How a new clothing brand is changing the fashion industry’s understanding of women

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While working at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, Citizen’s Mark founder Cynthia Salim realized at 23 the same thing every working woman inevitably does: It’s hard to find credible clothes to wear to work. In fact, it’s oddly hard to do.

Like Salim, most professional women are familiar with feeling pigeonholed between workwear choices that all seem mutually dissatisfying. It’s way harder than it should be to find blazers that are tailored, but not “sexy,” and clothes that aren’t “cute-ified” with bows and trendy lapels, but also aren’t boxy or masculine either.

In essence, Salim realized that she and her female peers had a career the fashion industry didn’t seem to know they had.

Instead of resigning herself to a life of cardigans, Salim decided to build the company she wished existed. In order to change a stubbornly inept system, the disruption would need to come from an outsider who didn’t just think they knew what the modern woman wanted, but in fact was the modern woman.

And given the integral misunderstanding of women that has lead to such rampant “cute-ifying” of their clothes, Salim knew her task would not only be to create quality workwear but to fundamentally shift the perception of women from hollow consumers to multidimensional, dynamic people.

It was a revolutionary idea that shouldn’t, really, have been so revolutionary.

As she got deeper into plus size womens clothes the institution to found Citizen’s Mark, Salim realized how such a large contingency of buyers and their needs had gone so vastly underrepresented. The makers of the high-quality menswear, which theoretically could manufacture the same for women, liked to follow an 80/20 rule common in business. Since 80% of their profits come from the men’s collection, investing in that 20% of women’s collections — modernizing fit, testing merchandise — seems risky and unattractive. Perfect fit (as we well know) is more difficult to master for women, returns could be high, and they could be more demanding customers — all of which sounds unnecessary from an 80/20 perspective.

The fashion industry pays attention to plus-size women

A GOOD fit is everything, cheap sexy clothes stylists often counsel, but in assessing its market America’s fashion business appears to have mislaid the measuring tape. A frequently-cited study done a few years ago by Plunkett Research, a market-research firm, found that 67% of American women were “plus-size”, meaning size 14 or larger. That figure will not have changed much, but in 2016, only 18% of clothing sold was plus-size, according to NPD Group, another research firm.

Designers and retailers have long thought of the plus-size segment as high-risk. Predicting what these customers will buy can be difficult, as they tend to be more cautious about styles. Making larger clothes is more expensive; higher costs for fabric cannot always be passed on to consumers. In turn, plus-size women shopped less because the industry was not serving them well. “We have money but nowhere to spend it,” says Kristine Thompson, who runs a blog called Trendy Curvy and has nearly 150,000 followers on Instagram, a social-media site.

At last, that is changing. Fast-fashion brands, including Forever 21 and a fashion line sold in partnership with Target, a giant retailer, have expanded their plus-size collections. Lane Bryant, a plus-size retailer, and Prabal Garung, a designer, have done the same. In March Nike extended its “X-sized” sportswear range.

Revenue in the plus-size category increased by 14% between 2013 and 2016, compared with growth of 7% for all apparel. Takings were $21.3bn last year. Social media has played an important role in changing attitudes in the fashion business, says Madeline Jones, editor and co-founder of PLUS Model Magazine.
Nonetheless, designer brands still hold back (Walmart sells the most plus-size apparel). Some brands, such as Michael Kors, do sell plus-size ranges but do not advertise them or display them on websites. For those that are willing to take a chance, several internet startups that deliver personally styled outfits to individuals, including plus-size women, offer data to “straight-size” designers. Gwynnie Bee, Stitch Fix and Dia & Co, for example, share information with designers on preferred styles and fits. Tracy Reese, a designer known for creating Michelle Obama’s dress for the Democratic National Convention in 2012, is one brand that recently enlisted Gwynnie Bee’s help to create a new plus-size collection. Gwynnie Bee prompted the label to create bigger patterns and more appealing designs.

Not all plus-size shoppers are convinced. Laura Fuentes, a hairstylist from Abilene, Texas, says that many upmarket department stores still keep their plus-size clothing sections poorly organised, badly stocked and dimly lit, if they stock larger clothes at all. Yet such complaints should be taken with a pinch of salt, says Ms Thompson. “We’re nowhere near where we should be but we’ve made progress,” she says.

Underwear lines for black women

Proving that it’s about more than just lacy fabric, the business of female underwear has become popular among young women of colour.

TV and radio personality Thando Thabethe and creator/strategist turned entrepreneur Gugu Nkabinde have both taken it upon themselves to launch a range of female underwear and body shapers designed to meet the needs of all African women.

Thabooty officially launched for business last week at the Randlords rooftop event venue in Braamfontein, with a runway showcase of the first of many from the range, said founder Thabethe.

“I wanted to create something women wouldn’t be ashamed to wear, and something that would meet my functional needs. Whether it was to even out control or contour, I needed something that wouldn’t roll down my body or make me feel like I was wearing a blanket underneath my clothes.”

Thabethe’s maiden range, titled IAmWoman, celebrates iconic women as well as the visual representation of women using photography.

Under the hashtag and using Thabooty’s Underwear Shapewear as the focal point, Thabethe hopes to impart her own philosophies around women practising self-love, reclaiming their bodies and being comfortable in their skins while also debunking the fallacy that women dress for men.

In honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Gugu Intimates underwear brand hosted a brunch for ladies at exclusive boutique hotel, The View, overlooking Johannesburg’s iconic skyline in hopes of joining global health and fitness organisations in raising awareness in the developing world.

why fast fashion sexy clothes online should worry all of us

If I search for Zara on Instagram, I can see well over 22m posts of people wearing clothing that was bought from the retailer, everywhere from Dublin to Dubrovnik, New York to Newport. If you’re reading this in an office, I’d bet you a tenner that someone, somewhere in the building is wearing a Zara shirt or jacket. In the UK, Zara has been a high street fixture since 1998, and has a growing number of stores. Millions of us have brought the brand into our homes – and so millions of us should be shocked and infuriated by reports that factory workers in Istanbul have been hiding notes in the clothes that they have been producing for one of Zara’s suppliers, pleading for help. One note apparently read: “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it.” The workers were reportedly left unpaid after their factory shut down overnight.

Inditex, Zara’s parent company, has since promised to reimburse its sub contractor’s workers as soon as possible. But the rise in rampant consumerism remains a worry. The value of the UK fashion industry has jumped to £26bn (up from £21bn in 2009) and fashion bucks broader growth trends – to put it simply, our appetite for new shoes and accessories is growing more quickly than our appetite for food. We know that our love of fast fashion is terrible for the environment. It was estimated that this spring Britons would send 235m pieces of clothing to landfill. Consumer debt levels are reaching an all time high, and as retailers such as Asos are starting to offer credit options to their young customers, it’s scarily easy to spend money we don’t have on clothes we don’t need.

I wonder whether our failure to address the fast fashion problem is because it affects more women than men, at every level. Even though research conducted earlier this year found that British men typically spend more on their clothes than women, fashion and clothes are routinely dismissed as trivial, feminine interests. Women are exploited and mocked, disproportionately targeted by advertisers and then accused of being frivolous and fluffy for spending their hard earned money on a shopping trip. That’s just at the consumer end. More seriously, it’s estimated that, of the 750 million garment workers who are employed to make our clothes, 80 are women, working in dangerous conditions and not being paid a living wage, if they’re being paid at all. Globally, poverty affects women first. More than 70 of the world’s poorest people are women.

In 2013, Rana Plaza, a building in Bangladesh that housed five garment factories, collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people and injuring thousands more. At the time, the tragedy was believed to be a wake up call, one that would permanently change the way that the goods we consume are produced. Yet just 17 brands have signed the Apparel and Footwear Supply Chain Transparency Pledge, and there has been a spate of fires in garment factories.

It’s too easy to dismiss the complaints of underpaid workers as a women’s problem. When we do this, we don’t acknowledge that every one of us is part of the solution, regardless of gender. I know many men and women who are horrified by the way so many of our clothes are produced, and are doing their best to consume more carefully, by introducing no spend months or ensuring that they only ever buy second hand clothes. However, we need a much more effective solution, and something that can be implemented at a higher level.

A globally agreed, industry wide minimum wage and safety standards for all workers is imperative. It’s important that manufacturers would face serious, punitive consequences for failing to meet these standards. Ultimately the brands must take responsibility for making these changes – but even if consumers can’t lead this revolution, we can agitate for it.

The 2015 ethical sexy clothes online consumer report shows that the ethical market in the UK has grown to £38bn, meaning the it is now worth twice as much as the tobacco market. The evidence suggests that we care about where our clothes come from, and we don’t necessarily want them to be produced as cheaply as possible – not when lives are at stake.
I’m not sure that the best way to support these workers is to stop shopping altogether. This action does not address the fact that the fashion industry could potentially be a positive space for women, and provide opportunities for them as skilled workers and consumers. It’s vital that we recognise the industry’s wider value. Paying the predominantly female workers properly might cut into profit margins, or force us to pay more for our jeans – but it gives workers the chance to lead happier, safer lives, to live in better conditions and to educate their children, which is ultimately going to provide an enormous boost to the global economy.

Analysts at Euromonitor predict that global demand for menswear will outstrip womenswear by 2020, a clear indicator that this isn’t simply a concern of just one half of the population. It’s time for every one of us to start taking fashion and its provenance seriously.

Women Making Ivanka Trump Clothing Earn Asia’s Lowest Wages

The stories sexy clothes online plaguing Ivanka Trump’s fashion label aren’t going anywhere.

Today, The Guardian published a detailed report about a factory in Subang, Indonesia, where some of the brand’s clothing is manufactured. Three-quarters of the workers at the PT Buma Apparel Industry factory are women, and more than a dozen spoke up about the conditions and expectations. The report comes just two weeks after activists who were investigating a Chinese factory that makes shoes for the brand were detained by the Chinese government (Trump’s label has since distanced itself from said factory).

At the Indonesian factory, permanent employees receive paid maternity leave of three months and federal health insurance, but they also receive one of the lowest wages in Asia. One worker revealed she earns $173 a month — what one labor rights activist called “poverty wages” — and The Guardian notes that the salaries are 40 percent lower than what employees earn in the Chinese factories. Women revealed that the wages were so low they couldn’t afford to live with their children, let alone buy necessities like formula and school books.

Workers also said they are verbally abused, and that the factory employs disturbing tactics like firing workers before Ramadan and rehiring them right after in order to avoid paying Indonesia’s mandatory “religious holiday bonus.” Women are also incentivized with a monthly bonus of $10.50 to not take off of work when they have their periods. Factory workers are expected to meet unrealistic production targets, and frequently work overtime because of them; they told The Guardian they are rarely compensated for overtime.

As if it wasn’t already completely obvious, workers found the picture Ivanka paints in her book, Women Who Work, egregious. When told about the book’s narrative, one worker reportedly “burst out laughing. Her idea of work-life balance,” the article says, “would be if she could see her children more than once a month.”

While Ivanka Trump isn’t imposing these factory conditions herself, an increasing number of conscious consumers are concerned about the supply chain of the goods they purchase. Last month, company president Abigail Klem told Bloomberg that Trump’s brand is committed to working with those who “maintain internationally recognized labor standards across their supply chains.”

The Ivanka Trump brand declined to comment on The Guardian report to Racked, and has thus far avoided directly addressing the now multiple distressing reports coming out of its factories. It’s safe to say the investigations have just begun, and their silence is likely unsustainable.

Popular women’s clothing company hit with $1 billion lawsuit

LuLaRoe, a Corona, California-based company known for its brightly-colored clothing, has been hit with a lawsuit that claims the business is a pyramid scheme.

Founded in 2012 by husband and wife team DeAnne Brady and Mark Stidham, LuLaRoe has developed into a $1 billion enterprise with 80,000 distributors, many of whom are millennial mothers.

The lawsuit says LuLaRoe recruits hopeful employees to sell its wares from home, but leaves them in “financial ruin.”

You can read the full lawsuit here.

LuLaRoe advertises itself as a way for people to hold profitable jobs with flexible hours and limitless income, but it probably won’t make you rich. The average multi-level marketing company sales rep earns just $750 per year before expenses, a figure that hasn’t changed since 1980.

Millennial women sign on as LuLaRoe consultants hoping to earn easy income, but many take on credit card debt or loans to purchase inventory and are left with rooms full of unsold clothing.

Filed on October 23 by Aki Berry, Cheryl Hayton and Tiffany Scheffer, the claim demands at least $1 billion in damages from the company, which pulled in around $1 billion in sales last year.

“The promise of lucrative rewards for recruiting others tends to induce participants to focus on the recruitment side of the business at the expense of their retail marketing efforts, making it unlikely that meaningful opportunities for retail sales will occur,” the lawsuit said.

Launching a LuLaRoe business isn’t cheap. An investment of $2,047 is needed for the basic package, which includes 50 (2-pack) one size fits all leggings, 20 (2-pack) small, medium, large and extra large leggings, 25 dresses and 10 (2-pack) “tween” leggings.

The most expensive package comes with 503 pieces of clothing and runs $9,058.25.

“Consultants are instructed to keep around $20,000 worth of inventory on hand, and are inundated with the phrase ‘buy more, sell more,’” the lawsuit added. “New consultants are aggressively pressured to continue purchasing wholesale inventory even when the inventory they have is not selling, is unlikely to sell, or is piling up in their garage.”

Hundreds attend Women’s sexy clothes online

Shopping is better when the clothes are free.

Women were encouraged to clean out their closets for the new fall season and bring all unwanted clothing and accessories to the swap in bins and bags, including jewelry, dresses, bras, maternity items, shoes, purses and more.

Once inside, participants sorted their items according to various tables throughout the space, labeled with big red signs hanging from the ceiling. From there, it was free for all. Everything was for the taking, and everything was absolutely free.

Teddi Parker, host and self-desrcibed “birthing mother” of the swap, welcome every women individually a the door. The event, which gained momentum via Facebook, was highly anticipated with over 1,200 women interested in attending. Hundreds of women showed up, and Teddi said the event keeps growing each season.

“We have been at the Artery three times now,” Parker said. “And we moved upstairs hoping we would have more space, but we are just going to have to go bigger next year. I am an artist, so I have used this space for art. Everyone here is so great and so helpful, so it has been a really great place to be. I just do not know if we can do it here again, unfortunately.”

The idea for the clothing swap came from Parker’s passion for thrifting. Originally, she swapped clothing with ladies at her church. When she wanted to go bigger, the Artery offered the space to fulfill her dreams for free.

“I’m such a thrifter at heart, and maybe too frugal,” Parker said. “For me, double digits on clothing is intimidating. Thrift stores are great, and we are focused on the whole, ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ concept. So at first, we just did it with friends, and it worked for a while, and then I just kept hearing about more and more ladies liking it and wanting to do it.”

Participant Amanda Wissland came to the clothing swap bearing her 8-month-old baby, Ryland, in a wrap around her mid-section. Women of all ages attended the event, so many moms were present with their infant children.

“This is my second time coming to one of these, and the event is pretty special because as you can see, women of all shapes, sizes and ages show up, and everyone is polite, despite how hectic it is in here,” Wissland said. “Seeing other babies makes it even more fun. I love seeing other moms in action. Every time I come, I am happy with who shows up.”

Although attendees were diverse, all shared the common interest of finding clothing at a thrifty price. For attendee Emily Gersbeck, Saturday marked he first time attending a swap.

“This event it awesome, I enjoy it a lot,” Gersbeck said. “All my great purchases are oftentimes second-hand stuff, so my favorite clothing is often second-hand. I love the fact that you can drop off your clothes and come away with clothes for no cost. And, the change-over rate is so quick, so there is always something fresh on the table.”

Any sexy clothes online unclaimed clothing remaining after the event ended was donated to ThriftRite on Horsetooth and Timberline. Remaining bras will be donated to a group in Denver that Parker has connections to, and they will be given to homeless women and girls. The next swap will occur in April to align with spring closet cleaning, and will likely not commence at the Artery again for the sake of space and growing numbers.