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Today we get to talk about fashion — fast fashion and a more responsible alternative — a slower and perhaps more deliberate, eco-friendly fashion. To dive into this topic we are joined by Caroline Priebe of the Center for the Advancement of Garment Making.
About Our Guest, Caroline Priebe: Caroline Priebe is an experienced designer and sustainable fashion expert. She is the Founder and Director of Sustainability at The Center for the Advancement of Garment Making (CAGM). They design innovative, circular and regenerative business models that benefit all people, planet and profit. They work with industry influencers including: Permanent Collection, Outlier, Umber & Ochre, Rudi Gernreich and Display Copy.
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Corinna Bellizzi: Hello fellow do-gooders and friends I’m your host kareena busy and activist and cause marketer who’s passionate about social impact and sustainability. I’d like to invite all of you to join us on clubhouse for vibrant discussions of the topics we cover on this show. There you can find me for weekly chats you can also visit us on social platforms at care more be better I’ll include links for how you can connect and engage and show notes.. If you like what we’re doing you can support the show by sharing it with friends and keep it ad free by donating directly on our site just visit care more be better calm. Today we get to talk about fashion fast fashion and a more responsible alternative a slower and more deliberate ECO friendly fashion to dive into this topic I’m joined by Carolyn Priebe of the Center for the advancement of garment making Caroline welcome to the show.
Caroline Priebe: hi thanks it’s nice to be here.
Corinna Bellizzi: As we open this discussion i’d love to invite you to just share your story, why did you feel so compelled to take on this effort.
Caroline Priebe: Sure um it started about 20 years ago I was actually a new graduate out of business school and working at Donna Karen it was my first sort of large corporate fashion, experience and having come from a family business, I found it to be really. sort of wasteful and unappealing. And I also, as you know, breakups often do you inspire you to look for some more meaning in life and I discovered this woman’s pioneering work Linda gross who was. Is I would say that sort of the matriarch of the sustainable fashion movement in the United States, she started the collection, with a spree in the mid 90s, which spawned the organic fiber certification. It was originally just food and all sorts of interesting materials beyond Organic Cotton but like 10 saw and organic linens and and whatnot and she was putting together a curriculum at this. Art school with a fashion program called CC AC now it’s just CCA and I decided to move across the country and study under her, and it was. A really incredible experience that has sort of directed the trajectory of my career, because I learned that you could. Or what I believe that the time, I guess, I still believe about what will get to sort of my changing perspective is that you could. there’s a beautiful way to design a business that that also is reflected in the beauty of the clothes and it doesn’t involve Labor exploitation or soil degradation or. All the dirty things that are often associated with fashion and supply chains and I just thought that was the obvious way to design. And then that has inspired me to primarily work for smaller brands, because, as you can imagine it’s it hasn’t been a popular topic, or even a known topic sustainability within fashion…. So I started. working for Maria Cornejo which was had a small her own small atelier. There was no. I mean I don’t think she would have called it, this, but she had an zero waste practice where any leftover fabrics were used within this studio to make garments to them sell in her store. She made all her own patterns these very like timeless pieces that I still own I went on, then, to actually start my own brand and it were brands based in sustainability and really longevity. I really still to this day, think the most sustainable garment is the one in your is the one that you love and take care of and potentially give to you know, a daughter or granddaughter or whomever. And so that was really the intent and then to also use materials with less impact this was probably in the early 2000s, so there weren’t a ton of options, but I ended up using hampson organic lemons and cashmere an alpaca and marino’s a lot and i’m played a lot of zero waste patternmaking. I then went to collaborate with Alabama Shannon who also is sort of a pioneer in in the movement and originally started upcycling T shirts into hand beaded hand embroidered. Beautiful almost like art objects and she employs women in an area in this in Alabama that had been sort of decimated when NAFTA came, it was a bunch of sort of. Cotton industry / garment industry workers that had been displaced and now, it was also an attempt to preserve the craft the hand craft work of quilters or. And then I ended up going to work for loom state which is this rogan and Lucy Lucy being the Organic Cotton denim sort of pioneer and there abouts where I got into men’s wear and did a lot of sort of eco friendly projects for barney’s. And a lot of I got to do special projects, basically, they knew what.
Corinna Bellizzi: You’ve mentioned some big names, as you cover some of your history from Donna Karan to barney’s on the retail side, There’s so many little breadcrumbs that you’ve dropped, just as you kind of opened and talked about your history you’ve talked about things like Labor exploitation and soil degradation. Which are big problems and even just fabric waste from like creating the right pattern or creating a pattern to get the most use out of the fabric bolts that you’re using correct so let’s just pick one of these, to start with, and kind of dig in a little bit. I would love to help people understand that cotton is a complex subject. And when you mentioned something like soil degradation… I mean automatically people might be thinking about the farming that is used, essentially for garmin production so you’re thinking cotton’s possibly Bamboo possibly him, so what what’s happening right now in the world of fashion, as it relates to these things with our impact on the environment.
Caroline Priebe: Sure yeah there’s um oh gosh there’s a lot of things happening. With cotton, but let’s see how simple so cotton there’s a few different ways to grow, cotton and cotton has grown all around the world there is. Some places are better to grow cotton than than others and it’s better to grow it with a group of crops, instead of a mono crop, because then it requires this conventional method of farming. Industrial conventional method of farming that requires probably. Pesticides fertilizers, herbicides and defoliants the defoliant is Agent Orange typically. Which is not good for humans and it’s to get the leaves off, so you have a weight, you know, a white bowl.
Corinna Bellizzi: So you’re saying the essentially burn it.
Caroline Priebe: yeah like chemical burn it off yeah, and so what happens there’s then there’s it goes no cotton gin and then there’s gin trash right so it’s like the leaves and the scenes and all the parts and then. Often, that is used, and it has all the chemicals in it, especially the seeds because it’s fatty and then that usually goes to factory farms cattle farms which becomes footing for animals the animals eat it so it actually ends up in our food supply chain.
Corinna Bellizzi: Okay, I just about gagged.
Caroline Priebe: yeah and then there’s also you know cotton picking has a history very exploitive history and current actually not even history like current. The, especially in China right now there’s slave prison Labor issues and boycotts going on in parts of China and there are organic standards… There is not enough supply to meet the demand for organic cotton and part of that has to do with farmers, not even having the resources or time to transition their fields to conventional because they’d probably have to go about three years before they could have certified Organic Cotton and who has three years. To have no, you know income not farmers and then there’s a new regenerative organic certification in the United States that is really great because it uses farm practices that. That restore regenerate the soil is really focused on soil health carbon sequestration, but also Labor and chemical use so it’s it’s a really comprehensive certification more so much more so than organic, because it is both environmental and social components to it. That actually can be also be used for other fibers not just cotton, including wall.
Corinna Bellizzi: I’ve heard some bigger brands trying to get into the regenerative cotton space, but I haven’t seen a lot of branding out there, or a lot of messaging around the use of regenerative cotton in garments I think the standard right now is organic right like so you’ll see those leggings by the pack two brand that are all Organic Cotton and things like that, but the regenerative is like one step further, and I wonder how much further we have to come from a consumer perception standard to kind of move in that direction.
Caroline Priebe: It feels like there’s a belief leads.
Corinna Bellizzi: yeah yeah.
Caroline Priebe: Food usually leads and that’s that’s kind of what happening even Patagonia is one of the founding… I don’t know what you would call them and founding advisors of directors of the certification and even though they’re an apparel company they’re actually starting with Patagonia provisions they’re starting with regenerative food sources. Right, so it is, it is, I think a lot of the programs when it comes to fiber are being piloted However, there is a organization called fiber shed that has been creating or has worked in carbon farming with individual producers primarily with wood, but maybe 10 sell. A lot of the soil elastic fibers are actually made from from what You can work with fiber shed producers, basically, and they have fiber shed it’s been around for a long time now, they don’t work, probably to the scale that larger companies larger public fashion corporations need, but even North face use their climate partnered with them to create climate beneficial wool for some sweaters and like a little caps capsule collection hats and sweaters and gloves and. A few other things, so I am carrying the the big luxury goods conglomerate has made commitments. there’s a lot of regenerative merino options now it’s it’s definitely being invested in by some of the more pioneering brands.
Corinna Bellizzi: As we look at this as a big kind of subject because fashion, is, you know that I think the thing that’s starting to get more negative press is this whole idea of fast fashion. Of only wearing an item three or four times before you get rid of it, you know either you’re paying it forward to a friend, but, most people you know just put it in the donation box and think that it’s ending up in a second life, but often that is not the case right. Let’s talk about that cycle and why it’s so important and then, I’d like to hone in on a little bit of what’s happening from a fashion trend perspective. Sure, and some of them I see them as crazy, maybe, but you know it’s throwback to the 80s and literally the mom jeans and all that, like literally jeans that were sold in the 80s, are being repurposed today as high fashion, and I think that’s kind of incredible so let’s kind of talk about that journey what you’re seeing and what consumers can do to be more mindful, as they go about their day two days and buy new items of clothing.
Caroline Priebe: Sure absolutely so fast fashion trend, Personal style it’s it’s all very much related so fast fashion, is the business model isn’t it doesn’t matter how much Organic Cotton regenerative cotton doesn’t matter how many material substitutions they make it is a unsustainable business model, the the idea of having infinite growth. And that type of pricing structure that is also financially unsustainable for their partners in the supply chain will never be well I don’t care how much marketing they put into telling you that they are sustainable, they are 100% not sustainable and. Those goods primarily made of petroleum based polymers whether recycled or not like polyester and the other derivatives of polyester are poisoning us and polluting primarily the global South so when you donate your clothes, the goodwill’s and you know the the charity shops are totally overrun by fast fashion, and it has very little to no value and it ends up. There’s a whole it’s it can go it goes a lot of places and. And it often ends up and countries in in the global South where it becomes their trash problem or it ends up in the ocean, or it ends up in landfill where it off gases it just it’s incredibly detrimental to both local economies, the environment, health. It just it’s not you’re not making a donation that will have a second value in any way, having said that, if you are creating garments with the intent that they have longevity. Not only will someone wear them for a long time, they will also if they you know sell them or have an opera they’ll have an opportunity to resell them and or if it’s a charitable donation someone will actually see the value in them and be able to reuse it, but the fast fashion, is not designed to last any period of time. Really so and then you know fast fashion also depends on on trend and the. larger brands, I mean have larger mate maybe more luxury brands create this sense of false scarcity. That like Oh, you need this next thing you need this next thing versus here are these you know beautiful pieces that you can love and have and can be integrated into your personal style, or whatever you want to communicate versus having to buy the new thing every I don’t know quarter. You know yeah you know there’s a lot of seasons. So, like the mom jeans, for example, i’m not totally against that if you’re literally buying a pair of vintage jeans you know I mean there’s a lot of old denim out there that could use another life that is a pretty hardy construction for a garment and they do last. A long or potentially can last a long time if they’re designed in a way that was you know meant to be actual work way or that like holds up.
Corinna Bellizzi: You can know I just think I look at them and think they’re that particular style is so unflattering on a curvy girl, like me, that I am just like okay. This does not look good like I, I have a small waist but wide hips and a little bit of a behind you know. And it’s not it’s just not a good look for me like you can put it on the the then model s beautiful girl and it’s fine I don’t personally love it. But i’m seeing more and more of those kind of entering our new fashion world, and I think it’s healthy it’s common for us to nod back 30 years 40 years to fashions of the past. But I personally find myself gravitating more to you know some of the simpler designs that even proceeded that you know from. The 50s or 60s, like the a line frame dresses that just look really nice and are flattering on a lot of body types. You know, choosing some bold prints that come from the past, but like look really good today to. And kind of refining my own wardrobe along those lines, and then I find I don’t want to get rid of them there are pieces that I value of and where again because they’re kind of classic you know it’s not like something that’s a flash in the pan.
Caroline Priebe: Right right. You know I I love I love that and I actually think you know fast fashion hasn’t been around it’s like 20 years old, so it’s we can. I don’t think it would take that much deprogramming for us as consumers to go back to a time on fast fashion didn’t exist and style, I believe, is really recognize when someone sees you wearing something multiple times they recognize you for this look or this jacket or or whatnot it’s not because you have the latest trend every couple of weeks, you know that’s not style that’s you know that shows you follow trend have this like curated sense of style and wardrobe.
Corinna Bellizzi: yeah I remember reading an article was before the pandemic when this younger millennial professional chose to write an article about shifting to a uniform for work. So she just got a simple outfit and bought multiples of it, and it was all she wore. And it was like simple white top black pants felt comfortable and everyday didn’t feel like she had to spend all this extra time choosing what she was going to wear are laboring over that some simple jewelry to go along with it, and it also enabled her to minimize her wardrobe so it wasn’t so overwhelming and the routines that she experienced were just a little bit more comforting long term. Now that might get boring, you know you might feel like Oh well, I want more variety, or are people gonna think i’m just wearing the same clothes I wear on Monday on Friday, and we have this judgment kind of sphere in our head, but the reality is most people don’t actually think that way.
Caroline Priebe: No yeah.
Corinna Bellizzi: The self the the inner ID that rears its ugly head and says, oh no i’m you know i’m concerned with what other people think about what i’m wearing and what that might say about me. So in that case, this individual just broadcast like she shared with her Community like i’m i’m trying this new thing i’m going to switch to kind of Mr Rogers style of clothing just have this same thing, where every day and see what that’s like, and so it removed that judgment stigma from her experience.
Caroline Priebe: No, I love that I might have a grandmother, who was like a really master seamstress so she would buy things and she would also make it fit her, but she would buy multiple if she found something that she really liked or fit well she usually bought that least two colors. Because it does take a lot of time to find things that feel. Like you want to wear them and represent you and also fit I mean so it’s, it is a real time saver and I think you end up looking like you do have a sense of style because people recognize you for a look, or some you know a type of a Silhouette.
Corinna Bellizzi: So let’s talk about the social impact of fashion beyond just you know what you were what you look like and whether or not it ends up in landfill there’s this whole expectation, I think we have around getting something for relatively inexpensive. You know, buying a shirt for $20 or you know, perhaps you’re a thrift shopper and you aren’t quite into buying us so you go to Ross and you buy your clothes, there you spend like maybe $50 on an outfit sometimes even less and you feel like you got a screaming deal right. But we don’t necessarily think about the Labor exploitation that goes into the production of those garments so i’d love for you to talk for a moment about that and just the the ways in which you see you know your work and fashion trend shifting so that we do less of that.
Caroline Priebe: yeah sure um I think there’s a little there’s two parts to this because I do really feel for. Consumers, because you know. In many ways this isn’t their fault they’re buying they’re not they don’t have the luxury and buying with their values, even if they knew about Labor exploitation it wouldn’t make a difference, because they just don’t have the income or the disposable income to make to make purchases in the way that they would like to and I think that’s a bigger like macro economic. Yeah that that I don’t think is fair to put on the consumer and the truth is that there have been a lot, you know, there has been this movement to conscious consumerism and it hasn’t done anything like. We just haven’t haven’t gone up there still we’re still polluting the environment, these companies are still you know growing it just we would it might make us feel good in the short term but it’s ultimately not the mechanism that drives change within corporations. You know they might take a hit here and there, because there’s cancel culture, but ultimately, the answer to their shareholders. Not not to consumers. And so, but what happens, I think, is that we’ve been trained to. To expect clothing to be cheaper than it really is so if a T shirt is $5 someone is not getting paid, I mean if you know the cotton was maybe grown in India, the T shirt was maybe cut and sewn in China and then maybe I mean it’s probably traveled multiple countries and then come back here it’s been in a warehouse. It just there’s just no way you can do that for $5, and so I think for like personal reasons that you just discussed about how like building a wardrobe and investing in pieces. For me personally, is really satisfying you know I don’t I I’ve worked in fashion, for you know 20 years I have a very edited tight closet because I really bond with my. My pieces and or the designers that I want to spend my money with or trade with. And I argue that that is actually really satisfying so if there is a way that you could sort of switch your thinking as a consumer, I, I think it, you know I think you have very little control over a supply chain, but you do have control over how you how you feel. When you’re in those clothes, so the the larger global supply chains part of the biggest issue is that I think by design honestly, they are OPEC, you know they are the the brands don’t own the factories that they work with and making a garment is actually an incredibly complicated process and between you know growing fiber or literally turning oil into you know, a fiber is not like a simple process, and then you have to actually make the textile you have to weave it or knitted you have to cut it there’s a lot usually out of treatments when they’re sewing there’s finishing whatnot but it ends up probably hitting a lot of different vendors, that the company doesn’t own but in being a peg the companies often you know. Say that they don’t have any you know responsibility because they can’t you know I can’t see it so so how am I able to control the carbon impact or if we’re putting you know water with chemical dyes into the public water system or.
Corinna Bellizzi: They can they can almost claim like ignorance right. There kicking that can down the road. It wasn’t us it was this other person. Well, they got your business you bought their fabric, you actually pit you played into that. Right it’s easier to not hold that blame and it’s certainly benefits i’m not too. Right, so I thought I’ve been looking at your sweater for a bit now and I’m betting that it has a story, since you hold and covet you know the pieces of clothing that you’ve owned. Yes, your sweater have a story, do you want to share that.
Caroline Priebe: um you know, this is, I have a strategy I I love I just I’m a knitwear fanatic I love sweaters and I bought this from mchale and Greg. And I ironically have never really been able to actually afford the fashion that I designed and produced, but I really like. Supporting or attempting to support small designers I think they make very thoughtful beautiful pieces, so I usually buy my network at the end of the summer I don’t I if you can afford to pay going designers please do it, but yeah, um and it I think they I think they make very thoughtful high quality clothing. I love Rachel coney I love Johnson. Michaela Greg there’s a lot of really small designers that I think are for me are worth the investment and I get really excited to where all the time. Well, the other thing one quick real quick, I wanted to go back to supply chain is that when you when you can’t see or you don’t have a direct relationship with your factories or your suppliers, is that you just make demands versus partnering and so often susceptible working populations say yes to prices and or margins that aren’t actually financially sustainable for them, because the other choice is like hunger or you know or no job. And so it’s very predatory honestly, on the other part of brands to not partner to figure out what everyone needs to make it a mutually beneficial situation.
Corinna Bellizzi: it’s beautifully said now, I want to talk about polyester and getting back to some of the. I know I’m literally wearing a little polyester jacket but i’ve had for a long time and I think the same is true of the shirt. So I feel like sometimes when I have these conversations about fast fashion, like somebody coming from my wardrobe. And there are things about these synthetic fabrics that make them really easy to maintain right, so you have things like. Again, like the clothes i’m wearing on my top half that you see right now that they don’t fade. They don’t rip very easily they don’t take a lot to maintain their stain resistant generally speaking. They pack really light i’m able to shove them in a suitcase and they don’t wrinkle and so when I travel, you know, again, like all of that is easy. And I think ease is often what drives purchasing decisions I don’t need to go to the dry cleaner to get it pressed it just goes in the washing machine. Probably not that difficult to sort you know, but even if I put this pink shirt with is black and put it in the washer they’re not going to stay in or went off on each other. So we get all these things this list laundry list of things that I think keep consumers buying products that are maybe less mindful of the environment. In my case, just not wanting to let go of them, because I already made this purchase and I still like them and I don’t want them to end up a landfill. So I wondered if you could kind of give us a lens help us understand how we can make decisions as we had forward that perhaps are more mindful of the environment and our impact on people that are working in garment and apparel manufacturing.
Caroline Priebe: Sure yeah um you know polyester… Is you know it’s it comes from big oil, you know big oil companies, and right now and they’ve been you know selling. To us, that this is a really the benefits of polyester because obviously it behooves them and, yes, polyester can add strength and, yes, there are some ways, you can design. The the fiber so that it gives you the benefits, you know that you just like less wrinkling and whatnot i’m not totally opposed to wrinkling.
Corinna Bellizzi: It can be fashionable like with linen.
Caroline Priebe: yeah but um what. Oh, I don’t even know where to begin it’s I mean it is me it is me for oil and from oil and big oil sees the writing on the wall for combustion engines. And or has, for a while and they’re like okay well, what do we do now, we put this into plastics and not, and that includes polyester that includes. You know polymers that make up fibers and so fast fashion, the only way fast fashion can actually exist is by cheap polyester it you can’t so it feel it’s it’s literally fossil fashion, you know it like wouldn’t exist it’s.
Corinna Bellizzi: Maybe we should call it that now.
Caroline Priebe: yeah there was actually a really good article outcome fossil fashion read a report that kind of describes the the history and supply chain and the environmental and social impacts and so, then, on top of it, they also told us that, like oh plastic so great, because you can recycle it and you’re bad it was like yeah.
Corinna Bellizzi: yeah.
Caroline Priebe: it’s not happening it’s not a circular. We don’t have the infrastructure or technology to really recycle in the way that needs at the at the pace with which plastic clothing and products and accessories are being made, and so, then because we’ve overproduced all these garments and accessories and shoes and whatnot. They end up in landfill or ocean or often ocean, and then we also have this, they also have micro release micro fibers. And so, then we’ve been marketed RPT recycled like okay let’s pull it pull it out of the ocean and then, when we recycle it and we’ll turn these plastics and the fiber and garments again and the problem with the RPT. Based garments is that they release more micro fibers because it’s like a copy of a cop COP it’s like less you know.
Corinna Bellizzi: Essentially, more brittle.
Caroline Priebe: Right more brutal yeah it requires this chemical called antimony which is incredibly cancer, causing and they there’s also it depends it’s not all it’s not all polyester fibers but some release endocrine disruptors that are causing. Massive infertility global infertility by 2045 did you just see that study come out.
Corinna Bellizzi: No actually have read similar ones so yeah.
Caroline Priebe: yeah and affects men scrotums actually. And and be their fertility rates are dropping so to the point where it could be zero by 2045 so we’re we’re poisoning ourselves, basically, for the sake of stuff and it also polyester also holds stink that we can’t we don’t have like a any sort of cleanser detergent. That is so true to get rid of yeah I just I have never even for the brief moment moment that I thought it was like the key to circular economy, I personally I don’t like the hand feel I don’t find it particularly breathable i’d rather be a little bit wet and my cotton shirt or like it’s just a it’s just a lot of marketing from big oil and it’s not a good use. In textiles it’s dangerous honestly.
Corinna Bellizzi: Well, so, and you have me thinking about my honeymoon and let me tell you why my husband and I one morning, and we were on the island of Hawaii and I just wanted to see the sunrise. Over the ocean because I’m on the west coast, I only see typically sunsets I don’t say sunrises right. So we’re on this beautiful island it’s our first or second night so we’re still not quite adjust to the time zone so early doesn’t feel that early. So I’m like let’s get up before dawn will hike to the furthest East point we can get to we’re going through resort golf clubs and you know things like that ending up on this coast, that was just ocean side of the Louis airport and coin there’s like this chain link fence and a frontage road that goes along there they’re like nobody as far as tourists are going to speech at all right. We run into one guy out there, throwing at fishing who’s a local I see what looks like a grave like with a cross on the ground. And then, a beach completely littered with plastic. And what was really interesting I am I had flip flops on at the time and I slipped on one of the lava rocks so my flip flop kind of broke. Because flip flops are not meant to survive.
Caroline Priebe: Right.
Corinna Bellizzi: There, just like foam and plastic and then the irony of it was that the entire beach was strewn with left flip flops not right ones. Because how currents work and the currents were shipped you know all the Left flip flops would end up on this beach and i’m sure the right flip flops or somewhere else, because of how the currents kind of separated them just based on how they’re shaped.
Caroline Priebe: Right yeah interesting.
Corinna Bellizzi: So I did I couldn’t find a flip flop, to go ahead and replace my broken one my husband and I also noticed. Nothing, but like just littered nets strewn along the beach that were obvious old buoys containers from shampoo bottles and things like that. Just all over the speech and then amidst all this, I see these little tiny tracks that look like bird tracks, but they’re not quite something’s different about them. And I realized that they were sea turtle nests. And the sea turtles that it hatch the hatchlings i’d come out and we’re. You know, basically, trying to find their way over these mounds of nets and flip flops and plastic junk. So my husband and I spent this pre dawn our and into the sun being pretty high in the sky, you know essentially clearing a path for the sea turtles the the nest hadn’t yet hatched to be able to make it without getting stuck in you know nets or whatever else yeah now you know we were only had like a backpack and what we were carrying so we ran out of water, eventually, and I ended up like hiking back to our resort with the ridiculousness of this giant stick with a bunch of garbage tied to it, so I can dispose of it properly. And the knowledge that we are really just trashing our planet yeah and and I haven’t bought a pair of flip flops sense because I found that traumatizing. And because it just became so evident to me that this is garbage clothing. So i’m hoping that I can become more mindful, even as time goes on, I don’t make a lot of new clothing purchases, to be frank, because I have a fairly extensive wardrobe and I have now started going to local thrift shops and and trying to buy some more responsible way to go, find clothes that fit me great and that I could give a second life to so I feel less guilty about you know where it might end up. Now I’m wondering if you have some wisdom to share from curating your own very targeted wardrobe for the ladies that might be listening, because I think we would all aspire to something a little more mindful.
Caroline Priebe: um that’s a good question, I mean I love knitwear, I think, because I work in industry.
Caroline Priebe: I’m keenly aware of textiles and I just I know which textiles are nice and winter hardy and I know construction it’s easy for me to spot, but having said that, for someone who you know doesn’t even just the hand feel like touching it feeling it looking at the seams on the inside, looking how it’s finished kind of feeling the weight of the garment and you can kind of get an idea of the you know, the quality of the garment. And then you know sort of asking yourself like is do I want to have a relationship with this garment. And for me, I only I really am there are certain designers that I. That I gravitate to, and then I really just don’t look at anything else I don’t really have the time or mental space. To do to do so, I remember a podcast with Oliver sacks. And he talks about how he had a very prescribed like he had the same thing every day and it’s because he said he lived in New York and if he had to think about like what he was going to eat for every meal, he would have no time left to think about really important things. And so I that’s what I kind of feel like with my closet like if I know I can fill it with some pieces that I really love that fit well then, I want to have a relationship with I wouldn’t say I have like a year, although this year, my uniform would be sweatpants I wouldn’t say I have a uniform, but I have a curated group of you know sweaters blouses pants and then some special dresses that I keep, for I mean, as long as they fit me I keep forever because they make me happy at you know, like every time I go to my closet this one Isabel marant dress I bought probably. I mean, it could be 15 definitely 10 years ago, maybe 15 years ago so dress that is like my often a wedding dress, not me getting married like me going about it. And it makes me happy every time I think about that trip, I think that I got to buy this dress and it’s this beautiful silk purple Paisley and it just makes me so happy.
Corinna Bellizzi: I love that no I really think that it’s interesting that often price isn’t indicative of quality it’s something i’ve been thinking about, you know as you look at this piece that might be a couple hundred dollars and it’s you know essentially a torn up T shirt sometimes you know or genes that have been distressed and essentially made to be worn for less time because they’ve been so distressed. So I wondered if you could talk about just how you find these items, because the Center for the advancement of garment making should have some connection to him, perhaps, helping people choose those brands or choose those makers that are creating responsible fashion.
Caroline Priebe: yeah I mean I don’t buy anything distressed what I do is work with Brent both brands and fashion professionals who wants to make these high quality. You know sort of timeless garments that are I call them heirloom quality right, and so I know how to do that, I know how to help you source, I know. I know how to fit like so and finish, I know how to reduce waste and a lot of pattern, I know how to elevate the art of garment making because often it’s just. You know it’s kind of you know, sellers aren’t looked at as the the true artisans or cast people that they are, and often we don’t actually utilize their whole skill sets we make them you know so ugly T shirts when really they can be making you know beautiful garments so anything distressed I just i’m not a big fan of because I think it looks like he bought discuss clothing, I think you know, a pair if you buy a pair of raw denim jeans and wear them in that looks way cooler than you know if you buy distressed so distressed as a rule of thumb is probably not a good idea.
Corinna Bellizzi: You don’t want my acid wash jeans.
Caroline Priebe: Asked actually depends, I mean acid why ideally yeah you don’t want any like washed jeans um but you’re looking that’s weird I almost feel like I have to do this with garments like someone has to stand next to me, and we have to go on a shopping trip, and I could I could teach but there’s like a I could show seems. And you know explain hand feel but I don’t know I think once someone starts looking.
Corinna Bellizzi: And you just notice.
Caroline Priebe: I’m here yeah a couple different brands like go into a few different stores, and you know you’ll see you’ll see the difference.
Corinna Bellizzi: Well that’s great I would love to just offer you the floor if there’s a question that I haven’t asked you that you wish I had or something you’d like to dig into.
Caroline Priebe: um. I am so I actually have a question about your about your polyester like do so, is it vintage or is it new like do you seek it out for I know you said for the functionality, but do you do you is that the main reason why you seek it hours, it also price.
Corinna Bellizzi: No, I think it’s twofold right, I have quite a bit of vintage clothing that I have bought over the years to I have some fantastic 1970s crazy printed dresses that are could only be made in polyester like nothing else would work to make these colors kind of Paisley designs come out and just pop the way they do right. Right, so I have some that are like that that almost look at as costumes now but i’ve literally had since I was 16 years old and i’m going to be 45 so you know these are items that I probably will never let go of I have some dresses from the 50s and 60s like you know I have green gabardine dress and I have others that are synthetic and obviously synthetic usually the lining was cotton or some other natural material, but then sometimes the the exterior of it is not so you know I don’t have the same guilt for those items, but I have sometimes just bought hey I know that this will pack well because I did so much traveling and working as a professional in sales leadership, you know where i’d be gone to three times a month and being able to pack small was really ideal and also you know tips for the would look professional and not need to be ironed and things like that, so I do have some newer items it’s been a while, since i’ve honestly bought anything in the polyester framework because I am aware. But I don’t get to refresh my wardrobe that often yeah especially this last year. And so i’m just kind of treading water if that makes sense, I am also cost conscious but i’ve been willing to pay, you know $100 for a really nice vintage dress to something that is used, but in good shape, so I think it just it’s kind of a full spectrum approach to clothing, I think, in general.
Caroline Priebe: Right right yeah I mean that is the thing about vintage polyester garments they weren’t like fast, efficient and exit so they were actually built for longevity and will last long so you know, as opposed to a cheap polyester hmm shirt doesn’t really have much second value, but maybe the dress that you bought from the 50s or the 70s. Well, because it’s made in a different way it’s not meant. You know it’s still might smell, but at least you’re keeping it in US it’s on landfill.
Corinna Bellizzi: You know, and it no it’s not.
Caroline Priebe: Like disintegrate you know or fall apart, so I get I, I get the value, I see the value in vintage polyester. it’s really the new fast fashion polyester that I feel like is so troublesome and the other thing that I think. Like some of the marketing that has gotten to us, and why we don’t really understand fibers it’s like wool for example is the is the first performance textile like wool suiting can I mean it it won’t depending on like mohair will mohair suiting does not wrinkle it floats on you it’s so it’s breathable it doesn’t stink it will repel water, like their wall is really amazing for travel and is not just like can be worn in an all seasons.
Corinna Bellizzi: I think people have this perception that it’s a winter clothing.
Caroline Priebe: Right yeah no it’s thermodynamic just depends on the use, like this i’m not going to wear in the summer, but I would wear a Marina wolpe shirt, which is a thin it’s designed for summer use and it’s great it doesn’t sell on it breeds.
Corinna Bellizzi: that’s really nice yeah you know I think if we can be more mindful and our clothing choices it’ll have a trickle effect and other arenas as well right, then you suddenly start noticing more. Now I know plastic that has been produced, basically, since the 50s is where is it it’s in our oceans it’s in our landfills it’s, it’s something that is not going away as a problem and manufacturing, even just seems to be increasing, even as we learn about all the detrimental effects, I think, because of what you’re talking about from the oil and gas companies wanting to do you know, have a revenue stream have an existence beyond where they are presently. And I’ve also read the statistics that essentially most people are consuming the equivalent of a credit card of plastic every week yeah that’s coming from the fish they consume the animals, they consume because guess what the plastics you washing your washing machine. Micro plastics go into our waterways, which end up in the ocean, in addition to all the litter and trash is literally in our oceans that breaks down that fish eat and then other things eat and then we eat right, so this is not the ideal situation, and we need to move towards something different, and so, if you had one wish for our consumer audience What would it be.
Caroline Priebe: One wish oh goodness, I mean I wish I actually wish for policy government policy for us, because that will give us options, I think, at this point, you know the industry has been really poor at self regulating. And that the policy will create or demand safer supply chains less carbon emissions or I should say more just supply chains also safer and make the brand responsible for the product through the end of the life like I can’t just end up as letter they can’t just produce things, so there is some of that policy happening in Europe, and I think they will lead the way as they as they usually do and that will give us as consumers more options to align our values with our purchases, or you know with our spending habits, with the way that we use and reuse goods and or if we have you know infrastructure setup specifically for that type of circular economy.
Corinna Bellizzi: I have a question to clarify, because you mentioned policy but I’m not exactly clear on what policy you’re talking about are you referring to policies that relate to the manufacturer having some culpability or responsibility for the materials.
Caroline Priebe: Are and yeah exactly you’re talking about so the brands like you were saying you know have like often large brands have a know like hands off approach to their supply chain, like we’re not responsible, this isn’t a different country. This is a vendor that we don’t own and really it’s making brands responsible for the impacts of their entire supply chain. Because they have like I said, both grave social often you know there’s a lot of human human trafficking happening in fashion supply chains or apparel supply chains there’s a lot of things happening on the local level environmentally. There are there’s the Labor exploitation and environmental impacts and the brand needs to be responsible for that, because the manufacturers just don’t really they don’t have much power or extra they’re being paid so little that they don’t have money to invest in, say, renewable energy or or any of the things that would need to bring them up to levels that you just you and I would think are just basic safe standard business practices.
Corinna Bellizzi: Are there some certifications that you would recommend people look for if they’re looking for a fair blunt branded clothing item, and is it fair trade, I mean i’m just curious if there. Is anything they can look for.
Caroline Priebe: There um yes and no certifications is a super not straightforward subject matter, there are a lot of great some certifications but they may just.
Corinna Bellizzi: address one thing.
Caroline Priebe: address one thing, and not the entire supply chain got certified is pretty comprehensive G OTS. That is the probably the most visible consumer facing certification that you could look for other ones are there’s free Labor certified. That means they may or may not be on a tag that may just be you know, often companies who have sustainability reports will say what some of their FAB factory partners are rap certified are fairly recertified or what but that also doesn’t sometimes that also hurts smaller manufacturers or artisans that can afford those certifications that are working in otherwise really lovely ways so it’s a bit of a it’s a bit of a mixed bag and that’s why policy, but you know, with some standards, environmental and social standards, would you know sort of be the overarching guide.
Corinna Bellizzi: and change everything.
Caroline Priebe: yeah yeah and then you would need auditors and people to make sure the laws were being followed and regulations were being followed but yeah we wouldn’t need like hundreds of certifications.
Corinna Bellizzi: All right, well great I just want to thank you for your time today, this has been a really enlightening conversation. I’d also like to invite you just to share if there’s any way in which you think that the people listening to this show can change their habits, if there was one thing that you would suggest, for them to do to make a difference and some small way.
Caroline Priebe: I so remake the remake campaign is more like citizen activists or consumer activist organization that demands change within supply chains demands change from brands And they are a really great organization to get involved with and or sign petitions donate use your social media.
Corinna Bellizzi: They have you say that again, you said you make.
Caroline Priebe: remake R E make. They have had really put some pretty impressive impact, especially during coven when many brands just left factories unpaid with goods that they weren’t allowed to resell like billions of dollars worth of goods. Well that’s a whole different conversation yeah so they started it was called the pay up campaign And they got some large brands to pay up other brands still have not paid up free people has not urban outfitters is not coles has not there’s quite a few brands that have not, but then there are also quite a few larger brands that have so.
Corinna Bellizzi: Great now if our audience is interested in the work you do Caroline How would you suggest that they reach out to you.
Caroline Priebe: um I think my website sort of sums up all the things that I do the short the short address is www.CAGM.com short from the Center for the advancement of garment making that also is my address, and I offer primarily work for brands circular design services and also sustainable strategy, but I also do one on one coaching with fashion professionals. Wanting to sort of change their careers, and then I offer the sustainable leadership masterclass, which is an eight week incredibly comprehensive course everything you’d ever want to know about fashion sustainability business models design circularity and that starts may 17 it’s for eight weeks it’s virtual and I invite everyone to check that out all the details and syllabus are on there is to teach a person so it’s it’s university level.
Corinna Bellizzi: that’s great so thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us today and talking about alternatives to this crazy fast fashion that has been basically infiltrating our lives with more plastic so. I appreciate you and the work you’re doing with the Center for the advancement of garment making Caroline Thank you so much.
Caroline Priebe: Thank you, my pleasure.
Corinna Bellizzi: Now, as we opened our talk today we invited you to care a little bit more about fashion and perhaps producing a smaller imprint on the planet in the choices that you’re making now i’d like to invite you to act that action could be as simple as sharing this podcast and the work that Caroline is doing you could also visit her website and start to look a little bit more closely at the choices you’re making as you purchase new items of clothing. To find more suggestions you can visit our action page on care more be better.com you can also look at show notes were all include links to remake as well as to caroline’s website again, I invite you to join the conversation and be a part of the Community we’re building, you can follow us on social spaces @caremorebebetter. Links to where you can find us are always in show notes now, thank you listeners now and always for being a part of this pod and this Community because, together, we can do so much more.