Sustainability in Fashion: Realistic or Idealistic?

I think it’s really interesting to think about what “sustainability” even means in fashion. At the route of the industry is the need to be materialistic – “fashion” wouldn’t exist without the need to be a bit excessive or “consumeristic.” If we are pursuing sustainability to “avoid the depletion of natural resources [and] maintain an ecological balance” then it seems that fashion and true sustainability cannot co-exist.

According to a McKinsey report, the number of clothing produced annually has doubled since 2000, and exceeded 100B for the first time in 2014. Not only the production count of fashion is increasing, the number of styles we expect as consumers in a season has also grown exponentially. Then fast fashion was born. This democratized and transformed the way consumers thought about clothing – consumers now demand trendy pieces at affordable prices with… free and fast shipping.

Clothing, cotton and polyester, has never come hand in hand with environmentally friendly practices. It takes 2.7K litres of water to produce a single t-shirt (WWF). According to the UN, the fashion industry currently produces 10% of all global emissions (more than international flights and global shipping) (BoF).

I’m not focusing on colour right now as I am about designers who are going to focus on sustainability, who are going to focus on responsibility, who are going to talk about fashion as something that is not so much disposable or can be easily thrown away … I want to hear about why fashion is worth it.

Anna Wintour, VOGUE: Go ask Anna

And yet, sustainability is the “new trend” of the fashion industry. It advocates designers and consumers to look for sustainable practices – to shop vintage, to reuse materials (e.g., Reformation), to use more sustainable materials (e.g., Girlfriend Collective). But at the heart of it, shouldn’t the industry be promoting a conscious decision to consume less in totality?

But as Business of Fashion reports, this type of “true anti-consumerism” is not scalable.

Anti-consumption designers can be limited in their ability to scale. It’s virtually impossible to grow a brand that relies on unusual, often expensive or hard to find materials into a global business. Often that isn’t their goal.

Sustainability in fashion just doesn’t quite work – or realistically make sense. Yes, the industry has made strides in becoming more environmentally conscious. This past summer, major fashion players (150 brands that make up 30% of the global industry) met with world leaders at the G7 summit, agreeing on a “Fashion Pact.” This stated that companies will take action to lessen fashion’s impact on the climate.

When you’re in fashion, the best ‘police officer’ is not the state, but it is the consumer.

Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer at Kering

At the end of the day, any form of sustainability can only be dictated by the consumer, not the industry.

REVIEW // JOKER

“Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime.”

Rupert Pupkin, The King of Comedy

The Joker is one of the most compelling narratives of a man’s descendent into chaos. It’s a mashup somewhere between Nabokov’s Lolita and Camus’s The Stranger. A sad, momentous reality depicted in its organized and disorganized, prompted and impromptu, ordered and disordered moments. A twist on our sense of what we call morality and chaos.

Walking into the theatre, I had no expectations for what the movie would be. I hadn’t even seen the trailer nor really remembered what the Joker was like in previous Batman films. And yet, I sat there, along with a hundred other people, holding my breath, anxiously waiting for the inevitable to happen – for the Arthur Fleck to turn from a “mentally ill loner” to the king of chaos.

Image result for joker 2019

I think that was in a sense why the film was so compelling. It had me nervous and uneasy the whole time — not just because everyone knew what would inevitably happen, but because the acting of the “mentally ill loner” was so uncomfortable to watch. He was always, and only, a show character – someone who performs to get the gut reaction out of someone else. The film opens with a open airy shot of Arthur, getting ready for his act. As he prepares the camera slowly zooms in, and we see a single powerful tear fall.

Oh, and not to forget the painful laughter attacks, which is so unsettling to watch. The irony of the “joyfulness” of laughing translated to ostracization. The harsh reality of being yourself becoming a social target to anyone around you.

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker.

I used to think that my life was a tragedy, but now I realize, it’s a comedy.

Arthur Fleck, The Joker (2019)

I think there’s something so powerful about the play of comedy and tragedy, and the subjective truth that lies in between. I love that the Joker made you sympathize with his tragedy and loss, and that his actions, though violent, were his way of redemption and imprint on social life. I don’t think he ever really intended to kill, yet, he found himself when he did. And I think that’s the tragic beauty of what it means to be Arthur Fleck, the Joker. His identity is only known in true crime, and that’s the hard truth that viewers have to somehow reconcile with.

There is no punchline.

Arthur Fleck, The Joker (2019)

Suffocate his mother because she suffocated him. Then stand between the curtain, awaiting his applause. Taking a life, to show that he is living and real, not just a comic threat. There’s great beauty in all the cinematography that Lawrence Sher enacted carefully yet on a whim.

And yet, the film also touches on points of what the sense of dreaming and reality, and points of subjective morality. I think there are some worthwhile, poetic discussions to be held where we wonder what the lines are between what’s wrong and what’s right – does context ever matter? Does your history of abuse tick off boxes of insanity or humanity? Does it ever make right or make art the finite sense of morality?

Comedy is subjective Murray, isn’t that what they say? All of you, the system that knows so much: you decide what’s right or wrong the same way you decide what’s funny or not.

Arthur Fleck, The Joker (2019)

I can’t quite articulate how the film made me feel at the end of the day. It left me wondering, what social judgments cast away and ostracize people, which then make them act in some “unfavorable” way. Is it that we always have different methods of redemption – of self-redemption, if that even can be a thing (in which broken humans try to repair themselves). I think the movie opens up so much ground and pathways for discussion to how we consider other people, and in ways, how we can show the lost, the lonely, the wicked, any sense of justice or mercy.

LOUIS VUITTON S’20

Belle Époque–era Paris – “‘It’s a part of French history that’s very interesting in art, as well as culturally, in terms of emancipation of women, and, of course, in literature with Proust,’ he explained. It’s also a period that more or less coincided with the birth and rise of the house of Louis Vuitton. In the late 1800s, advances in construction and technology ushered in a new era of travel for the elite, to whom Monsieur Vuitton and his descendants catered with their monogram trunks.” Puffed sleeves, mismatched colors, everything modern and nothing new at the same time. Resonating “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

MIU MIU S’20

“Italian ingenuity in times of scarce resources.” The playfulness of structure with individualized add-ons. The appeal of creativity stemming from within all we have, and all we don’t have.

CHANEL S’20

Virginie Viard’s first RTW show on her own highlighted the quintessential Chanel wardrobe. Wavering between the new cinema of 50/60s. The tiered layers, evoking the French Riviera on the sunset on the rooftop.
// Would be a miss not to mention Marie Benoliel’s prank when she went up on the catwalk during the finale. Not quite sure how I feel about it, given that a show is not just representing the creative director but all those in the atelier that worked long hours to showcase their work for that to not to be the highlight. But then again, maybe it plays well with the artfulness and lightheartedness of fashion shows that we need sometimes.

GIAMBATTISTA VALLI S’20

Floral imagery everywhere – structured dresses lined with accentuated details – all evoking the sense of beautiful flours.

SACAI S’20

Bookend with map imagery – Abe brings together the sense of contemporary longing and of loose fabrics and sentimentalism.

MAISON MARGIELA S’20

“Stories of hope, heroines, and liberation are forgotten as history draws ever closer to repetition.” Army hats, structured corsets, caped jackets — theatrics to remind you the liberation from wartime – the hope that encompasses you after tragedy.

LOEWE S’20

Ethereal, poetic, and aristocratic.” Jonathan Anderson has mastered the fine art of layering lace, embroidery, fabric, evoking meaningful shapes: wedding dresses, nightgowns, chemises.

CELINE S’20

Nothing new for Hedi Slimane this season. He stayed true to his 60/70’s specials – mixing in his nostalgia of nonchalant French girls, with undone hair and makeup.

BALENCIAGA S’20

A fashion assembly, filled with power dressing and accentuated features, on all parts. Something floating along the lines of casual wearable and non-wearable apparel coming together.

QR: SPRING SUMMER ’20

FENDI | S’20

Lagerfeld’s successor, Silvia Venturini Fendi opened up a new wave of summer with a different kind of “solar mood.” A new, warm Italian summer with sun-kissed girls and quilted cotton jackets to round out another season of life, somewhere in between work and vacation.


PRABAL GURUNG | S’20

Cannot not talk about politics when it comes to this particular show that was supposed to be featured at the new Vessel in Hudson Yards. Prabal plays with a wonderful mix of textures from athleisure to ball gowns and cocktail dresses. The whole show is somewhat nostalgic of the old vs. new – in fashion and history.


MM6 MAISON MARGIELA | S’20

Tulles. White. Black. Rebellion. Peace. A new, eery kind of marriage coming together – mixing the better half.. with the worse?


SALVATORE FERRAGAMO | S’20

Effervescent leather. Another Italian summer. A canvas of soft structured colors and fabrics in Paul Andrew’s latest show.


A couple of other interesting tidbits:

  • Burberry revealed their exclusive show with Sparknotes of their show notes on their website and emailed out the link.
  • LV TV is now a thing – with your favorite celebrities from Emma Stone to Emma Chamberlin (!)

NYFW S’20

RAG & BONE \\ SPRING 20

Marcus Wainwright’s return to the runway is unlike your typical show experience. Admist launching AI-hosted dinners and photo exhibitions, he filled his runway with the streets of New York. Mixing men’s tailoring with artful layering, he has mastered the sense of NY nostalgia, and the nostalgia of a show in his latest project.

KHAITE \\ SPRING 20

Catherine Holstein juxtaposes bold silhouettes with a feminine, feathery and light touch of fabric. Her ability to bring in the sense of fall and autumn into the new spring season is admirable.

As the rest of NYFW flows in, I’ll be looking at last year’s street wear for CPH FW.

How to find your style!! (from @bestdressed)

Aside from the fact that it was Fall ’19 couture week, I came across a video that broke down how to dissect and discover your style. I wanted to capture her 6 tips below for my own reference as well 🙂

  1. Assess your own wardrobe: Assess what you already wear and love — most times it’s that you have several items of clothing that define your style but your wardrobe hasn’t quite followed along with it yet.
    • For 2 weeks, track all the clothes you wear – what do they have in common? A certain fit? A pair of jeans? A color scheme? Is there a certain brand that you find wearing a lot? What is the comfort level of that clothing?Find the clothes that you naturally lean towards
  2. Find inspiration: Look through magazines, Instagram/Instagram explore page
    • Start a new instagram that only follows fashion inspiration accounts — what makes an outfit “good fashion”, and would I find that comfortable?Use Instagram’s explore page to see more fashion inspirationThink critically about why you like or dislike each inspiration — what about your style is similar or different from what you like?Save these outfits – and start finding what kinds of styles are resonating
      • Refine your mood board and see if it reflects your personality, your lifestyle, your comfort level Combine styles
  3. Go shopping: Choose 5 pieces on your mood board that appear the most often
    • Attach inspo images, have examples of the 5 pieces that you are shopping for
    • Keep assessing your 5 pieces as you build your wardrobe, and repeat every 3-4 months
  4. Practice, practice, practice: Give yourself 10-20 minutes every morning and put together outfits that — try and error is how you start to find your style
    • Add a new jacket, a new belt, new shoes
  5. Spend more time shopping: Not to buy more clothing, but to give yourself enough time to try on several outfits
    • By trying on new pieces of clothing, you end up thoroughly knowing why you bought what you bought
  6. Confidence!: We have several outfits that we already want to wear, and changing up how you wear things is scary
    • It’s “cool” to not put any effort – but it takes confident to do the opposite, when you are experimenting with your style
    • Wear what you actually want to wear!
    • Ease yourself into your new style piece by piece – just because someone doesn’t like your outfit doesn’t mean it’s a good outfit
    • If you dress up, then people will make comments (whether good or not) vs. when you wear a hoodie – people generally don’t comment on your outfit

Here is how my Instagram mood board is starting to span out. Starting to see pops of bright colors, mixed into casual, basic bases (e.g., simple pair of jeans, black base, etc.)

CAMP

This year’s Met Gala theme puzzled everyone, but I think in a sense the puzzlement also personified how the fashion industry acts at times.

When people first heard that the theme was “camp,” most people immediately thought of their summer nights in the woods, going on hikes and sleeping next to a campfire in a cozy little tent. Hence, when the layman saw the outrageous outfits that celebrities came out in, their confusion was warranted.

The layman that wants to be in the know, however, did a quick google search to find out that this year’s “camp” theme was defined by Susan Sontag’s essay, “Notes on Camp”, namely a line in the essay that says,

The essence of Camp, writes Miss Sontag in the Partisan Review, is “its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.”

Then it was understood that the nature of camp derived from the nature of over-exaggeration, the transformation to become another character. The term has been used multiple times throughout history:

So what exactly is camp? It’s the act of extravagance, it’s the act of the inner individual, it’s the act of whatever you want it or need it to be. I also read that “camp” comes out in times of instability, and I think that was quite timely this year.

Back to the note on the personification: I think in a lot of ways, fashion can be misunderstood or misconstrued. Everyone sees it; there are some who are a bit more hesitant, and there are some who “know” it, and some who completely embrace it. In a way, once you know it, you “know” it, and find it intriguing in your own ways.
Like knowing where your clothes or shoes come from:

“There is only 15 percent that knows where Veja comes from,” said Kopp, who co-founded the brand with François-Ghislain Morillion in 2004. “The other people buying Veja, they don’t know.”

Anyways, so ends my rambling thoughts on the Met Gala. I was hoping to get more content on the designs and dresses but from a quick search, I have not been able to find much (other than the explanation behind Kim’s “wet suit” by Mugler found here).

Also wanted to link this site I created last year here — probably will expire soon :c on the stories of fashion.

A Seoul diary – and a quick itinerary in itaewon

Hi friends,

It’s been a while since I last post. I’ve been spending half my time in New York, and the other half in Boston more or less. Since I’ve started watching Romance is a Bonus Book, my heart’s been longing to go back to Seoul.

Hence, this post – a quick travel guide to the updated Seoul. Seoul’s been in much of a transition period – it’s turning more than ever into an ever-changing environment, with corner cafes and museum-like retail shops. I wanted to share a quick sample itinerary with you here:

A day in Itaewon / Hannamdong – known for its “foreign” atmosphere, you’ll find some of the hippest things here.

brunch at SUMMER LANE: 43 Haenamu-ro 26-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
It’s a small, hole in the wall Aussie brunch spot, with a cozy aesthetic. They have an English menu as needed; get the Bacon Waffle Eggs Benedict & the lamington.

Walk around the neighborhood for a good hike – Itaewon has a lot of hilly areas and some nice non-traditional houses(!), and you’ll be able to gain back your appetite soon after. A couple of places you could visit:

  • Beaker – has a unique collection of brands and products from all over the world. They also have free yogurt for sampling 🙂
  • One in a Million – a pink-vibe of cafe. Would recommend for an Instagram photo, more so than the coffee
  • Roof AND – more of a walk, since it’s located on the outskirts of Itaewon – but would recommend for its incredible hot chocolate latte and its lamp-vibe aesthetic
  • B.come cafe – less of a walk and tucked away in the middle of a street. Has a nice minimal vibe and usually not too busy unlike the other cafes in which you can’t find a seat.
  • Boutique stores along Hannamdong – there’s a lot of fun shops here – some higher and some on the lower end, but still very chill to visit

dinner at DOTZ: 6 Itaewon-ro 55na-gil, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Such a good vibe here with a diverse sampling of Asian dishes: from katsu-sandos, to the kimchi fried rice and the HK style toast. During the Christmastime, they had this amazing iced Americano – it was like a regular Americano with a chocolatey twist at the end. Unfortunately, it was a Christmas special, but I have no doubt that their regular Americanos are just as good.

dessert at SAYOO: 5 Itaewon-ro 54-gil, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
A pseudo chocolate/movie/coffee shop. It’s a 4 story building, and has a theme on each floor. Walk through the back to get to the stairs, and go up during late afternoon to catch a nice sunset. They also play an old film on the 4th floor – so if you’re in a low-key mood, you can chill out there.

Next up: Garosugil/Sinsadong – a fun vibe all around w/ more cafes and features more famous brands ALAND, Gentle Monster, 8 seconds, etc.

some overarching thoughts on the fashion industry

I think it’s cliche how people say that fashion is a form of self-expression. It is, but it’s so much more than that. What we choose to wear is a choice we make everyday, whether we want to or not. And I think clothing reveals, and can dictate, a lot of our psyche and the impressions we make on other people. Clothing matters – it can help us look and be more confident, more sophisticated, more individualized – really whatever it is we’re trying accomplish.

In short, I think fashion can empower who and what we want to be. And in light of that, I’d think of the fashion industry and the trends that make it to FW. Despite the fact that the ~$3 trillion industry’s been constantly changing, the imprints and marks that designers try to leave are  inspiring and worthwhile watching. I think the most worthwhile are the ones that actively invest in its storyline and brand authenticity. You could think of this as a type of slower, ethical fashion – from brands that make clothing from recycled fabrics (e.g., Reformation and Girlfriend Collective), to ones that source from boutique manufacturing (e.g., 3.1 Phillip Lim) – but I don’t think that has to be the case. In a landscape of optimizing supply chains and growing customer insights (especially since the emergence of ultra-fast fashion), it’s a bit ignorant to think slow fashion is the sustainable solution of this ever polluting, disruptive industry.  Fashion will not slow down any time soon, and at one point or another, everyone will buy from “unethical” retailers.

So then, how do you find your niche in fashion? As a consumer, you can look at clothing brand-agnostic, and choose pieces that you personally find appealing for a particular price; or you can look at clothing with the brand focus. For me, the core story of the brand is what resonates with me, and when looking at the former, I focus on how the occasion of shopping or the brand itself resonates with my own life story.

I was in New York a couple of weeks ago, and stumbled across M.Crow. I first thought it was a pseudo-furniture store, which in a sense it was. Tyler Hays bought up his hometown’s 100 yr old general store when it was about to close down, and reimagined his own dreams and childhood:

M. Crow is an awkward collision of all my hobbies and interests and an outlet for fulfilling that childhood fantasy… M. Crow is also interesting to me on more pragmatic levels; rural economic development is a passion of mine as is the heritage of my hometown.

Not every outlet of fashion has the capacity or the need to do this; but when you find the corners of the industry that is able to combine the designer’s own story, own dreams, and a targeting sub-segment of a customer base: maybe those who also recognize their own kind of hometown, childhood nostalgia.

I’ll stop here for now, but a lot of these ideas come from Simon Sinek’s TED talk, highlighting the power of why and the core of a brand. A quick reference to the psyche: if we’re going to choose what to wear and influence others’ impressions of ourselves, then why wouldn’t you try to align the brand’s with your own? It’s much more interesting and impressionable when someone asks you where you bought your outfit to know the story around it than the brand name itself.