Yesterday we celebrated #earthday2015. The first thing that comes to most minds is; planting trees, wearing organic cotton, and composting. But sustainability has so many facets and one of the most important is how the products and working conditions effect the people who make our garments, and how the work impacts their culture. The concept of understanding how a piece of clothing was made and who made it has a name: traceability, and it is a word you’ll probably start to hear more often.
Earlier this week, Maya Singer took a thorough look at the fashion supply chain. She explores the fact that every piece of imported clothing has a complex and often secretive backstory. We are all guilty of brushing off the facts and pretending our favorite piece of clothing was made ethically, but really, there’s no way of knowing. And if you’re shopping on the high street more often than not, it wont be.
In 2012, Canadian designer Laura Siegel teamed up with fellow Parsons graduate Jennifer Sharpe to film Traceable, a documentary that follows Siegel through India as she meets with weavers, embroiderers, and block printers. Siegel is consciously rejecting the demands of fast fashion, instead partnering with artisans in India, Africa, and Southeast Asia to design sustainable collections that also support those communities.
The film does not aim to criminalize the fashion industry but instead attempts to shift our perspectives and reveal how current production demands don’t just hurt the environment but communities and cultures, too.
Siegel told Style.com: “When I took a whole year off to backpack through Asia between my third and fourth years in school, my eyes really opened. I’d see women just embroidering in a circle, practicing their craft. They do it out of enjoyment, not as a means of employment. It’s a part of their culture.” However, financial stresses have forced many women to work on construction sites to make money for their families. “I was witnessing these crafts almost becoming extinct, so I wanted to find a way to give these women work and implement their crafts into my collection.”
Siegel feels it’s important for us all to minimize our carbon footprint and she does this by sourcing her materials from whichever region she’s working in. “I don’t think there’s a 100 percent solution or a ‘best way’ to do things,” she said. “It still needs to be sorted out. It comes down to maintaining the conversation and evaluating yourself as a designer on a regular basis and thinking about how you can make things better.”
Watch an exclusive clip from the film exclusively on Style.com HERE. Traceable debuts on MTV, M3, E!, and Bravo in Canada on April 24 at 8 p.m. EST, and on Pivot in the U.S. on June 24 at 9 p.m. EST.