SFI Blog Team
What is fashion without suffering?
Written by fashion designer Quinn Mills.
What would fashion be without sexism? Trauma? Shame? Fantasy?
Without these four things, the industry would be a very different place for everyone, a lot less toxic. After doing research and looking at everything I came up with, I felt that they all tie into each other but especially fantasy playing a large role in each of the others.
Without sexism, what would fashion be?
Making clothing has always been “womens work”, so why are men dominating the fashion industry?
Women are the majority of the individuals making clothing in factories, they are desirable to the companies hiring them because the employers take advantage of cultural stereotypes to which women have to adhere to. According to Labour Behind The Label, an anonymous garment factory worker stated. “Women can be made to dance like puppets, but men cannot be abused in the same way. The owners do not care if we ask for something, but demands raised by the men must be given some consideration. So they do not employ male workers.”
Without trauma, it would be a much healthier community. Eating disorders, drug abuse, racism, and unpaid internships. There is a standard in the industry;, a tall skinny conventionally beautiful european standard. And, models will do what they must to maintain this standard for their career. This standard affects more than just models though, it affects anyone who is using the internet, seeing images of what looks “good” and what looks “bad”. The internet is a breeding ground for young people (typically girls) to develop unhealthy dieting habits because they are spoon fed tips and mantras to follow. It fuels the desire to look like a supermodel and tells you how to achieve it. Drug abuse is rampant in the fashion industry from being used as a means of losing weight, needing stimulants to work long hours before events, or just to party. In a Vice article titled What It's Like To Sell Drugs At New York Fashion Week, an anonymous drug dealer x model agent shared about the drug use in the industry, and specifically during NYFW. When asked “Are all the stereotypes about the fashion world and cocaine and drug use true?” they responded “All the stereotypes are true. They aren't even stereotypes— they're just true.”. They also noted that sales sky rocket during fashion week, quadruple what it normally was. A large part of making your way to be a designer is interning and gaining real work experience, most of that is unpaid for fashion students though. I have personally not had an unpaid internship but it is clear that fantasy plays a huge role in trauma and unpaid internships are traumatic.
Without shame, where would the industry be?
Previously mentioned above, shame is very prevalent in modeling and the definition of aspirational body types. Models are forced to certain body measurements, shamed into these body standards, sticking to their measurements because their job depends on it. Without this small brained standard i think that fashion would be a lot more inclusive to all body types, not just thin white ones. Racism is also prevalent in the industry, between the manufacturing, designing, modeling, and finally the secondhand market, there are so many attacks against minorities. When you see “Made In America” you most likely think that the company must be much more ~ethical~ than those making their products in foreign countries, known for manufacturing. Even in America, garment workers are being paid unlivable wages. , In an article by NBC interviewing an LA garment worker, she mentions having to stitch tags saying “Made in America”, “Made in LA” but is being paid ~$300 for a 60-75 hour work week. The majority of the American garments workers are immigrants, and must pursue this career because it may be the only available option.They also have no safety net.
All of these things are completely negative parts of the industry, besides fantasy, which i don’t personally think is completely horrible, but it can definitely cause negative experiences. Fantasy can create extremely interesting concepts and experiences however it also plays into trauma because of drugs, and eurocentric beauty standard. The beauty standard fantasy is also a product of sexism, and shame. Overall, as I wrote this essay I started to feel like each of these four categories all relate to each other. Now the question is how to create new relationship with fashion.