New Orleans designers say ‘fast fashion’ needs to go | Lifestyle

Maria Sandhammer used to be learning model design on the Savannah College of Art and Design 10 years in the past and recalls a life-changing battle with the management.

She already entered college as a staunch environmentalist and scholars like her have been desperate to get into sustainable and recycled fabrics as a strategy to rapid model. But a number of professors didn’t see that as a viable choice. 

“I remember thinking, that’s absurd,” Sandhammer says. “I remember feeling a little bit angry and thinking, ‘I accept that challenge.’”

Sandhammer took that problem together with her out of school and now, a decade later, she makes sustainably sourced Mardi Gras-inspired sleep mask for her corporate Sleephammer — whole with beads, tassels, and regularly with embroidered eyes so nobody sneaks up on you on your sleep.

New Orleans is understood for its hospitality, meals, parades and different celebrations. It’s a town on the backside of the high-traffic business course of the Mississippi River, Mardi Gras beads drape from tree branches year-round, and trash accumulates on tourist-packed Bourbon Street and alongside parade routes all over Carnival. This all speaks to the carefree surroundings of residing within the second — now and again with out taking into consideration penalties for the long run.

However, some conscientious native distributors suppose we will each embody the inventive, freewheeling surroundings whilst additionally decreasing waste. One facet that is helping—if we put just a bit extra effort and concept into it—is pivoting clear of rapid model and shifting towards sustainable model.

“I try to do everything I can as just one person to not make garbage,” Sandhammer says in the case of her designs, even if she admits it’s no longer foolproof. “But everybody makes a little bit of garbage.”


Fast model may also be traced to the discovery of the stitching gadget, which for sure made sewing material extra environment friendly for the loads. But all too not unusual as of late is clothes made temporarily for the sake of ephemeral developments: regularly in deficient high quality, all to stay alongside of what’s in taste.

In the past due Nineteen Nineties and early 2000s, on-line buying groceries higher in recognition, and rapid model outlets corresponding to H&M and Zara started to overwhelmingly seem in maximum buying groceries retailers. The call for for quick model continues to develop to these days and in 2020 the trade used to be price $31.4 billion. As just lately because the mid 2010s,  the common American buys round 68 items of clothes in step with yr.

Items that fall into “fast fashion” are made the use of reasonable fabrics and underpaid, exploited employees who regularly paintings across the clock in deplorable stipulations in a foreign country, the place exertions regulations are lax or nonexistent. Clothing finally ends up polluting the earth in landfills—desirous about fads that regularly ultimate not up to a month. 

Cree McCree design

A Carnival outfit bought via Cree McCree out of used clothes and recycled fabrics. 

Sandhammer, who switched to creating face mask all over the pandemic, says that she regularly we could developments roll via. She prefers vintage kinds anyway, however she additionally prefers to make use of recycled fabrics and pieces from thrift retail outlets to scale back waste and injury.

She even prefers the use of biodegradable delivery pieces, like paper as a substitute of plastic when she mails orders to non-local consumers.

Sandhammer says rapid model is an trade that best makes a speciality of maintaining with fleeting developments. And via doing that, corporations churn out industrially produced, low high quality clothes that can quickly be thrown away because of put on and tear.

“People buy fast fashion knowing that the garment is going to fall apart in three months,” she says.

Sandhammer hopes her have an effect on on New Orleans is helping encourage folks to be extra considerate.

“Most occasions folks will purchase the object that I make and so they give it to someone,” Sandhammer says. “And giving gifts makes people feel good—it’s kind of a cute talking point. So in that way, I feel like it’s enriching to people in New Orleans.”


Tabitha Bethune is a local designer who began her fashion business in 2008 because she was tired of seeing people dressing exactly alike. She wanted to create a brand that encouraged individual expression, with customized, limited-edition styles.

Bethune acknowledges how widespread fast fashion is, but she does have optimism that some people are slowly starting to move away from it. 

“If people knew where their clothes came from, they wouldn’t wear so much of it,” Bethune says. “But what I found is that a lot of people don’t care where their clothes came from. They just want to look like someone else.”

She thinks persons are beginning to transform extra aware and planned with their model alternatives, particularly younger folks as a result of they’re beginning to department out with other kinds. 

Bethune prioritizes sustainability and says that she loves to make issues well-tailored so as to make a smaller ecological footprint and to keep away from her creations finishing up in landfills.

It’s rather simple arithmetic, she says: the easier an merchandise suits, the fewer material she has to make use of.

Bethune believes that the sector may adapt to getting dressed with out donning pieces from rapid model industries.

“But [overall] they won’t,” she says. “It’s a wicked world that’s driven for power and to make money. Clothing producers often don’t care who it hurts through the process.”

Cree McCree costume sale

A Halloween dress sale curated via Cree McCree 

Corporations won’t care, however in conjunction with Bethune and Sandhammer, some other native clothier places nice effort into harm-reduction and developing — reasonably than stripping away — alternatives from in a foreign country employees.

Katie Schmidt, the landlord of Passion Lilie, makes a speciality of Fair Trade trade practices to lend a hand artists in India. 

Years in the past, she noticed there used to be a loss of sustainable, ethically sourced merchandise that have been qualified Fair Trade, reasonably priced, and prime quality in New Orleans. It didn’t sit down proper together with her, so she sought to satisfy that want together with her fledgling trade. Now, Schmidt designs, assets and distributes attire, tops, skirts and different colourful, fine quality pieces in various patterns to boutiques across the nation. In the method, she has constructed an area, unswerving buyer base.

“I don’t want to create a product that is going to harm the environment or people,” Schmidt says. “It’s not an easy process, but it’s important. If I’m going to make something, I want it to be something that is going to have a positive impact on the world.”

Fast fashion is simply not necessary, Schmidt says. She embraces the idea of creating an ethical business without creating harmful products solely for the sake of profit.

Schmidt feels she has a significantly lower carbon footprint and a better aim to be carbon neutral than any fashion mass producers.

Passion Lilie is a small business and it produces in small batches, which helps with its carbon footprint. But she still receives shipments from India.

She’s very happy that her business is in the city of New Orleans because it represents the city favorably.

“There aren’t any other Fair Trade brands that are designing and manufacturing in our manner that are in New Orleans or even in Louisiana,” Schmidt  points out. “I think New Orleanians are very conscious consumers. They appreciate products that are ethical and sustainable.”

Bethune, meanwhile, has made many outfits inspired by New Orleans’ culture — like her Hurricane Katrina dress that she made out of vintage, repurposed fabrics that were around 28 years old. The gown was made to observe the 10-year anniversary of Katrina and was worn by four different women. 

“Anything that can be worn by more than one person, and be shared, is what makes something truly sustainable,” Bethune says.

Despite fast fashion boasting its affordability, Bethune believes that shopping sustainably is not about affordability at all.

“I think the reason why people overbuy fast fashion is because they don’t know what their style is,” she says. “Once you know what your style is, you realize how much money you save and how much you’re saving the environment.”

Cree McCree, a costume designer and the manager of Piety Market in Exile, a monthly art and flea market, has also spent years trying to get others on board with sustainable fashion.

McCree makes wearable assemblage art she dubs “Cree-ations,” which are primarily costumes, headpieces and hats, out of “cool, recycled clothes and niknaks” she scores at thrift shops. 

During Halloween and Carnival season, she also curates sales that showcase upcycled and handmade pieces by local designers.  

Years ago, she started a movement to make accessories out of nutria fur for the now-defunct initiative called Righteous Fur — as a way to help save the local wetlands from the invasive species. 

It was the moment that McCree first moved to Louisiana in 2001 witnessed the land loss firsthand that she decided to get involved with sustainability. 

McCree says that in order for New Orleans to become more environmentally conscious, the citizens of New Orleans must get serious about recycling.

“Local, sustainable model is one thing to give a boost to any place, however right here in New Orleans the place we will nearly see the wetlands eroding ahead of our eyes, it is particularly essential,” she says.  


Cheap clothing made from synthetic plastics are more harmful than we realize. Once a trend becomes outdated and you throw away your H&M shirt, there’s a high chance that the plastics from that shirt will end up polluting the ocean or in New Orleans’ case, the Gulf. Animals in the environment eat these plastics assuming that it’s food and sooner or later that plastic ends up inside of you.

Louisiana ranks second-to-last when it comes to environmentally-friendly states. But New Orleans — with its emergent glass recycling business and a new generation of environmental activists — is starting to show progress. 

Moreover, the local fashion scene in New Orleans has both emerging and established designers and clothing purveyors who want the city to know that fashion is something that can be used as a way of expression without damaging our environment — and that we can be a part of the movement of promoting environmentally friendly fashion.

“Numerous occasions it is corporations which can be in San Francisco, L.A., New York [that are ethical,]” Schmidt says.  “And we are now bringing New Orleans to the desk and pronouncing ‘Hey glance, we also are part of this dialog of being sustainable.'” 


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