine-down) was to pour over a topic that I was passionate about and wanted to share with friends.  After a day of school, work, activities, and marathon training (I was once that person), blogging was a respite.  Flow happened.  Ideas took shape and clarified.  I learned from others and myself.  The resting time between ‘pause’ and ‘publish’ was restorative and challenging all at once; usually the length of 48 hours.  All of those past musings still live somewhere  on the web, hiding under banners of ‘It’s a Fabulous Life‘ and ‘Life Like Sailboats‘, titles which reflect the mood of past seasons.

The practice of consistent writing dwindled after picking up new hobbies, new jobs, a new husband, and a new puppy.  I’ll look back on that period as “the 4 years I was too lazy to clarify.”

Next week, I am starting the Whole30 challenge.  During the program, you eliminate grains, dairy, and sugar from your diet.  Healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, and something called clarified butter are encouraged for consumption.  In my search for understanding why ‘clarified’ butter must somehow be better than normal, regular butter, I stumbled upon the point of difference: butterfat.  The process of clarifying butter separates the milk solids and water from the pure butterfat; only the best is left.

For me, the difference between writing privately and publishing is removing all but the butterfat.  Only the best is left.  The promise of the publish button lingers.  The magic happens.