WORDS: KATE WEINER
IMAGES: RACHEL EVA LIM, WILL DUDEK, & KATE WEINER
For the second installment of our Sustainable Fashion series, Loam checked out Campos Bags, a Brooklyn-made line of handcrafted accessories that embrace environmental sustainability and long-lasting style in equal measure. Campos Bags is a major player within the Slow Fashion movement. Much like Slow Food, Slow Fashion seeks to turn an energy-consuming industry toward a more mindful practice. Inspired by this vision, Loam took our Campos Bags for a sweet little tour of Portland, searching for the kinds of places that make us pause, reflect, sit and stay a while. From the farmers' market to a vibrant vertical garden to an overgrown alleyway, we found inspiration in inhabiting pockets of green within this cityscape.
Although us Loam ladies won't likely be able to afford a Campos Bag, beautiful as they are, anytime soon, learning about the process behind Campos got us thinking about the true cost of fashion. Higher price tags can be arbitrary, sure; in this case, Campos' sticker shock is evidence of their passion for placing a premium on fair labor and environmental standards. What's more, there's something to be said for bypassing a plethora of disposable goods in favor of a single item that will last a lifetime. More money upfront can mean less waste down the line.
While mulling over these issues, we reached out to Creative Director Toni Hacker for her thoughts. Read our interview with Toni, below. We hope it will get you thinking about ways we can hold fashion companies accountable to higher environmental and social standards.
What inspired you to start Campos Bags?
"Roy Campos is a legend in the NYC fashion industry. He and I worked together for many years on my collections for Hayden-Harnett. We both share a passion for American design, keeping quality in fashion, and keeping the fashion industry vibrant and alive in NYC. We've talked about doing a design collaboration for a few years as we really enjoy working together. We met for brunch one weekend in Brooklyn and decided to just go for it. We wanted to create a collection that focused on using 100% local materials and that operated on a zero-waste manufacturing model. Each Campos bag is made-to-order. It makes the collection so much more special. With so many NYC fashion manufacturers going the way of the dinosaur, we are really interested in experimenting with the typical manufacturer/designer/customer relationship. We feel that the next wave of fashion manufacturing is coming in the United States…it's a much more conscious and holistic way of working."
How do you envision developing Campos? What directions would you like Campos to take?
"We are looking for slow and steady growth. We're not interested in the boom years of contemporary fashion that we just witnessed in the early aughts and the endless cycle of goods that are (supposedly) only valid or cool for a season. Campos is all about slow fashion…we want to create modern classics that anyone can wear and that are seasonless, but fun. Styles that we develop will stick around. We will introduce new styles to add into the mix, but on our own terms and after listening to what our customers are looking for."
How does Campos' production model support sustainable practices?
"Every part and piece of a Campos bag is made from American materials. Our leather is from upstate NY, canvas is from a local mill, hardware from Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Even the hangtags are made by a family-owned press in Tennessee. A very important part of how we are operating sustainably is by operating as a zero-waste company. We produce no inventory. Each bag is cut and assembled when orders are placed by our customers and retailers. We're also creating and sustaining fashion jobs locally with highly skilled workers. Roy has a really incredible team. His factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard is one of the best that I've ever worked with. He's amazingly talented and dedicated to leather craft. I have immense respect for what he does…it isn't easy. Leather masters like Roy are incredibly rare in the US."
How can fashion companies similarly move toward a more eco-friendly approach?
"There are many smaller independent fashion companies that are already choosing to work in a more conscious, eco-friendly manner….they get it. They understand what is happening in the world and why it's time for fashion to become more of a conscious operation as a whole. I think the focus should really be for the larger fashion corporations to embrace ways to give back to the world at large and to operate in a more conscious, sustainable, and transparent manner. Large fashion companies make millions, even billions of dollars per annum. Fashion is big business. A very necessary big business that needs to begin giving back.
Fashion corporations should dedicate- at minimum- a small percentage of their earnings toward developing sustainable manufacturing practices in a very real manner (not just a one-time bag or t-shirt collaboration each season with an indie designer to show that they care). Even better? American fashion brands really working toward moving at least a small amount of their manufacturing back to the United States in a meaningful way. We've all seen and read about the tragic state of overseas manufacturing in the past few years…the truth is coming out about working conditions in ramshackle factories that are not up to code, child labor, and unfair labor practices. This is a serious problem within the apparel industry specifically. If you buy a beaded dress at Forever21 for $19.99, you should really question that purchase.
It's time for big fashion to give back. Factories are needed and wanted in the United States…it's really a question of who is going to step up to the plate and start to rebuild this industry from the ground up. There are definitely a few companies out there, like Bedrock Manufacturing, that are starting to put serious effort into rebuilding the American fashion manufacturing infrastructure. The next generation of fashion consumer will want to know exactly where what they purchase comes from…it's a much more transparent world. Fashion in the past has been about selling an illusion…now it's time for fashion to be about selling substance."