Archive | modernity + sociology.

This could also be called “all things nerdy.”

5 Tips For Making Your Fast Fashion Last

The 3rd anniversary of Rana Plaza was yesterday, and I’ve been thinking about it so much.

How three years ago yesterday, I was searching through Google trying to find out if one of the vendors was one of the companies we worked with. The photos of the fabric being used as a slide to safety (so, um, health and safety definitely wasn’t tip top there, but then again, they sent people to work when there was a crack in the foundation), all the digging, the loss, the news that the owner had left the country (but then was found). Thinking about how complicit we are to fast fashion. How we are the problem. How we need more more more.

Case in point, I made a run to Target yesterday and bought a cute dress, as I don’t have many work clothes to wear in the spring. I forgot all about the anniversary in the face of a cheap dress. I am, we are, you are part of the problem because we are bombarded with shiny things to buy for cheap all the time.

And with all these thoughts, and knowing that I am part of the problem, I came up with a short list of things you can do to be a smart user of fast fashion:

  1. Think twice about buying bold patterns. They will quickly out of style vs. plainer clothes and will more likely worn less often and for a shorter period of time. The whole ‘do you have three items in your wardrobe that will go with that?’ adage definitely applies here. Want more pops of color? Try buying handmade jewelry that you can mix and match. 
  2. Learn to mend. If your clothes are cheap, they’re going to rip, tear, and break. Therefore, learn to mend them so that they will last. A quick trip to YouTube will teach you what to do. And all darning doesn’t have to look the same, as evidenced here via Tom of Holland. If you’re going to buy that cheap dress, commit to the damn dress. 
  3. Try thrifting. Think thrifting isn’t cool? Check out how much Stasia behind Stasia’s Style School rocks her thrifted clothes! She also gives tips on how to best rock them!
  4. Wash your clothes correctly. If you’re going to own fast fashion, at least treat it with some respect. Someone made that item, so take care of it. Learn how to best take care of your wardrobe.
  5. Know that things with beads and buttons are probably done by hand. Then ask yourself, what would I charge if I made this? (It’s probably more than that $10 price tag.) Some things can’t be made by machine and are done by subcontractors.

On that last point, in over four years at a workers’ right organization reading reports from some of the world’s top fast fashion retailers, not once did I come across child workers in their factories. In agriculture? Yes! But not in the places who make the clothes you’re wearing.

However, things get murkier when you look beyond the factory down the supply chain. Things become unregulated. Sadly, for most big name companies, their supply chains are still largely a mystery! This is a HUGE problem. And an effin’ mess.

So, if factories didn’t have children working in them, what was going on? The saddest thing was that factories would work to get their hours within a reasonable minimum and people would quit because they couldn’t afford to work there anymore without working 6o hours a week or more. They would get jobs at factories that had overtime because they needed it. They literally were cogs in the fast fashion system.

And what’s more, in cultures like China, conventional wisdom said that worker was just as fresh the 12th hour on the job as the 1st. From the supervisors to the workers, often people didn’t know the health effects of overtime.

But these are unsexy things. And not as exciting to get up in arms about. So they persist.

And we can campaign our little hearts out. However, what most people don’t get is that when it comes to fast fashion, cheap labor is what these factories are built on. They are counting on going under the radar. They are preparing for that audit visit. They make money based on the backs of workers without those razor-thin margins,

So campaign. But remember, these things take MONTHS to YEARS to fix because it’s so systemic. They are counting on you forgetting. They are counting on you to get distracted. They are counting on you to move on. Because that’s what we do best. But if you’re committed to the long haul, you just made make some magic happen.

Follower Count, Popularity, + Your Holy Grail

A high follower count. Engagement. More RTs than that frenemy of yours. Enough likes to fill your heart, or so you’d think.

That’s the goal, right? I mean, what we’re all really going for?

Although I’m not sure how exactly I came across it yesterday, I ended up reading Anil Dash’s article on having 550K followers on Twitter, but not actually being, well… famous. And how it works and how it also doesn’t. One of the best things about the piece is that it literally shows you how having that many followers does not actually mean much, as you don’t get that many RTs (all things considered) or any real cool perks. Instead you get assholes spamming you to share their product, people that don’t actually care about you, they only care that you might be somebody.

The piece also shows us that we want to know that someone sees us, listens to us, validates our existence by reflecting part of themselves back on us, in the form of a comment or like.

From the article, “What becomes clear after a few years of having a large social network is that people are desperate to be heard… much of it ties back to people feeling powerless, of flailing toward any person who seems like they could provide opportunity or a way forward… But the truth is, our technological leaders have built these tools in a way that explicitly promotes the idea that one’s follower count is the score we keep, the metric that matters.”

Did you get that? Things were built so we can judge ourselves on our follower count. Things someone else built. Things that aren’t even very important in the grand scheme of life. (If you’re really wondering about this, go ask your grandmother about Twitter’s legacy.)

On a similar theme, Meighan O’Toole wrote another great post about this, reminding us that “social media is about business.” Someone else’s.

We use social media to be heard and either distill our true selves into a feed that’s a perfect amalgam of who we are or concoct a feed that shows who we want to be. And I think that it’s this distillation that we seek, this crystalization of who we are at our truest essence, whether we’re showing the world the true us or a false sense of self. We use these systems and platforms to show ourselves to the world, but if we’re not careful, we can forget who we are in the process.

Our follower counts make us feel like we are missing out on the party if we don’t follow someone with lots of followers and like there’s nothing to miss if the counts are too low. We feel embarrassed when we post something that gets very few likes, especially if we were truly enamored with the photo or thought. We mistake the silence, which doesn’t mean you’re a failure, but that perhaps your friends are busy cooking a delicious meal, your cousins are at a movie, and your Mom is taking a nap. And in letting this affect us, we’re changing who we are to become people sharing for validation, not because we want to connect.

So what if we reframed the silence? And didn’t think any less of ourselves because of it?

The great thing about the internet is that we don’t always know who’s looking at our posts, especially if we’re using social media, as we don’t own the stats. If we post what makes our hearts sing, a lonely teenager in Greenland may find it and find solace and someone else may beam at a memory that your photograph evokes. If they don’t comment or like, that doesn’t mean they didn’t like it or didn’t see it… but we discount all those non-commenters by only caring about the ones who did comment. We discount their very experience with our content.

Think about it, how many times do you read something online and agree with it and don’t comment because it’s too much of a pain to deal with CAPTCHA or you’re in a hurry or your bus just went into an area with no spotty wireless? And how many times do you read something that really resonates, but don’t comment because you feel like you’ll sound stupid or won’t add anything new or it hits a really vulnerable (and good) place and you can’t possibly choose the right words?

The internet needs good content amidst the fluff. We need you for who you are, not on a projection of you solely based on likes. We need you to be a beacon someone can cling to when they feel all alone or the answer to someone’s problem or the reason someone smiles. We need you to show up despite the possible silence. We need you to strive to put out content that makes people think, without caring about the response. We need you to make good content, tag it well, and fall in love with it because it’s good. And because you never know who it will find or help.

The internet needs you. Not another asshole who posts a bad joke because he knows someone from 3rd grade will RT it. We need good content to be your Holy Grail, not high engagement. We need you to show up. Because your people will find you when you are really you. You will build your own community based on people that like this real you. And yes, you will be heard. But first, first you, the youest you, need to dare to show up.

ETA: So OMG, the cool widgetized links aren’t being found when you click on the pics at the bottom here. I changed the link for my blog, not realizing I also needed to go back and change things in the 600-old posts, too. Holy crap. I’m working on it, please bear with me. Should anyone have a magical fix, please let me know!

How Much Does the Craft Resurgence Owe to the Growth of the Internet?

One of the cool things that I get to do at times is speak about craftivism, and the various disciplines it intersects. Next month, I will be talking at 2 different venues in The Netherlands, both part of the CRISP Network (CReating Innovative Sustainability Pathways).

Whenever I start to think about craft’s connection to technology, I always return to Sadie Plant’s 1997 book, Zeroes and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture. In this book, with solely words, Plant spins and weaves together our textile histories and the beginnings of technoculture in a most fascinating way that I haven’t come across since.

What’s most remarkable about this particular book is that it was written so early in what we consider the technological age, all the way back in 1997. Using the binary system of zeros and ones, Plant draws a likeness to the similar binaries of weaving’s warp and woof, which can then be easily turned into knitting’s knit and purl. Breaking the world down into two streams of consciousness almost as we find binaries throughout our world, despite our best intentions to convince ourselves that everything is multiplicitous and that what makes our world and its possibilities infinite, Plant argues that it’s even more stripped down that we think, that infinity can be found in the binary system itself.

Women are brought into the picture as the champions of technology through the story of Ada Lovelace and women’s experience of craft as both data sharing and data creation.

Quoting John Heathcote “who patented a lace-making machine just after Jacquard built his loom:”

It seems that “the women of prehistoric Europe gathered at one another’s houses to spin, sew, weave, and have fellowship.” Spinning yarns, fabricating fictions, fashioning fashions …: the textures of woven cloth functioned as means of communication and information storage long before anything was written down.” This is not only because, like writing and other visual arts, weaving is often “used to mark or announce information” and “a mnemonic device to record events and other data.” Textiles do communicate in terms of the images which appear on the right side of the cloth, but this is only the most superficial sense in which they process and store data. Because there is no difference between the weaving and the woven design, cloths persist as records of the processes which fed into their production: how many women worked on them, the techniques they used, the skills they employed.

I love how she makes the argument how the maker is inextricably connected to the product which which they make, how there is no separation, despite physical separation… echoing what happens in current technology as we send our crafted emails and projects and illustrations and photos out into the interwebs and they become disconnected from us, yet forever connected nonetheless.

The quote above continues:

The visible pattern is integral to the process which produced it; the program and the pattern are continuous. Information can be stored in the cloth by means of the meaningful messages and images which are later produced by the pen and the paintbrush, but data can also be woven in far more pragmatic and immediate ways. A piece of work so absorbing as a cloth is saturated with the thoughts of the people who produced it, each of whom can flash straight back to wherever they were thinking as they worked.

Effin’ blinding as well as brilliant. I wonder what Plant thinks (and Lovelace would think) of the world of craft being so shared and propagated and fomented by technology over the past decade? Because craft’s resurgence owes as much to intangible binaries (zeros, ones) as it does to physical binaries (warp, woof; knit, purl) as technology eradicated geographic distance and made it so easy for crafters to find each other instead of being relegated to obscurity? Would the craft resurgence happened were it not for the simultaneous growth of the internet? I’d like to think, as Plant writes, that the two are intwined together, both simple and impossible to separate.

Unpacking Kafka and Why Your Creativity Needs You (Sometimes) to be Still.

Related to my post yesterday about why taking a break is okay (and so is re-entry), I found this quote by Franz Kafka.

Because in order to “remain sitting at your table and listen,” you have to first, be willing to sit at that table and then, gather your easily distracted mind enough to listen. Easier said, than done. Especially when Kafka wrote it, pre-internet!

And then once you’ve done those 2 things, you then realize that you don’t even have to listen! You can just wait, if you so desire. Waiting?! We hate waiting! Waiting is the worst!

Except when it isn’t.

Because, as Kafka notes, you really don’t even have to wait, if you think that’s stupid and (literally) a waste of time. Aha! You can have it all if you only… only… “be quite still and solitary.”

Still. You want me to be still? I have ADD. I’m like that small child that can get into trouble in an empty padded room so is my crazy monkey mind. This is a bad idea.

When you find yourself doing the above. It’s time to take a break. And breathe. Because, as I tweeted yesterday “Our #1 job as crafters/artists/makers [is] to be permission givers. To make freely and bravely, inspiring others to do the same.”

And how in the hell can we do that if we can’t settle our minds enough do what Kafka (ultimately) asks and “be quite still and solitary?” Because once we can do that, “the world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”

And it will.

But only if we remember to give ourselves permission to take a break, just like we need to remember to give ourselves permission to freely create.

But only.

Sounds simple.

Except when it isn’t.

So, just a reminder today, to think about where you need to be: taking a break or willing “to be quite still?” And a little nudge that, whatever you decide, it’s okay, it’s natural, and it’s just where you need to be.

Craftivism and the Self, pt. 1

So sometimes, you come back from an awesome international trip and move and then get settled and then your blog gets hacked. The past month has been one of those times.

Therefore, in the hiatus, there’s quite a bit of stuff I want to share with you. Yay! One of the things I’ve been working on is activism of the self, our internal activism or self-activism, I haven’t really figured out how to phrase it (have any ideas?). However, it’s using activism/craftivism as a way/tool for self change instead of changing others. At times on here I’ve felt incredibly selfish when people contact me about the work I’ve done with craftivism, as honestly, it all started by accident. When I started to knit in 2000, I was in an incredibly dark place where, seriously, I don’t know know where I’d be if I didn’t find knitting. When I say that “knitting saved my life,” I’m actually not kidding around.

Crafts connection to activism came out of the healing of my own self. As I got stronger and better, I was able to see how crafts has changed me; therefore, it wasn’t a far leap to see how it could change others, albeit in different ways. Over time I realized that craftivism allowed people the time/space to really think/internalize their own views on craftivist pieces, starting a change in themselves. And it is my belief that this internal change in others is what can make the world a better place, because we change ourselves. But first, we need to help our own selves heal/get strong/thrive before we can truly help others. Thoughts?

I’m calling this part 1, because I’m running out of time and won’t be able to upload the snapshots from the conversation on twitter yesterday with some lovely thoughts from the always helpful and inspiring @MrXStitch, @hstryk, @janislena and @thejaymo.

Also, know any Swedish crafters? The new Swedish craft website Zickermans was kind enough to run a lovely little interview with me over here.

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