It's that time of year again...Me Made May!
For those of you who may not be familiar, Me Made May is a month-long challenge to encourage people who make their own clothes to wear them more often. Each year, people commit to any level of participation, from wearing handmade a couple times a week to only wearing me-made clothes for the entire month.
This will be my third year participating in Me Made May, and each year has taken on a new approach.
In my first year, I committed to wear one handmade item a day - which was a feat given that I was still relatively new to sewing and didn't have all that much apparel in my repertoire. Because of this, I ended up sewing A LOT during that month. While I learned a ton and really challenged my skills and sewing knowledge, I ended up with quite a few pieces that I hadn't thought through...and therefore I've barely worn since.
The second year, I decided to be much more thoughtful about my makes. I was also starting a new position at work and knew that my sewing time would be limited. So instead, I committed to either wearing a me-made item or taking some time out of the day to work on a me-made item. I didn't post pictures every day and I didn't wear handmade everyday. But I did end up with some apparel pieces that are in heavy rotation in my wardrobe to this day.
This year, a lot has changed. Over the last 12 months, I have challenged myself to learn more about sewing, knitting, and handmade apparel, which has led to more thoughtful projects and well-loved pieces. La Mercerie has become my full-time gig. And most importantly, I stopped working in retail.
I've talked about it a little bit here and there, but I haven't really discussed my retail background and how I ended up where I am. I worked at Anthropologie for seven years, in a wide range of positions. I started as a sales associate and ended up as a store manager. I interned at the corporate offices for a time and got a small peek behind the curtain.
Overall, I was proud to work for Anthropologie. They are good to their employees and really do put customers first. But at the time, I wasn't really thinking about ethical business practices. I was 22 and hadn't started making my own clothes yet. I was just excited that I got a discount on their clothes.
I'll be honest - I didn't really think much about their business practices until after I stopped working there. And even then, I couldn't find out much. It seems like they have a severe lack of transparency regarding how they run the business, but I couldn't find any information about outright violations. So given what I know and what I've seen behind the scenes, I figure I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. After working there for so long, I still love the company and probably always will. Maybe that's me being naive, but so be it.
After Anthropologie, I went to Zulily to become a buyer. It was here (working in the women's apparel department) that I really started questioning ethical business practices. I was finding myself more and more drawn to the slow fashion movement and when Karen Templer started Slow Fashion October, it really hit me hard. I realized that I was working in the ultimate fast fashion, without questioning at all where my product was coming from. I realized that I couldn't say that I was proud of where I worked anymore.
I started asking around about what we did as a company to ensure that the manufacturers that were supplying our product were treating their employees well. I found out that they sign a terms-and-conditions contract that mentions working conditions briefly, but there was no follow up or confirmation by Zulily. We were receiving product to sell for next to nothing...I couldn't figure out how could the person who made it was actually making money (and I'm guessing they didn't).
I moved to the DIY department and started working with bigger brand names, which made me feel a little better about where my product was coming from. Until I realized that just because I know the brand name doesn't mean that they have ethical business practices. And again, I started questioning.
When Nate and I bought a house out of the city in November last year, I knew it was my time to leave Zulily. The commute and the hours weren't worth it to work for a company that I couldn't feel 100% confident in. I had the opportunity to completely focus on La Mercerie and I have never looked back.
All that is a lot of rambling in order to say this - I don't know enough about where my clothes are coming from. I haven't looked into ethical companies. I have purchased super cheap shirts from stores that made my question. I've spent nearly my entire adult life working in retail without finding out the story behind the product I was selling. And I don't feel good about it.
Which leads us to this year's Me Made May. I commit to wearing at least one handmade item every day this month. But I am also committing to finding out more - about myself, my style, and my clothes.
This May, I will be reading Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion so that I can learn more about the impact of my decisions. I want to be an informed consumer and question where my purchases come from. It's easy to do when you have the option of buying apples from the local farmer instead of the chain grocery store, but it gets a lot harder with apparel. I want to know more.
I will also be reading The Curated Closet. I know that I have bought things I don't need and have only worn a handful of times. I have purchased outfits because I want to look like the type of person who would wear that...not because that's who I am. I have bought fabric because it was cute, not because I would actually wear it. I want to avoid impulse purchases and sewing projects in exchange for pieces that I will reach for again and again.
This May, I am committing to becoming more informed. About the retail fashion world, about my style, and myself.
What are you committing to this year?