This weekend I had the pleasure of joining two distinguished women to speak on a panel about the future of sustainable fashion. Kimberly Hunter and Grace Gouin are both local leaders in the industry, Grace of Appalatch Outdoor Apparel Company and Kimberly Hunter of Prolific Consulting which is the result of many professional years in the fashion world.
The panel was called "Changing the Face of Fashion" and it was part of Women's Business Weekend in Asheville, North Carolina.
Looking at fashion through the eyes of a person who has been in the industry for a long time, as well as from a new manufacturer's perspective, and keeping in mind the customer's view, while also my own, was valuable. I spoke with a woman after the talk who told me she hadn't bought a new piece of clothing in 30 years - and she raised boys! Kimberly has worked for apparel companies operating in 5 seasons who design years out. Grace has fought battles sourcing materials and manufacturing in the US. Rhetorical Factory has been sifting and analyzing the product of the fast paced fashion scene as we know it.
None of our visions fits with the way things are. We all want to add value and slow down this manufacturing monster. We want people to have a choice.
The fashion world has sprung up out of the courage and ability of some very capable artists. The idea of personal style has finally been epitomized, with billions of garments worn and unworn to choose from. The very notion that we can wear what we want as individuals despite class or gender would rock the mind of recent ancestors. It's a beautiful thing indeed.
It can continue to be that way - changing and continuing to capitalize on the individual. But it cannot continue in the same way. It can't continue to exploit and it can't continue to exclude. By creating valuable jobs instead of deadly ones we can change slave labor into free trade. By wearing recycled and artistically enhancing instead of replacing our clothes we can reserve resources and even the playing field when it comes to style. When we do buy new, we can support an entire chain of valuable energy exchange and end up with a product we can hand down.
I am someone who likes a challenge when it comes to style. I like to "pull things off" instead of follow trends. It's interesting to be so involved in conversations like this because I have never seen my self in the Vogue world. It seems like this must be the time for the two to meet in the middle. Big fashion is intimidating! I would like to hear from some of you who have mastered it, because I wonder if it really does need to melt into something new. Do the super models of today feel as strong and beautiful as they look? Do your favorite brands make you feel part of something good? What steam is the gigantic world of fashion running on? Can we replace it with something closer to home?
I think the runway is exciting and intriguing - a work of art. I want to see each street become a runway, not a herd of sheep.
We want fashion to grow sustainably. It may hurt a little but that's how growing works.
Buy less and shop more. Question Everything.
Spread the word! And please, tell me what you think.
We are thrilled to be featured in this month's issue of VERVE Magazine! We've shared the story below, but if you live in Asheville, we encourage you to pick up a copy because the photos are even more gorgeous big and in print. Thank you to everyone who made this happen!
Written and Styled by Sara Fields
Photography by Zaire Kacz
Bicycles, typewriters, and old cameras are a few of Bethany Adams’ favorite things. Also favoring Mason jars and cassette tapes, among other hip motifs, this 24-year-old artist and owner of design studio Rhetorical Factory screenprints retro symbols onto recycled clothing, making a strong regional impression in the process.
Adams has been in the business of crafting and selling art since grade school — knitting scarves on commission during class and peddling clay sculpture and hemp jewelry on family road trips. From there, her creative career expanded to include photography and, eventually, screenprinting — a trade she learned during an apprenticeship under Royal Peasantry’s Daniella Miller.
“I’m a maker,” says Adams. “I’ve always had an art-based business. If I had a day job, I’d still come home and make things. The typewriter was my first print, and it went really well. When I realized how much people liked retro-printed clothes, I decided to really focus on them.”
Adams’ fondness for all things vintage extends from fashion to the 1970s reproduction wallpaper that hangs in her River Arts District studio — an orange geometric print frequently spotted on AMC's Mad Men. The wallpaper design and the label’s signature question-mark icon have become trademarks of the Rhetorical Factory brand identity.
She typically sells her wares during limited hours at her studio and at various retailers in Asheville and other venues in the state. Construction is underway for her first store, located in the 444 Haywood Road block of West Asheville (next to Second Gear). The endeavor includes a revamped website, launched November 1.
Adams believes there’s still plenty of room for new talent in the increasingly trendy realm of repurposed fashion. She founded her business in 2010 with a mission to re-brand, revitalize, and even re-size high-quality used apparel. While she makes frequent trips to Goodwill, purchasing pieces by the pound, she also receives generous donations from closets of friends and supporters.
“I don’t really see myself as a designer,” she says. “But other people do. Everyone brings their own style to the recycled-clothing industry — but I’m more of an artist in general. I see clothing as a canvas. I add symbols to make pieces original.
“I’m also learning to build a business, and that’s very expressive.”
Models: Charlene Fidelia and Elizabeth Shields
Hair: Emily Wells at Studio U Salon (email@example.com)
All apparel and hair accessories: Rhetorical Factory
Boots: Diamond Brand Outdoors (diamondbrand.com)
Jewelry: Mora Designer Jewelry (moracollection.com)
Makeup: Makeup by Zack Russell (makeupatga.com)
Photographer: Zaire Kacz (zairekaczphotography.com)
Location: The Screen Door (screendoorasheville.com)