MADE IN ________: Underground Fashion and local economies.
Underground fashion is considered by many to be street wear supported by kids sticking their middle fingers in the air. Skateboarders, snowboarders, surfers, hip-hop MCs, and artists from around the world are intertwining with their interests in fashion.
10 Deep, Billionaire Boys Clubs, Diamond Supply Co., Freshjive, Lifted Research Group, Obey, and Vans are companies that have produced in North America by those kids. Karmaloop.com based in Boston, Massachusetts, has a tab on their main page that sorts out all the clothing that is made in the USA onto one page. Othshop.ca (Off The Hook) based in Montreal, Quebec, heavily advertises products made in Canada on their home page. Boutiques and online stores influence consumers to purchase apparel made in USA and Canada. By doing so it grows the fashion culture in their area. Both stores are two of many retailers that see the importance of clothing produced locally. There are more and more companies staying home and something about “made at home” is dear to all of us.
Underground fashion is one link to fixing the problem with today’s economy. Yes the economy is large, but these companies are making differences in people’s lives. There is a shift in jobs in manufacturing. “Companies are realizing that the economics of manufacturing are swinging in favor of the US, for goods to be sold both at home and to major export markets,” said Harold Sirkin, a senior partner of the Boston Consulting Group. “This trend is likely to accelerate starting around 2015” (Jakarta Globe).
Underground fashion companies established in North America has a direct effect. With wages oversea and logistic cost increasing it only make sense for companies to not outsource their manufacturing. It is like paying for a glass of lemonade that is 25 cents across town compared to a 50 cents glass of lemonade from the kid next door. Which lemonade would you pay for?
One important thing about manufacturing is “when you factor the risks and realities of doing business in China–weak intellectual property protection and rule of law, long lead times, and lack of proximity to key customers, companies are willing to bring manufacturing back when the cost difference is in the single digits” said Sirkin (Huffington Post). You can find fake; Gucci belts, Louis Vuitton purses, and Canada Goose jackets but you will struggle to find fake garments from an underground fashion company.
“I believe that when a man wears an article that I manufacture, his self-respect is increased because he knows that it is made by an honest manufacturer, who is honest with his employees,”said Hamilton Carhartt. Carhartt, made in the U.S.A, has made rugged apparel for the last hundred twenty-three years for blue collar Americans, which is an important part of the company’s culture. Carhartt saw the potential in the underground culture when “European riders [skateboarders], graffiti writers, and MCs recognized Carhartt’s straightforward and rugged clothing as an authentic expression of their style” (http://www.carhartt-wip.com/history).
1994 Carhartt took a step into Europe without looking. Carhartt Work In Progress (WIP) was established to celebrate the underground culture. Changing its’ blue-collar look, Carhartt’s little brother WIP is a success in the metropolises of Europe. Producing clothing to be durable and adding a street wear influence, Carhartt-WIP is supporting a team of twenty-two skateboarders. Bram De Cleen, Ferit Batir, Jerome Campbell, and Pete Ruikka to name a few are being paid to do something they love. With the support of skateboarders and musicians, Carhartt-WIP was able to establish stores in Spain, Portugal, Great Britain, Denmark, Netherlands, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, South-Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Australia. Carhartt-WIP is making differences in peoples lives by creating jobs whether it is opening up a store in NYC (which they currently have done), hiring; photographers, models, designers, skateboarders, or buying from the textile industry, clothing companies like Carhartt-WIP has an effect indirectly and directly. With their profits Carhartt-WIP is supporting local communities they have established themselves in. Click onto any browser chrome or whatever you use and type in www.carhartt-wip.com/history. Scroll to the bottom and read Urban Lifestyle Lobbyist. Some of you will want Carhartt-WIP to come to Montreal or maybe it is on its way.
1021 Sainte-Catherine Street, Off The Hook (OTH) a boutique in the heart of the Downtown Montreal is supporting the mixing of the fashion spectrum (underground and high fashion). Many of the brands in the store have been moving toward the higher end of the fashion spectrum with the creative use of textiles. When I walked pass the door to enter the store the music playing continued to travel pass me for the pedestrians to get an idea of the atmosphere the store has to offer. But what I noticed after walking pass the door was Stussy; it was displayed in such a way to influence that idea (the mixing of the fashion spectrum).
Started in the back of a car in California, Stussy has become a template for a successful underground fashion company. Now Stussy is around the world with stores established in Los Angeles, Toronto, New York City, Amsterdam, Berlin, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Honolulu, and many other cities. Stussy branched out from its’ surf wear roots (graphic t-shirts, shorts and caps) and is moving towards clean cut dress shirts and hand crafted raw denim with their Stussy Deluxe collection. Sam Falls an artist from Southern California created the 2012 fall collection. Stussy is interested in helping out artist like many underground fashion companies. By providing them the chance to create an innovative collection and it exposes the artist’s talents to a broader audience. Daouda Ka an employee of OTH with a knack for style expressed his thoughts on the collection. “Stussy Deluxe keeps things simple and clean cut by focusing on the fabric in the garment” he said.
From 2001 to 2010 jobs in clothing manufacturing dropped profoundly. 80,556 employees both in production and administration have lost their jobs in Canada. This is a major problem for a country’s economy. Apparel Quebec is a non-profit organization that is promoting the fashion industry to a national and international level. Eve Grenier, President of Apparel Quebec, said, “[The 2012-2013 Quebec provincial Budget] contains numerous measures that recognize the importance of the fashion industry within the manufacturing sector, our export performance and our unique role as a leading creative industry in the province.” Both the Canadian Apparel Federation and Apparel Quebec are supporting the full range of firms that make up the fashion industry and its’ importance. Those damn kids might make up underground fashion companies but their companies are contributing to our economy.
A country cannot have a strong economy without a strong textile industry. Verity Stevenson a well-spoken young female has been working at OTH since April of 2011 and has seen a difference in underground clothing companies.. “Deadwood only buys Canadian stuff [textiles] and Reigning Champ is only made in Canada which is amazing for a local economy,” she said. “The main part of it [manufacturing] is great for the local economy because now the textile industry is coming back.”
The technology roadmap for the Canadian textile industry has a motto “Innovation Through Partnership”. From taking a hard hit in recent years the textile industry is shifting itself from mass production to design to help the industry become “known and to recognize the true value [of the Canadian Textiles]” (Technology Roadmap for the Canadian Textile Industry). Deadwood, Lifetime Collective, Raised by Wolves, Reigning Champ and Hershel Supply Co. are being creative and innovative to push the shift in the Canadian textile industry.
OTH is picking up the pants of underground fashion culture by exposing clothing that is moving towards higher quality garments. Being exclusive and innovation is an important part of the fashion industry. And there is one company in Montreal that is changing the way denim is being made.
Thirty-two ounce denim, raspberry scratch and sniff denim, to glow in the dark denim, Brandon Svarc is putting the denim industry into a mason jar and is shaking it up. The Canadian entrepreneur founded Naked & Famous Denim and is a true pioneer of the underground fashion culture. Svarc might not think so. But “the brand name Naked & Famous is a satire of our celeb-obsessed culture. We aim to poke fun at “Hollywood” and “Glamour” brands that sell jeans for $300 and up solely because they are celebrity endorsed, and not because they are higher quality.” That quote was directly taken off the About Us page of the Naked & Famous website. Svarc seems to be showing his middle finger. Svarc is not only producing denim to make someone upgrade their wardrobe but he is creating jobs in Montreal. Creating jobs here also helps local industries that are connected to the company, on a small scale. Importing raw denim from Japan, the king of all denim, it creates jobs in logistics. Svarc has a well-trained staff to produce his designs, and then the denim is shipped to retailers.
Underground fashion is able to connect people from all different walks of life. Forced by creativity the underground culture has made work less like work. It is not surprising to see an owner or a CEO on the floor of their production chatting with one of their employee’s daily lives. Or seeing an owner getting input on the next year’s collection from a member of the company’s action sports team. The owner’s philosophy can show what the underground culture is all about. It is not about them, it is about the people that make up their company. “I love it here (OTH),” Varity says. “Were like a family.”
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