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A FIRST HAND INTRODUCTION INTO THE WORLD OF RAISING FIBER ANIMALS, SPINNING, WEAVING, AND NATURAL DYEING.

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A Journey Backwards

Kacie Hodges

My textile journey began somewhat at the end of the product chain and has been working its way backward ever since. In college I studied Apparel Design, Manufacturing, and Production Management. It didn't take long for me to learn that the "industry standard" in the fashion world is to hurl yourself into creating four seasonal lines per year AND somehow have them manufactured in enough time to be on the racks before said season approached. All this while chasing the latest trends.

The unrealistic expectations placed upon turnaround time from design to finished garment did not account for such research, nor did the cheap "fast fashion" business model support its necessary spending budget. In a desperate attempt to keep up with the latest trends, consumers were shopping cheaper and cheaper outlets, demanding to pay less for clothing as their yearly shopping trips turned to quarterly spending sprees for wardrobe updates. Meanwhile, this rat race has caused the people up top to turn a blind eye to the horrible working conditions of endless factory sewers and seamstresses.

At the time, none of my classes were focused on responsible sourcing of materials. Never was the subject of sustainability or transparency discussed, thus the majority of my peers were left to their own devices of sourcing the cheapest fabric and notions possible.

Meanwhile, I splurged on silk from sustainable resources in order to make an ethical design for an I.T.A.A. competition, in hopes of starting a conversation. I created a rendition of a Buddhist monk robe that I hand dyed in my bath tub. It was made from the nicest, most ethically sourced fabric I could possibly afford at the time.

I wanted the fine quality of the fabric to symbolize the beauty of the monk's heart; the simplicity of the traditional wardrobe to represent their humble nature.

I think I only confused the judges with my choice of entry. The quality of the fabric was totally lost in the shock of seeing my model walk in dressed in something that was completely off cue compared to the rest of the designs presented. This became the trend of the remainder of my project presentations, though I am grateful to my professors who encouraged me to blaze my own trail, no matter how different it seemed at the time.

Throughout the years I have continued to listen to my conscious despite the glaring doubts of others, becoming an advocate for sustainable design and responsible sourcing. I am grateful to see signs that ridiculous "industry standard" is finally about to come crashing down upon itself.

Following on the heels of the slow food movement comes a resurgence of consciously made clothing, paying tribute to the importance of knowing where your garments are created, and how they affect the lives of the people that make them. I am thrilled to be a part of it.

It won't happen overnight. But I am encouraged, because I know the conversation has been started. A spark has been lit, and with the right fuel, it will ignite a new era in the way we think about clothing and textiles.