Fashion Reset - What We Need!
Hopeful piece by VOGUE Runway Director, Nicole Phelps today. In it, she talks about how the industry is actively and loudly paying attention to our global environmental crisis, and their role. I'm not a great writer, or an expert on industry S.O.P. (standard operating procedure) but I am a consumer with a blog. So that of course qualifies me to talk about this. I think.
Yes, so maybe I never worked at a top fashion house, but I have worked for America's favorite I-need-a-tshirt-for-this-beach-picnic fashion house, Olde Naveh...Old Navy for the rubes. If you've never been to an Old Navy, you're probably pretty smart, and you value your sanity, which is why you don't read my blog, and GIRL, I'M NOT TALKING TO YOU. For the rest of us, we know that Old Navy is a place to find the cheap on the cheap, and we don't mind at all that we picked that tank dress of the floor.
She's covered in dust bandaids, but we will wash her and SHE READY. That dress cost $5.49. I dare you to argue that price point.
But there is a problem. And that problem is quantity. I worked logistics at Old Navy, meaning I was one of the people who unpacked the shipments and placed merchandise on the floor. *Bonus, I'm still going to heaven because I didn't have to push Old Navy credit cards on people.*
This was a part time job, 2x a week for 6-8 hours. We started early, about 4 am, and the first step was to unload the pallet. Dozens of boxes, most of the time 80-100, double that during the holidays. All filled with new merch. New colors of the same t-shirts, cargo shorts, flip flops, and socks featuring violin playing caterpillars. Each box could contain 50-100 pieces, all individually wrapped in plastic, some on plastic hangars. My favorite would be a box large enough to fit a vacuum cleaner, but only protected a single size XS t-shirt that read "Slay San Diego Residents" over a dolphin or something. Then came the mad dash to put the items out, or store them in the back before the cattle, I mean customers, started coming in. Ten or more Z racks completely overflowing with the hung garments had to be wheeled quickly but precariously because they were apt to tip over.
This was twice a week, every week, more on the holidays. Hundreds, if not thousands of items added to the inventory EVERY WEEK. And this was just one store. That's MADNESS! More often than not, we did the best we could to put merch out, and most of it ended up shoved on rolling shelves in the backroom to be forgotten for months. Old Navy also has storage throughout most stores, in the form of drawers for pants and tees, and above the racks hidden by signage. I have literally found entire run sizes of t-shirts from a previous year that had been forgotten, and was now probably dead stock. And that brings me to my next point. My third shift of the week would be doing markdowns. The team would again start very early, clearancing the weekly list of markdown items sent by corporate. The same items we had just unpacked last month were now ready to be marked down. Depending on the markdown level, things could go as low as $0.49. Sounds awesome right? Sure, I took advantage of that, as we all did. I have brought home plenty of bags filled with cute stuff that cost me about $9 total. But what's the point? The insanity of shipping that much inventory only to turn around and sell it for nothing doesn't sound like a sustainable business model to me. And remember that pile of dead stock tees that had been lost to the realm of the living?
Shredded and thrown in the dumpster outside.
How does this happen? This is just one store, one brand, one city, one state. What is the cost of this level of corporatism? Let's recap shall we? Hundreds of cardboard boxes every week, "recycled" ya sure ok. Thousands of plastic cello bags, dumped. Stock waiting to be destroyed if they can't find a forever home. Massive amounts of stock that will be marked down in just one month, sometimes less. Week, after week, after week, after week... x 1000 Old Navy Stores /or x +1,000,000 retail stores throughout the US Sustainable? No. I don't think so. Not even a little bit. Needless to say, we need this change.
On a serious note, we all know that fashion is an art form that trickles down and influences ready to wear, everyday styles. For decades, they have led the way driving so much of society. From music, to how we feel on the biggest days of our lives, to the gifts we give our loved ones. High end fashion influence is everywhere, whether you know it or not. It's only fair that we look to those at the top of this industry to pave the way to a more sustainable method of expression of wearable art. No matter how inexpensive our t-shirt, it's a representation of our lives, and how we want to be perceived by others in our communities. This shit is important. Truly, it is. I'm so glad that things are starting to change. The example being set is the better late than never, (but come on hurry the f up and fix it) is what we need RIGHT NOW. Maybe satellite runway, cutting down collections, and pro-active sustainable fabric sourcing will trickle down to Olde Naveh, and they can rethink this mass merch death spiral.
I never know how to end my blogs, so this time I'll end it with the story of the time I met Mike Tyson, because I was reminded of it when I used that gif, and that's how my mind works. I was working in a gas station in Green Valley, a suburb of Las Vegas. It was around 11:30 or midnight, and I was at the register ringing up customers, the line was 4 people deep. To my right was the door, and someone came in, stood to the side of the counter, and said, "Excuse me, ma'am, could I have eight dollars on pump 12 please?", in a very distinct childlike accent. He dropped some crumbled bills on the counter and walked out. I looked up from the register and looked at the customer I was ringing up, and said, "Was that Mike TYSON?" "Yes. Ya, I think it was." they replied. We all laughed, and shook our heads in confusion, until another customer said, "Well you better get his pump started before he comes back in here." And that's the story of how I met Mike Tyson.