Fashion’s Disconnect and its True Cost

With a realization of a much-needed change, I saw the disconnect between what the fashion industry was producing and what they were telling women and the message just wasn’t resonating with me or the many women I connected with throughout my career, actually, it never did!

Why Stella Carakasi?

Women are a force, and their voices are finally being heard across all sectors of life including fashion. 68% of women in the U.S. wear a size 14 or larger with the average being a size 16, yet most fashion brands ignore these sizes. Instead, they continue designing for the slender hourglass figure, reinforcing the “ideal” body type through mainstream media which has inflicted self-confidence issues upon women for decades. It is clear, that women size 14 or larger don’t fit the “ideal” fashion industry mold and mainstream fashion brands don’t care about them.

A number is just a number, but some of us let the number on the label destroy our confidence. Even worse, we body shame ourselves to the point where shopping for clothing becomes a humiliating experience especially when brands don’t offer our size.

At Stella Carakasi, we decided to create an inclusive fashion brand where a size 22 can shop the same way as a size 2 (XS-2XL). True inclusivity to us means designing clothing in a size continuum without calling the larger sizes plus size. Separating sizes into “regular” and “plus” is not inclusive and we set out to change this. We intend to continue expanding our size range as we scale and to embrace the many women that have been left out of the fashion conversation.

Our obsession with quality and fit results in comfortable, sustainable, and timeless designs which defines our style. We are passionate about creating a fashionable antidote to the limited aesthetic variety that has long dominated this apparel sector- where styles are being produced without empathy for the environment and marketed to a non-diverse, youth-obsessed demographic. Women of all ages, shapes, and sizes deserve to be seen and feel visible.

We are not ruled by anything of the moment or by trends, instead, we produce quality garments that have longevity. We are age, size and body shape inclusive and choose eco-friendly materials and sustainable manufacturing practices throughout the entire supply chain, which is not only a choice but the way of the future.

When you look inside your closet and you see the various styles in beautiful colors and unique fabrics, do you ever think about the impact that your favorite pieces might have on the environment? If you answered no, you’re not alone. A vast majority of the world population doesn’t think twice about buying a new garment or purchasing an entirely new wardrobe each season. And while it is human nature to treat yourself and your loved ones to new clothing, what also matters is knowing how those garments were created and the lasting effects they might have on our planet.

Environmental impact of the fashion industry

Image showing the environmental impact of the fashion industry.

Environmental impact of the fashion industry

As it stands today, the fashion industry accounts for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions and is the second-largest water-consuming industry right after agriculture (most of this wastewater is then returned to the earth untreated). On top of this, 85% of textiles end up in landfills every year and synthetic fabrics take hundreds of years to decompose. Textiles that are made from plastics (petrochemicals fibers) also end up polluting our oceans with tiny microplastics that poison our wildlife and food sources.

A huge reason why so many clothes end up in landfills has also to do with the fact that up to 50% of clothing is mindlessly produced with the wrong body shapes in mind, clothing that simply does not fit half of the female population while the other half has too many choices to select from, resulting in far too many styles that nobody wants.

Over the past few decades, the production of clothing has doubled while the average lifespan for these garments has been cut in half. This means that while people are buying more clothing than ever before, they’re wearing it for a much shorter time. This is a direct result of how the fast fashion industry has manipulated the mainstream customer’s shopping behavior.

Fast fashion, as most consumers are already aware of these days, is a sector of the fashion industry that offers low prices but also low quality, completely devaluating fashion and creating false consumer price expectations. Most people are drawn to fast, fashion retailers because it allows them to update their closets with a lot of new garments for a relatively cheap price. And what pushes the fast fashion industry forward is what is often referred to as ‘micro trends’, which are fashion trends that only last for a few months (or sometimes even a few weeks)! Sophisticated marketing makes people feel like they always need to have the hottest new items to be labeled as stylish –even if these pieces aren’t going to be in style anymore two months down the line. In addition, as technology advances, so does the textile industry. This means that retailers can manufacture clothing for a lower price, sell it for cheap, and continue pushing out new collections to entice people to keep buying all in the name of corporate greed.

The true cost of fashion

In addition to the horrible effects fast fashion has on our planet, it also creates a social and humanitarian crisis. Many fast-fashion retailers manufacture their garments in sweatshops forcing the local community to take incredibly low wages, suffer from unsafe working conditions, and live in areas where the water and air are dangerously polluted. The model of continuous buying and throwing away has a major impact on the environment and local population and is just going to get worse if we (as manufacturers, retailers, and consumers) don’t do something about it.

Women wearing sustainable clothing as a true cost of fashion.

Stella Carakasi’s commitment to sustainability and inclusivity

Here at Stella Carakasi, we lead with our values and we believe that every single person has the power to make a positive difference in this world with the choices we all make. Even our smallest decisions have the potential to collectively bring about big changes. It simply takes awareness to reclaim our voices and our power to alter the trajectory of the fashion industry and the health of our planet. We are committed to inspiring and leading by example, simply being the change we want to see in the world.  

  • The quality and timeless style of our garments is our number one priority during the design process. We want our beloved community to be able to fit and wear their favorite Stella Carakasi pieces again and again without having to worry about them falling apart or going out of style. Our styles are designed to be your core wardrobe, so instead of having to purchase many different items just to make a few outfits, our styles can be worn in many ways to create countless looks for many seasons to come. From the office to date nights to running errands, our high-quality designs can truly take you anywhere.
  • In addition to high-quality and stylish clothing, we also take the fit and comfort of our garments very seriously. Because when you feel good you look good– and vice versa! We create timeless silhouettes that are made to fit and flatter most body shapes and sizes whereas compared to a fast-fashion retailer, may only offer a limited size range with poor fits. Many of our fabrics are also extremely soft and comfortable to wear for extended periods, so it’s something you’ll want to wear over and over again. 
  • To maintain our high-quality pattern engineering and fit assurance across sizes, we develop everything in-house starting with the design process, fabric selection to pattern making, grading, and sample sewing until we know the styles are as perfect as they can be. We are sticklers for details and this is reflected in our high quality across everything we produce.
  • We choose our global manufacturers and fabric mills very carefully to ensure they are both the best option for the planet and the quality of our garments. Most of our manufacturers are ISO (International Organization for Standardization) partners and are WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) and BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) compliant. While working with these manufacturing partners does drive up our costs, we think it’s important to push forward our sustainability and human rights commitments. Additionally, we prioritize using many sustainable fabrics for our garments including organic cotton poplinTencel® denim and PonteModel® jersey, and organic cotton jersey! 
  • Lastly, instead of releasing dozens of new collections each year, we like to take things slow. We fully stand behind slow fashion because we believe that less is more when less is better. We release thoughtfully curated styles so that you can update your wardrobe with designs that you will keep in your closet year after year. We also produce smaller batches of garments to ensure that nothing ends up in the landfill.

If you’d like to learn more about the impact the fast fashion industry has on the environment, we recommend watching the True Cost documentary for a quick and easily digestible education on this incredibly important topic! You can also learn more about our environmental commitments and initiatives here

Interested in learning how to create a variety of looks with only a few select styles?  Then check out our Looks We Love page for inspiration.

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