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The ARTnews Accord: Stella McCartney & Sheila Hicks Talk About Mindfulness in Fashion and Art

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The ARTnews Accord: Stella McCartney & Sheila Hicks Talk About Mindfulness in Fashion and Art

Stella McCartney began her career as a fashion designer in the 1990s, most notably as the creative director of Chloe in Paris, and launched her own eponymous fashion house in 2001. In addition to her celebrated eye for design, she has been an advocate for animal rights (“a lifelong vegetarian, she has never used leather, feathers, skin, or fur in any of her designs since day one—a revolutionary stance, then and now,” a mission statement reads) as well as issues of sustainability regarding materials and manufacturing. For her Spring 2021 collection, she collaborated with artists on an “A-to-Z manifesto” that pairs each letter in the alphabet with a progressive idea (A for Accountable, V for Vegan, and so on).

One of those artists is Sheila Hicks, who studied with Josef Albers in the 1950s and in the decades since has created sculptural artworks using fabrics and fibers as well as various methods of weaving, knitting, knotting, and braiding. Her work appeared in the 2017 Venice Biennale and the 2014 Whitney Biennial, and her reputation has grown alongside rising recognition of textile and fabric art, for a time underappreciated as a matter of craft. Hicks’s solo exhibition “Thread, Trees, River” opens at the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) in Vienna in December and runs until mid-April 2021. For the “A-to-Z manifesto” project with McCartney, with whom she first collaborated in 2019, Hicks reinvigorated the designer’s classic Falabella handbag.

From London and Paris, respectively, McCartney and Hicks joined ARTnews for a videoconference in September to talk about sheep, mindfulness in fashion and art, and working together as colleagues and friends.

of experiencing art?

Stella McCartney: My grandfather was a lawyer who represented Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Yves Klein, Robert Motherwell, and many of the great Abstract Expressionists. He would swap his time for their work and ended up having one of the largest private collections of Abstract Expressionism in the world. But it was all from love—every single part of it was passion and pure affection for art. My grandmother actually thought he was crazy and would shout at him when he would come back with another piece of art. When I was small, my early memories would be of going into his apartment in New York, where he had many Joseph Cornells. He was great friends with Cornell. As a child, I remember there was a low shelf in his library with all of these Cornell boxes lined up. He had extraordinary work on the walls, but it was the Cornells that really captured my attention because they were so childlike and playful.

Sheila Hicks: I’m going to do a fast-forward and say that when I was in London making a show a few years ago, the director of the gallery said, “There is someone I want you to meet who I think you will like and appreciate.” That was Stella. I went to her showroom, and the first thing she talked to me about were her sheep. I am known as sort of a consultant and a problem solver. So I knew why I was there: they wanted me to do something about these sheep. To me, it was great because it was something concrete. When you meet someone for the first time there’s a lot of small talk before you can get into some kind of substance of any kind.

McCartney: I don’t think we’ve ever had small talk, you and I.

Hicks: As I remember you said, “People are not ordering or wearing the scratchy or heavy wool as much as they used to. I raise sheep out in the country and I am very worried about their future.” I loved the idea of having to be concerned and occupied about the future of these sheep.

McCartney: I have a few sheep. They are called Itsy-Bitsy, Teeny-Weeny, and Yellow Polka. I haven’t got Dot and Bikini. They grow old gracefully, and they are completely organic—and every summer we sheer them so I have all this wool. My mother and father also had tons of sheep. We never killed them so they would always live a long, healthy life. And the wool we would weave into Native American–style rugs and blankets and things. I got the wool woven into some yarn and I made a sweater—you could smell the lanolin so heavily, and it literally could stand up on its own. It was so rough and tough, hard-core wool. So, yes, that was my project for Sheila: I would love a piece by you with my organic sheeps’ wool. We are yet to do it. Every couple of weeks I’m like, What’s going on with my sheep wool?

Hicks: I keep thinking you think I’m going to make it into something wearable.

McCartney: But Sheila, you were asked what is your first memory of art. I want to know!

Hicks: You make automatic associations. For me it is sheep.

McCartney: Ah, I love you! I’m disappointed with myself that I answered it so straight-on. But we have a connection through your great heritage with Josef Albers. My grandfather was his representative, and he had art by Albers lining his stairway—millions of different colors of Albers all the way up. You knew Albers also and hung out with him…

Hicks: I don’t know if you would call it hanging out. I was under his tutelage or his reign at Yale. I went and studied painting with him before you were on the block.

McCartney: Am I right in thinking you were the first woman?

Hicks: No, but there were very few. You could count them on your fingers, with maybe toes from one foot. Albers was a strong personality and was not nuanced in his human interactions. He was [nuanced] in his painting. But in his teaching and confrontations with his students and the people who depended on him, he was rather blunt. It was I think partly due to his difficulty in handling the subtlety of the English language when he came to America from Germany. He would go straight to the point. The punctuation almost was at the beginning of his sentences. Exclamation point—straighten up and listen because here it comes! He more or less took over my life when he saw that I understood and was sensitive to color. He would give me tasks. He would come in and say, “Girl…”—he couldn’t remember my name—“Girl, do this, do that.” Then one day he came in and said, “Girl, go down to the office and sign the papers I left for you—I’m sending you to Chile.” I went to the library and looked up on the map where it was.

ARTnews: Why Chile?

Hicks: He was on a committee that was selecting candidates for Fulbright scholarships. He had a connection to Chile. He had been there himself. He liked it and had set up a kind of annex of his teaching methodology in Santiago.

McCartney: You are unlike Albers in that you react very instinctively and emotionally to what is happening around you. You are not at all Germanic in the way that you approach things. Everything is sensory in the way in which you work. You’re spirited and you have light all around you—you are joyous. For the record, when we first met, I kind of stalked Sheila. I’ve always been a huge admirer and, in the fashion industry, she has been hugely influential. I’m not sure if she even knows that or if she chooses to acknowledge that she has been a massive influence on many designers. I’ve seen Sheila Hickses on the runway, and I know that she has inspired my work. So I stalked her and she very kindly took my meeting.

ARTnews: What is most significant about Sheila’s work in the context of fashion?

McCartney: What is extraordinary is the contrast of color. There are many reasons I’m so drawn to her work, but I identify the most with her use of color. She put a piece around my neck and we walked the streets of Paris….

Hicks: We walked out of the courtyard. We went through the gate. You were wearing a beautiful…

McCartney: Paris tweed.

Hicks: And everybody on the cobblestone path stopped. Their mouths dropped open and they turned as we walked by, and I thought, I think we are on to something. I think we are OK. We walked into a café and the guy who was jerking the coffee kept making mistakes—he made three coffees before he could get one right, because he was only watching you.

McCartney: Sadly, I think it was your work, Sheila, and not necessarily me.

and what are they doing? And I thought, This is real life. If we can get along like this, we could have a hell of a good time. We could be spontaneous. We could figure out what might be interesting and what is a waste. In the fashion industry that you lead…

McCartney: There is a lot of waste. There’s so much waste that every second there is a truckload of fast fashion either buried or burned. We are like-minded in our dislike of excess. We find it vulgar and upsetting. Tell me about how you work and how you have changed in the way in which you work. When we collaborated together, you made these paperclip earrings that became about waste and the charm and beauty in things that you glance over every day and take for granted. I could see your eyes go around the room and pick up things to create with. You took a measuring tape and sat in the back of the studio while we were doing fittings, and you wove a necklace out of the measuring tape and put it around my neck. Do you remember? I asked you to sign it to me. It was my first Sheila Hicks. But I came home the next day and my cleaner had very kindly taken it apart and wound it back up into a measuring tape again!

ARTnews: What do you two like most about working with one another?

Hicks: I’m going to go straight to something very recent, when you sent over a messenger from your Paris workshop with a big package to our studio. It was unannounced. They plunked it here in the midst of all our mess and, of course, whenever your things come in, they’re so beautifully packaged that we take good care of them. It is almost like in Japan, where the package is as important as the contents. So I was already alerted to pay attention.

ARTnews: What was inside?

Hicks: We opened it and there was this series of handbags, and I wondered, What’s this all about? It was typical of Stella, sort of like, You figure it out—I’m bringing these over and dumping them in your studio. And this was obviously a fortune of precious handbags. But they were all wanting something. They wanted color. You talked before about seeing your grandfather and Albers color flashes all up the stairway. Now I’m going to switch and say that, when I walk into any given situation or place, I look for the object that is a tip-off of what a person has chosen to represent themselves. What is the object or thing that they have selected? If you start to see that, you’re going to see a conversation that could go in any direction. Oftentimes if it is a woman, I look at the handbag. I ignore jewelry because a lot of times jewelry is just to impress people or something that someone has given them or that they have bought for status. But handbags—when you dumped them in my studio, I thought, I’ve got to make something that is interesting, because there are going to be all kinds of personalities who walk into your shop or into your orbit to look at an assortment of handbags. They are going to choose one, and it is going to be their toy, their mascot, their daily companion. We can make some kind of interpretations and statements with colors that people are repelled by or attracted to.

McCartney: I feel like you use more color now than you have in the past. Would you say that I’m right in that?

Hicks: Not when I am making exhibitions.

McCartney: When you have little playful projects, do you feel that color is more appropriate?

Hicks: Well, I’m a task person. When people assign tasks, I try to figure out what the task is.

McCartney: Let me tell you a little about the bags getting dumped with you. At the beginning of lockdown, I had already started my spring collection and I was again coming back to the idea of waste and trying to be a more sustainable and conscious person in the fashion industry. I had said to my team that I really did not want to order any new fabric. I wanted to reduce what I produce this season. I wanted to focus on being more sustainable and more mindful, and to look at how we could go about that. Then came this idea of an alphabet. Every letter had a word associated with it, like a manifesto. A is for Accountable, B is for British, C is for Conscious, etc.

ARTnews: How did you choose Sheila to work on the letter F?

McCartney: F is for Falabella, a classic bag that we created. Sheila’s art is never going to get thrown away. It is so mindfully, beautifully crafted that it will be there for life and will get passed down from generation to generation. When I design, I try to create things that people won’t want to throw away—that they can either gift or hand down or resell. This is a bag that has been with us for a long time that people love. It has a softness to it. It has a hardness to it. And it is vegan, with recycled lining that is made out of ocean plastic waste. We are very proud of this bag, and I wanted Sheila to reinvigorate it with her own twist. She could adorn it or interrupt it to make individual pieces that could become even more cherished, even more loved and valued.

ARTnews: What was her immediate reaction like?

McCartney: She was kind of hesitant. What I love about Sheila is that she’s not here to BS anyone, and she was like, “I don’t get it. I don’t understand.” But then she brought new life to it.

Hicks: I tried take this coveted object and particularize it in some memorable way without making it less nice. How do you take a Stella McCartney bag and make it better? You have to be culottée to do that—in French that means you have to have balls. You don’t want to make it worse and you can’t ruin it, but how are you going to particularize it? Maybe by adding a sense of humor to it. In these times, I think that is one thing we all need.

McCartney: Does color add a sense of humor?

Hicks: Yes, definitely. Even when they bring food to you on a table, people notice if it has some color.

McCartney: Do you find it tiring seeing everything? Has it ever been a problem for you? I see you seeing everything—your eyes dart around the room, almost like a computer.

Hicks: It’s an advantage, believe me, not a disadvantage.

ARTnews: Stella, why was it important for you to work with artists on your latest collection?

McCartney: I wanted to assign each piece a different meaning. Z, for example, is for Zero Waste, and for that piece I used strips we saved. In the fashion industry we create our own prints, and most of the houses burn or bury leftovers. They don’t sell it or give it away because it is their own individual print and they don’t want anyone else to have it, whereas I save them because I can’t bear the thought of throwing them away. What I did was take what I had sitting in a warehouse and make a zero-waste dress.

Also, while creating this collection, I was really conscious of my community of friends during lockdown. Most of my friends are artists. I was isolated on my own, reaching out to my artist friends and thinking this was no different [from how artists] work. For my process, there are usually lots of people in the room from day one. So I thought I would love my circle of great artist friends to visualize these letters and words so it wasn’t just me alone. I wanted to bring artists in to create another layer of recognition.

ARTnews: Sheila, how do you look at or think about fashion?

Hicks: Before I even see a dress, I touch it. I close my eyes and touch it, because I know it is going to touch my body. To get the maximum out of the minimum, you have to have beautiful material. And then from the material, move to the color and the cut, the tailoring, the draping. That’s my sequencing. I don’t start with color. I start with tactility.

McCartney: I start with texture too. In the design process we have to choose our fabrics first.

Hicks: We should overprint on top of the old prints—make a collection of printing on printing.

McCartney: I’ve got you, girl! We should do a whole other project.

Hicks: I went into a printer’s workshop where they were printing one of my books, and I saw in the trash all the pages they threw away because they were misprinted. We recuperated all of them and made a book out of the mistaken pages.

McCartney: I want one of those! Do you find it hard to tell the story of your work? For me there is so much depth to how I work in fashion—not just the design but the sourcing and being environmentally conscious of our fellow creatures—but I find it hard to tell that story. Do you feel people need to know the story of your work—or is that irrelevant to you? You know, the little piece of paper on the museum wall that tells your story?

Hicks: You have to alert their curiosity. In this digital age, everybody is so full of knowledge, awareness, and interactive communication that there are know-it-all characters who consider themselves critics of everything. I think you’ve got to find a way to puzzle them and stop them dead in their tracks, so they say, “Oh my god, I don’t get it, I don’t know what this is. But it is really interesting…”

McCartney: One of the reasons I wanted to get artists involved is because I feel like something critical to what we do falls away. I need to explain to someone that my shoes are vegan and they don’t have animal glue in them. I want them to notice but also not to notice, and I’m different in that, in a lot of ways, I want to erase the norms of the fashion industry. I want it not to be noticeable that you haven’t got a crocodile bag or leather bag, but I want to replace a very destructive and harmful side to the industry that I’m in.

Hicks: I think you are more a missionary and I’m more of a troublemaker.

McCartney: I’m a troublemaker too. That’s why we like each other.

ARTnews: Sheila, the level of recognition and regard given to art made with textiles has soared in recent years. How do you feel about that at this stage in your career?

Hicks: What street are we going to walk down? Are we going to walk down the textile street or the art street or the design street? What I do is so off the wall that people have a hard time putting it into a category. Just when somebody wants to talk about it as art, you’re going to have 10 people shake their finger and say, “C’est très mignon mais c’est pas de la tapisserie”—it is very cute but it is not tapestry. When I came into orbit, tapestry was even higher in the hierarchy than painting. When Charles de Gaulle wanted to reestablish the prestige of France after the Second World War, what did he do? He sent abroad exhibitions of French tapestry.

Then we go into fashion and come to the whole beautiful industry of the silk weavers. And from there it is downhill. What were they doing in the United Sates? They were growing cotton down on the plantations—nobody was producing silk. I started at the bottom and was dismissed by everybody as not-art, not-textile, not-tapestry, not-design. It was decorative.

McCartney: How much has architecture informed what you do? Do you take interiors into account when you’re creating?

Hicks: Always. When I sit down someplace, I look around and see the space and the architecture and the light. And from there we move on. I don’t focus on the cup on the table until I’ve seen where I am sitting.

McCartney: What do you not like in a room?

Hicks: I hate to sit in a room and look at men wearing stupid neckties.

McCartney: [Laughs.] One of the artists that has joined you in my alphabet is William Eggleston. He always wears neckties.

Hicks: But are they fantastic neckties? They are guys’ one chance to make a statement.

McCartney: It’s the only gig they’ve got—I hear you. But he wears them very well. He pulls it off. It’s a good look.

Hicks: Imagine how exciting it was for me to go to Saudi Arabia in the 1980s and sit in a meeting where all the men were draped—every single one wearing head-to-floor textiles. It sticks with me because the guys were moving and changing positions and you’d see textiles moving all around the room. It was a real kick. These were not girls wearing short skirts and showing their legs and trying to call attention to their presentation. They were very modest and covered up, with mountains of material sitting there. It was a real thrill.

McCartney: It’s a definite flipside from what we are used to.

Hicks: I’ve been waiting…. Has anybody done a fashion show where people come in and walk the whole way in reverse?

McCartney: Oh, I don’t know. It’s very David Lynch. Probably—and if not, I’ll do it.

Hicks: I think we should.

McCartney: But what happens when they fall over and all of the models go down like dominoes, though? Are you going to take the blame when that happens?

Hicks: They’ll figure it out. It would be so nice to see things moving around the runway in reverse, like a film. You know how much fun it would be looking at a Charlie Chaplin movie in reverse? Or Buster Keaton? Get the guy who is putting the music on the runway to play in reverse. It will be fascinating.

A version of this article appears in the Winter 2021 issue of ARTnews, under the title “Stella McCartney + Sheila Hicks.”

Fashion

The truth about fast fashion: can you tell how ethical your clothing is by its price?

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What is the true cost of a Zara hoodie? In April 2019, David Hachfeld of the Swiss NGO Public Eye, along with a team of researchers and the Clean Clothes Campaign, attempted to find out. They chose to analyse a black, oversized top from Zara’s flagship Join Life sustainability line, which was printed with lyrics made famous by Aretha Franklin: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T: find out what it means to me”. It was an apt choice, because the idea was to work out whether any respect had been paid to the workers involved in the garment’s production, and how much of the hoodie’s average retail price, €26.66 (£22.70), went into their pockets.

This was no simple assignment. It took several people six months, involved badgering Zara’s parent company, Inditex, over email, slowly getting limited information in return, and interviewing dozens of sources on the ground in Izmir, Turkey, where the garment was made. The researchers analysed financial results and trading data, and consulted with experts in pricing and production. It was, Hachfeld says on the phone, with dry understatement, “quite a huge project”.

Their research suggested that the biggest chunk of the hoodie’s retail price – an estimated €10.26 – went back into Zara, to cover retail space and staff wages. The next biggest slice, after VAT at €4.44, was profit for Inditex/Zara, at €4.20. Their research suggested that the textile factory in Izmir received just €1.53 for cutting the material, sewing, packing and attaching the labels, with €1.10 of that being paid to the garment workers for the 30-minute job of putting the hoodie together. The report concluded that workers could not have received anything like a living wage, which the Clean Clothes Campaign defined, at the time the report was released, as a gross hourly wage of €6.19.

When the research was covered by the media at the time, Zara said the report was “based on erroneous premises and inaccurate reporting”, that the €7.76 sourcing price was wrong and that the workers were “paid more than the amounts mentioned in Public Eye’s report”. But at the time and when I contacted Zara for this article, the company declined to set out in greater detail where the research was inaccurate.

Workers in a small garment factory in Istanbul
Workers in a small garment factory in Istanbul. Photograph: NurPhoto/Getty Images

What is clear is that trying to find out the true production cost of a garment is a tortuous and potentially fruitless process – even when assessing a major high street retailer’s flagship “sustainability” line.

Hachfeld points out that Zara is by no means uniquely opaque. It is doing more than many clothing brands and has long-term commitments in place to work towards living wages. “They are launching initiatives and consultations with trade unions. But the question remains: when will they deliver on it?” he says. Vanishingly few retailers guarantee living wages across their vast, complex supply chains. According to the not-for-profit group Fashion Revolution, only two of the world’s 250 largest fashion brands (OVS and Patagonia) disclose how many of their workers are paid a living wage – despite the kind of resources that make billionaires of founders. Forbes estimates that Zara’s founder, Amancio Ortega, is worth $77bn (£55bn) and that H&M’s founder, Stefan Persson, is worth $21.3bn; the Sunday Times puts the wealth of Boohoo’s co-founder, Mahmud Kamani, at £1.4bn.

Throughout fashion, the numbers just don’t add up. High-street clothing has been getting cheaper and cheaper for decades. A major reason why, according to Gordon Renouf, the CEO of the fashion ethics comparison app Good on You, is that so many western brands have “moved from onshore production 40 years ago to larger offshore production”. Often, the countries they have chosen have “much lower wage costs, weaker labour movements and laxer environmental regulations”. Of course, we know all this, but we have also become accustomed to reaping the benefits. Our perception of what clothing should cost – and how much of it we need – has shifted.

In 1970, for example, the average British household spent 7% of its annual income on clothing. This had fallen to 5.9% by 2020. Even though we are spending less proportionally, we tend to own more clothes. According to the UN, the average consumer buys 60% more pieces of clothing – with half the lifespan – than they did 15 years ago. Meanwhile, fashion is getting cheaper: super-fast brands such as Shein (which sells tie-dye crop tops for £1.49) and Alibaba (vest tops for $2.20), have boomed online, making high-street brands look slow-moving and expensive by comparison.

But the correlation between price and ethics is knotty, to say the least. The conversation about sustainable fashion tends to be dominated by expensive designer brands: at Stella McCartney, for example, a wool-cotton jumper costs £925; at Another Tomorrow, each $520 sustainable viscose carbon-offset scarf neck blouse features a QR code in the label that outlines every stage of its “provenance journey”.

On the high street, many who proudly opt out of shopping at Primark or Boohoo for ethical reasons may be unaware that most reassuringly mid-priced brands don’t guarantee workers living wages or produce clothing without using environmentally harmful materials. A garment’s price is often more about aspiration and customer expectation than the cost of production. Hachfeld points out that the Zara hoodie was priced higher in Switzerland (CHF 45.90; €39.57), where Zara is positioned as a mid-range brand, than in Spain (€25.95), where it is perceived as more mainstream and affordable.

Another Tomorrow scar-neck blouse.
‘Provenance journey’ … Another Tomorrow scarf neck blouse.

Online, debates about the price of clothing can get heated. The sustainable-fashion writer Aja Barber, for example, uses the phrase “exploitation prices” to refer to very cheap clothes, such as the 8p bikini offered by the Boohoo brand Pretty Little Thing last autumn. “Either the company or the garment worker is taking the hit, and most likely it’s not the company, because that wouldn’t be a profitable business model,” she says.

Barber has a personal threshold in mind when she buys an item. “Any time a dress is under £50, you really need to break down the labour on it,” she says. “Think about what you get paid hourly – think, could a person make this dress in three hours?” She doesn’t base this calculation on local wages in the global south, either, which are so much lower “because of years of colonialism and oppression”. She buys new clothes infrequently and tries to avoid polyester, which is made with fossil fuels and generally used in garments to make them cheaper.

Barber gets annoyed by the accusations of snobbery that ripple through social media when anyone criticises super-cheap brands. Largely, she says, these comments come from middle-class people “who want to participate in the system and not feel bad about it”. In her view, fast fashion is propped up not by those with very low disposable incomes, but by middle-class overconsumption.

The only way to tell if a garment has been ethically produced is by combing through the details on the manufacturer’s website (although many brands give little or no information) and checking out its rating on Good on You, which compares fashion brands on the basis of their impact on the planet, people and animals. Even among brands that have launched with sustainability as their USP, greenwashing is rife. Renouf warns against those that talk vaguely about being “natural” and “fair”, or bang on about recycled packaging, without giving details about, say, the materials they use or whether they engage with unions in their factories.

For the fashion retailer Sam Mabley, the idea that fashion can be ethical only if it is expensive is a myth. Mabley runs a sustainable fashion store in Bristol; he thought it was a shame that he was selling so many ethical T-shirts at around the £30 price point. Usually, he says, such T-shirts are created in small batches, by “cool indie brands who do printed designs – a lot of the work is in the design”. He decided to invert that business model, ramping up the scale in order to get bigger discounts from suppliers and creating plain, organic cotton, ethically produced Ts in black and white for £7.99. With just a month of social media promotion, he secured 4,000 orders.

A model wears a Yes Friends T-shirt by Sam Mabley
‘Buying power’ … a Yes Friends T-shirt by Sam Mabley.

He believes it would be fairly easy for fast-fashion brands to use their buying power to “drive change for millions of workers around the world” and guarantee their factories paid living wages, without drastically affecting their margins. He is not alone in this view: Jenny Hulme, the head of buying at the sustainable fashion mainstay People Tree, believes ethical production is necessary and possible in every part of the market. “If you order in big volumes, it does reduce price – if a company really wants to improve, it can,” she says.

The reality of high-street clothes shopping is still very far from this ideal. Apart from a few “sustainable” lines produced by the big fast-fashion brands – which I am loath to recommend, because of so many accusations of greenwashing – it is almost impossible to find new, ethical clothing at rock-bottom prices, because the business models that have enabled clothing to get this cheap rely on inexpensive, environmentally damaging fabrics and very low wages.

That may leave anyone wanting to dress ethically on a high-street purse feeling out of options, although Renouf points out that buying better is possible at every budget. That is why, he says, Good on You aims to “provide ratings for as many brands as possible, rather than simply promoting the most sustainable brands”. You could, for example, move from an ultra-rapid fashion brand to a more engaged high-street fast-fashion brand, which might not cost much more, but still could constitute progress.

Buying fewer, but better-quality, items might save you money overall and is the most consistent advice you will hear from fashion campaigners. “Buy the best quality that you can afford, perhaps in end-of-season sales or by buying a thick jumper in the middle of summer to wear the next winter,” says Hulme.

Stepping out of the trend cycle, and avoiding brands that trade on planned obsolescence, is another avenue to explore. For example, Patrick Grant, a judge on the BBC’s The Great British Sewing Bee, explains that his Community Clothing brand aims to give shoppers more bang for their buck by stocking basics rather than continually designing new collections (it also does without retail space and marketing). Working to slimmer margins means he can invest in good fabric, but keep prices fairly low: his £49 hoodies are made from 470g 100% loopback cotton, a thicker, more durable fabric than you might find for a similar price on the high street.

A blazer from ethical brand Lora Gene
A blazer from the ethical brand Lora Gene. Photograph: Lora Gene

For those who can afford mid-high street prices, researching small, sustainable brands might glean results. A quick look at the Zara website today shows silk dresses selling for as much as £199, with plenty of others at £49.99, while H&M-owned &OtherStories sells blazers for about £120; Barber points out that at these prices, shoppers could switch to ethical brands including Lora Gene, for which she has designed a collection, and Ninety Percent. (There is a dress I like the look of for £64 in the Ninety Percent sale; a mustard Lora Gene blazer is £139.)

If those prices are out of reach, swapping clothes, shopping secondhand, repairing and rethinking what you already have, and occasionally renting for special occasions can all be cheaper – even free – alternatives.

Voting with your wallet will only go so far, however, and won’t be possible for many people who are struggling, as the number of people in poverty in the UK soars to 15 million. Questioning the magical thinking of rock-bottom prices is not about blaming the consumer. Instead, you could write to MPs and CEOs and demand that they do something about living wages and the environmental cost of fashion. The responsibility lies with brands, and with the government, which should be held to account for a broken system.

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Fashion

9 Amazon Fashion Brands You Need to Be Shopping

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9 Amazon Fashion Brands You Need to Be Shopping

You’re already well-acquainted with Amazon as your shopping preference for everything from household products to books, tech accessories to groceries. But since 2017 one of the world’s largest retail marketplaces has made a pointed effort to expand past their traditional stock. In less than four years, Amazon has introduced dozens of in-house fashion brands, making their mark on the style world in the process. (And with free speedy shipping on most Amazon Prime items, there’s never been an easier way to do a spot of last-minute shopping).

We’ve gathered the nine standout Amazon fashion brands you need to know below. Whether you’re looking to refresh your underwear drawer, update your closet with some trend-focused finds, or simply add a few wardrobe essentials, the mega-retailer is literally your one-stop destination.

Core 10

What it is: High-quality workout-wear with tons of amazing reviews

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If you’re looking for affordable activewear that performs just as well as brands three times the price, Core 10 is your answer (it comes in extended sizing as well). Sports bras, leggings, shorts, hoodies, and more—it’s got all your workout needs covered.

Highlights include a ’90s-fantastic collaboration with Reebok launched earlier this summer and a “Build your own” legging option. Shoppers can customize their perfect pair with three lengths and three waistband styles, resulting in one shopper saying that they’re the “best leggings [she’s] tried. Hands down.”

Wild Meadow

What it is: Basics with a ’90s feel that all cost less than $30

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Launched this spring, Wild Meadow brings that easy-breezy youthful ’90s vibe and all styles are offered up to a size XXL. The best part? Not a single item costs more than $30, which means you should stock up—ASAP.

In the market for a tie-dye cami dress? A tie-front cropped tee? Still hunting for that perfect slip dress that will take you from day to night with a simple shoe swap? Wild Meadow has you covered with all that and more.

Amazon Essentials

What it is: Non-basic basics that are budget-friendly

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The Amazon Essentials brand includes food, household items—and wardrobe basics. Essentials, yes, but they’re anything but boring. Expect to find everything from floral t-shirt dresses to cozy fleeces, yoga leggings to bathing suits.

It’s affordable—prices are pretty much all under $50, with most under $25—and available in plus sizes. An important-to-know factor that makes this label stand out is how many maternity options there are, should you be in the market. In short, you can curate your entire wardrobe virtually no matter your size, budget, or stage of life.

Goodthreads

What it is: Trend-driven closet essentials

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Goodthreads started as a menswear-only Amazon brand but quickly expanded into the womenswear market. This line has a lot of wardrobe essentials, like button-down shirts, chinos, and sundresses, but they’re a bit more fashion-focused than some of Amazon’s other basics go-tos (like Amazon Essentials).

Here, you’ll find cinched-waist midi dresses, tops with subtly ruffled sleeves, and colorfully striped button-downs. The biggest draw, though, is the denim, which is sold in six different silhouettes, showcasing an impressive number of length and wash options. The size range for Goodthreads is XS-XXL on most pieces.

There is

What it is: Everyday underwear and lingerie, plus great swim options

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Amazon’s own lingerie brand offers everything from underwire bras to slinky slips and lace-trimmed thongs. If you’re looking for underwear or sleepwear of any kind, this is your brand.

For casual everyday wear, Mae offers cotton briefs and bras, lacy bralettes, and future go-to t-shirt bras to name a few. If you’re looking for more of a special lingerie moment, consider their wide selection of sexy, flirty sets and separates. The brand has expanded into swim, shapewear, and pajamas, too.

Daily Ritual

What it is: Comfortable basics that go up to 7X

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Daily Ritual is your go-to for comfortable options that look presentable enough for stepping out with friends or running errands. The brand is known for its selection of casual essentials that are anything but basic, and most items are made of a super soft cotton jersey or fleece.

There’s a bit of everything, including puffer jackets for when temps get chilly, but the majority of the pieces focus on classic cotton tees, joggers, and the like. An impressive amount is offered in plus sizes up to 7X, providing real universal appeal. For the shopper who loves to dress simply, stay comfortable, and look put-together, this is the Amazon fashion brand for you.

The Drop

What it is: Limited-edition collections co-created with some of today’s biggest social stars

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Built on the concept of curated, limited-edition capsule collections that are only promised to be available for a quick 30 hours, The Drop is Amazon’s most coveted line. Each collab is designed and curated by a rotating list of bloggers and influencers uniquely catering to their individual style at affordable prices—it’s either pieces they want for their own wardrobe or have developed a signature look around.

Past influencers to participate include Charlotte Groeneveld of The Fashion Guitar, Leonie Hanne of Ohh Couture, Quigley Goode of Officially Quigley, and more. Depending on the influencer, The Drop could include everything from wrap dresses to faux leather pants; teddy bear shearling coats or shackets. You have 30 hours to order originally, but some styles (like the below) make a reappearance.

Cable Stitch

What it is: Classic knitwear silhouettes, updated

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The name literally says it all: Cable Stitch is the Amazon brand to go to if you love a good knitwear moment. Cardigans, pullovers, dresses…you name it. The range will appeal to minimalists and maximalists alike, with classic solid colors and brightly colored stripes in the mix.

When Amazon creates an entire line centered around knitwear, you know they’re going to go big or go home. You can shop an array of the more unconventional knits that are trending (like side-slit midis and puff-sleeve pullovers) as well as basics. Most pieces retail between $20 and $60, though some outliers will exist from season to season.

The Fix

What it is: Stand-out shoes and bags that can upgrade everything in your closet

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Accessory obsessed? You need to know about The Fix. Specializing in the little pieces that make or break a look, this is your shop for all the trendiest footwear and handbags you’ve been coveting since you first saw them explode on the street style scene.

At The Fix, you can shop heels, flats, sandals, and sneakers in a range of head-turning styles. There are certainly no basics here, with every style boasting at least one special detail that makes them stand out from the rest. Whether that’s an ankle strap or chunky heels covered in velvet, special details let you transform your look by swapping in a new accessory.

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The 7 Fall 2021 Colors You’re About to See Everywhere

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The 7 Fall 2021 Colors You're About to See Everywhere
fall colors

Courtesy / Susanna Hayward

While editors and fashion enthusiasts are poring over the next ready-to-wear and accessory must-haves, we’re also taking note of Fall’s emerging color trends. As in autumn seasons past, there was a noticeable shift in 2021 to traditionally warmer tones, like clay and army green. Brighter colors, like fuchsia and silver, were also notable color combos. Keep on scrolling to discover what shades we’re forecasting for fall, and get ahead of the game by shopping out our favorite hues right now.


Indigo Child

This distinctive blue tone sauntered down the catwalk in dresses, puffers, and of course denim. The color is said to promote higher levels of concentration, too.

indigo

Tod’s, Salvatore Ferragamo, Schiaparelli

Courtesy / Susanna Hayward


(Army) Green with Envy

Everyday staples are elevated in an army green hue. The shade was reimagined in patent leather jackets, mini dresses, and cool tie-dye prints.

army green

Versace, Balmain, Sportmax

Courtesy / Susanna Hayward


Play with Clay

Warm up your autumn wardrobe with fuzzy bombers, sweater dresses, and overcoats that can be mixed-and-matched with your existing brown accessories.

clay

Zimmermann, Victor Glemaud, Acne Studios

Courtesy / Susanna Hayward


Seeing Red

This maximalist primary color can adapt to minimalist wardrobe collections. Incorporate red into your classically tailored suits or swap your LBD for a slinky red version.

red

Antonio Marras, Adam Lippes, Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello

Courtesy / Susanna Hayward


Fun with Fuchsia

Invigorate any piece with a bold fuchsia color palette. Tone down the ultra bright hue with neutrals in camel, grey, or ivory.

pink

Chanel, Gucci, Stella McCartney

Courtesy / Susanna Hayward


Lean into Lilac

Move over pastel pink. Lilac is taking over the scene in the form of bodycon dresses, outerwear, and serene head-to-toe suiting.

lilac

Jil Sander, Salvatore Ferragamo, Givenchy

Courtesy / Susanna Hayward


Silver Linings

No need to save your silver for special occasions. Parade the invigorating color on everyday staples like pleated skirts, blazers and cable knits.

silver

Balmain, Louis Vuitton, ROKH

Courtesy / Susanna Hayward

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