Intersectionality. These days, the word is (or should be) at the forefront of discussions surrounding women’s rights, healthcare, education, and the many other sociopolitical challenges facing the country. Yet, when it comes to fashion, are we doing enough to consider the complexities of race, class, and gender in the industry?
Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Mae Jemison in person as part of a celebration of National Geographic's upcoming special on Mars (part documentary, part drama). Dr. Jemison was a science advisor on the project and helped the team to accurately portray astronaut behavior in crisis as well as how the bunks of the spacecraft should be designed. And she would know, having flown on the Space Shuttle as a Mission Specialist for STS-47.
After a panel discussion to open the day, I was fortunate enough have Dr. Jemison all to myself for almost half and hour! Knowing I would have this amazing opportunity, I came prepared thanks to Celine...
In addition to personally wearing one of Slow Factory's Women Who Inspire scarves featuring Dr. Jemison along with fellow astronaut, Jan Davis, Celine gave me the scarf of Dr. Jemison alone to present to her in person. So before my time with her was up, I showed her the full design on the scarf I was wearing and told her all about the Women Who Inspire collection. She was amazed such a thing even existed. To her surprise, I then gave her the second scarf and needless to say, she loved both. I managed to get this photo of both of us rocking our scarves in celebration of women everywhere.
If you don't know Dr. Jemison's work already, I highly recommend reading up on her. A former dancer, she entered college at age 16 and finished medical school by age 25. She then did a stint in the Peace Corps before going on to become the first African American women in space (such a slacker!). One of her current projects it the 100 Year Starship which aims to make interstellar travel a reality in the next 100 years by "including the broadest swath of people and human experience in understanding, shaping and implementing this global aspiration."
National Geographic's MARS airs nationwide on Monday, November 14th. You can already stream the first episode online and there are three more to come. It's a stunning mix of science and narrative jumping between the present in 2016 and the future first crewed mission to Mars in 2033. It will inspire the hell out of you.
Rosetta launched in 2004, but didn't fully enter our hearts and minds when it rendezvoused with its target in mid-2014 and began sending back some of the most incredible images of this strangely beautiful rocky interloper.
Browsing through ESA's Rosetta gallery reminds me just what an amazing time we live in. Humans banded together to create the dream, the technology, and the means to not only build and launch a spacecraft to a comet, but one that could orbit it, send down a lander, and then later descend to the surface itself.
Every single image is worth contemplating in detail if you have a quite moment, but here are just a few of my favorites.
October 19, 2014: As Rosetta approached the comet in the summer of 2014, scientists saw the comet had a very irregular shape, instead of one lumpy body, it looked more like two stuck together. In fact, the closer Rosetta got, the increased resolution in images revealed it to be shaped like a rubber duck. This image is looking from the "head" of the duck towards the "body." (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0)
January 22, 2015: Comet 67P from a distance of 27.9 km above the surface looking at the "neck" area of the duck. The Hathor cliffs are to the left and the Hapi region strewn with boulders are just right of center. (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Navcam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0)
July 26, 2015: When Rosetta first reached Comet 67P, it was far enough away from the Sun that it wasn't yet "active". But as it continued toward the inner solar system, the Sun's heat caused the ices on the comet to warm and sublimate (go directly from solid to gas). This activity is what gives comet's their characteristic comas and tails. Comet 67P was too small to produce a large observable tail in the popular sense, but Rosetta go a great look at its many outgassing events. (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)
September 30, 2016: Rosetta took a few last photos during its final approach. This is from roughly 16 km above the surface, captured overnight (at least for this New Yorker). (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)
September 30, 2016: A collage of images of Rosetta's targeting landing site as it continued to descend. (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)
September 30, 2016: Rosetta's final photograph. Scientists estimate this is approximately 20 meters above the surface. (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)
There's a sign at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory that reads "Dare Mighty Things". I always think of that when celebrating amazing feats like Rosetta. Go big or go home. Rosetta went big and now its at rest in its new home, riding through the Solar System on what is probably the best roller coaster ever.
Slow Factory’s Fall 2016 Collection is inspired by all the women behind great scientific progress. Growing up, girls are not exposed enough to female role models in fact, in 2016 a survey asked children to draw draw a firefighter, a surgeon, and a fighter pilot to which the students drew 66 pictures in total -- but only five of them depict women. Inspired by the movie Hidden Figures about the life of Katherine Johnson, Slow Factory created 8 scarves, each celebrating a woman who inspires in her own right:
Here are the 8 women we printed for Fall 2016
Katherine Johnson, American physicist, space scientist, and mathematician.
Amelia Earhart, American aviation pioneer and author.
Kathryn D. Sullivan, American geologist and a former NASA astronaut. A crew member on three Space Shuttle missions, she is the first American woman to walk in space.
Mae Jemison, American physician and NASA astronaut. She became the first African-American woman to travel in space.
Margaret Hamilton, Director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which developed on-board flight software for the Apollo space program.
Nancy Roman, American astronomer who was one of the first female executives at NASA.
Christa McAuliffe, American astronaut, one of the seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
Jan Davis & Mae Jemison, Astronauts Dr. N. Jan Davis (left) and Dr. Mae C. Jemison (right) were mission specialists on board the STS-47 mission.
(Still from our documentary, Are We There Yet, shot in the Lebanese refugee camps to document our work with our give back partners the American Near East Refugee Aid - ANERA.org thanks to the flash grant we receive as part of the Shuttleworth Foundation). The documentary is being edited as we speak in Beirut, Lebanon and we are so excited to be sharing our work with you all soon!
The wholesale model of fashion sales and distribution is crumbling. For larger brands, full vertical integration is the way to make brick-and-mortar stores work (think Uniqlo, Zara/Mango etc), while for smaller or newer labels, thin margins are pushing many brands to go online-only and often aggressively push new types of marketing or business models (eg. Everlane, Warby Parker).
We will now be stopping all wholesale for a number of reasons, and want to be vocal and clear about why.
Pricing is of course a consideration, but perhaps surprisingly not the main one. When you sell to stores or distributors, you essentially sell at half the price that you would sell directly to a person. This is due to ‘markup’ and the overhead of “middlemen”, and is a big part of what makes consumer goods cost so many times more than it takes to produce them. Payment schedules also mean that small designers have to pay up front to produce goods, then wait many months to get paid back which can be hard for small businesses. But all this financial stuff has known solutions.
The main reasons Slow Factory is going to sell online-only are about our philosophy of sustainability, and working against the disposable concept of fashion.
Selling through stores and distributors tends to perpetuate things that Slow Factory is actively fighting against. A really big gain we get from staying online only is to set our own timeline, to avoid the Fashion Calendar.
The Fashion Calendar
The fashion calendar encourages a few really bad behaviours:
It pushes the idea of constant change, “planned obsolescence” and literal disposability of clothing and accessories. The constant over-consumerism mindset.
At the height of “fresh” clothes, prices need to be very high to absorb all the costs of middlemen. Pricing is also set knowing that stores give deep discounts as things go off-season, a phenomenon which encourages distrust between brands and consumers. If we see a major pendulum swing from high prices to massive discounts, buyers feel that “only suckers pay full price”, and don’t trust the value and cost of goods produced with more ethical practices.
Cheap materials and production: there are clear environmental costs of using cheap materials and production methods; notwithstanding the very expensive Green Washing Marketing campaigns from H&M to Uniqlo, Fast Fashion is still the second most polluting industry right after Big Oil.
Cheap production through cheap labour: let’s not forget about the very real human costs of using exploitative labour practices; sweatshop and industrial labour in the “developing” world are still major issues, often hitting women the hardest.
When advocating for a slow fashion movement and more sustainable industry one has to walk the talk and stand with integrity with their vision. For our 2017 plan we will be revisiting or pricing structure, removing the wholesale markup we will be offering our customers our wholesale prices directly online.