After learning what fast fashion does to the environment, one label decides to be the antithesis of it.
BEFORE she set up her fashion label Hux The Label, Yasmine Patpatia had different plans. She was planning to just buy products and sell them. Naturally, she wanted to find out more about the manufacturing process and thought a visit to the factories was necessary. But her request was denied by the manufacturers.
“It got me thinking what was the big secret? And so I spent a year investigating the fashion industry. I found that it is not a nice industry in a lot of ways, mainly because of fast fashion.”
Over the past few decades, fast fashion has been the buzzword in the industry. It refers to fashion lines that are available in stores almost every month, or even every week, because the process from concept to completion is accelerated thanks to customer demands.
These fashion lines are sought after, not only because some of them are imitations of the runway collections, but also because they are sold at lower prices. Due to demand, fashion brands such as Zara, H&M, Forever 21, Mango and Topshop, among others, have introduced up to 50 collections a year. Because of this, the brands are also expanding their operations worldwide aggressively, especially in Asia.
While this trend has pushed the fashion industry and economy further, the other side of the story has begun to surface, and it is a stark contrast to the image these fashion brands portray in their boutiques.
Yasmine, who is the founder and creative director, says consumers may not realise the impact they have created when they buy clothes that they can get fast and cheap.
She says fast fashion has seen reports of pollution and abuse of workers as these brands rush to meet the demands of customers. They have to make the clothing lines in bulk, which also causes wastage.
The way in which the products are made damages not only the environment but also the quality of life of the people involved in the process. The whole idea of fast fashion teaches us to over-consume at cheap prices.
“The dyeing process is really dangerous and toxic to people and environment. Workers having to meet deadline work for long hours and in very dangerous conditions, yet they are paid so little.”
Last month, it was reported that H&M had more than US$4.3 billion (RM16.86 billion) worth of unsold clothes. Yasmine says there could be more damage but nobody knows the extent of fast fashion’s impact because the brands keep their manufacturing process a secret.
She says fast fashion will exist for as long as there is demand from consumers, especially women. The brands’ marketing is heavily targeted at women because their idea of “fashionable” is not to wear the same outfit twice.
“So it is time for women to take a stand. The world is never going to change but it is time for us to say enough is enough. It is not a bad thing to wear the same outfit again as long as it is still wearable.
“It is our job as consumers to dictate the narrative and change our thinking about the way we shop and why. In turn, this will force companies into making the necessary changes. It is more about educating ourselves and understanding what can we do to put a stop to it because as long as the brands are making money, they are not going to change.”
Yasmine says consumers should shop less, looking for better quality items, upcycle the clothes they already have and shop with small brands which are transparent about their processes. They should also buy things that last and not throw away their clothes after a few months.
Over the last five years, however, she says there has been a slight change in the brands’ attitudes in promoting their clothing lines. Some of them are now more transparent in their manufacturing processes.
“Companies like Nike realised a few years back that people are not going to buy their products anymore unless it is honest, so they changed the process.”
Yasmine says Hux, which she set up two years ago, is curated to be the opposite of fast fashion. It is a slow-fashion label, specialising in one-of-a-kind handmade bags and accessories from around the world.
The products are all handmade, they are not based on seasons, they are unique and they are not mass-produced.
“You don’t have to worry that the products are not stylish or fashionable because they are not season-driven. Slow fashion, though much more expensive to make, can last longer as long as you take good care of it. Now there are more affordable slow fashion companies around.”
Yasmine got the idea to set-up Hux when a woman wanted to buy a handmade bag that Yasmine was carrying. The woman offered £200 (RM1,092) for the bag, which Yasmine bought in India for £5.
“I did not sell the bag to her as I liked it. But I thought that maybe I did have an eye for fashion. Although I don’t have a fashion background and my friends said I don’t have fashion sense, but people like what I like.
“Another reason is that I like things that are unusual, things that you can’t find everywhere, that are limited in quantity but affordable. For me, the products are unique. You know that not many people are going to have them. I make them in small quantities and everything is different from the next. So you are the only person with that product.”
Yasmine, who is based in London, says at the moment the products available are made in Malaysia and Indonesia. She says she is familiar with the handmade products of these two countries having worked in Singapore.
As the designer, she works with the artisans to hand-source the fabrics and produce a small batch of products. In addition to Hux’s original collection, online store www.huxthelabel.com, also sells products from other independent labels including Frankitas, Yard Yarn and Love, Kaur.
“I want to keep the products as local as I can from the materials to the artisans. For me, the process takes about nine months from sketching to finished product. At the moment I use rattan and bamboo for the bags. I’m trying to find more vegan-friendly materials”
“I travel a lot and try to get inspired from the places that I have been to. The rattan bag is actually based on a stool that I saw in a shop. I thought of creating a design for a bag.
As for her own style, Yasmine says she does not follow trends and she loves the mix and match styles. “I like to put them together to try make it work. The reason is that I don’t own a lot of clothes. So I just create different styles. I don’t always wear slow fashion but if I buy items from a high street brand, I make sure they can last long.”