As we conclude Fashion Revolution Week, our head designer Makala Schouls reflects on her own personal fashion revolution as an insider looking out.
I am a fashion designer. I design the clothes you wear. As a designer, I feel responsible for the clothes you wear. I feel it is my responsibility to choose materials that are made ethically, respecting the planet; socially, respecting the people who made them.
Creativity has always been a hobby of mine, eventually I was drawn towards clothing and decided to study fashion design and textile design. I have always been fascinated by what people wore and why they chose to wear it, but didn’t understand how drastic the implications of what we choose to wear can have on others. My personal lack of understanding about the production and manufacturing of garments lead me to pursue an opportunity to work in a factory in Bangladesh.
The factory I worked in was producing for big name fashion brands that you can find in shopping malls all over the world. My inner designer was in awe, “MY designs, in THESE stores”. The factory I was working in also overlooked child labor laws, and had not paid their workers for four months, amongst many other inhumane practices.
Working in Bangladesh, allowed me to obtain an immense amount of production knowledge, but also to experience the dark reality of mass market garment production taking place all over the world. Different jobs with different brands, I just didn't feel good about what I was doing. My heart for people surmounted my desire for a successful career as a fashion designer.
All of this being said, there are good, honest factories in Bangladesh, and all over the world, working hard to implement new sustainability and human rights practices. I was lucky enough to be involved in projects that were setting a new standard for the garment industry. I would like to applaud and appreciate all of the people who are doing something to make a difference. Your work is important, and directly changing lives, and, furthermore, the entire industry.
The sweeping changes that need to be made will not happen over night, and they will not happen if enacted by only a few individuals. In order for lasting change to be made, there needs to be a unified movement of the entire supply chain - manufacturers, brands, and consumers - to put an end to fast fashion as we know it.
My career experience has lead me to a place where I have decided that I will not be a part of the industry as I was in the past. I will not spend any more of my time or energy at the cost of humanity. And I feel that my experience is to be shared. Nothing wasted, the knowledge I have gained by entering into the fast fashion fray is for a greater purpose. The greater purpose, the change makers, the future of the fashion industry are companies like Outland Denim.
Outland is a place where my passion for people and product merge. Good jeans, made well, made by women who never had a chance, women who are loved and valued more than a product, all while being gentle and kind to the environment.
I have spent a long time questioning if I would ever "make it" in the fashion industry - not "make it" in the sense of becoming rich and famous, but make it as in literally surviving, not jumping ship, and abandoning the fashion industry all together. It is fickle. It's fast. It's furiously competitive. While recently described by our CEO as a "nimble little tinny on the sea" compared to the monolithic fashion companies steering their titanic enterprises crashing through oceans and leaving destruction in their wake, Outland is a ship I'm proud to be sailing.
The journey to Outland has been a long time coming. This is just the beginning of a beautiful adventure. Now I dream of the day when the whole industry can be made different.