The Brooklyn Fashion League: fashion localism
The Brooklyn Fashion League’s mission is to support, promote and inspire independent fashion designers through community, collaboration and co-working. It’s a unique artist working space that has a commitment to the larger sustainability tenet of localism. (Full disclosure, my New York founded fashion line, ReciclaGEM, has just joined the studio).
Similar to the “Made Locally” locavore food movements, evidenced in our local farmer’s markets and “Made Locally” signs in Whole Foods, the “Made Locally” fashion movement, or “localism” is the movement taken on by designers, retailers and politicians alike to consciously bring as many aspects of fashion’s manufacturing processes to the local environment. This may include designers manufacturing themselves or utilizing sewing contractors within the local garment district, purchasing cast-off fabrics from locally based fabric stores and suppliers, or utilizing specialized fabric treatment techniques that were developed and culturally sustained within the community.
The sustainability benefits of this are many-fold. They include ensuring that that fashion item you just purchased was not created unethically through sweatshop labor practices, that that amazing t-shirt was not using enough petroleum gas in its transport from cotton field to fiber fabric to textile mill to clothing factory to start a small war, rather through your locally created garment, you are helping us as humanity get back in touch with our natural way of living that supports local economies and the sustenance of the local environment.
“…it’s really important for me as a designer to have my clothing made in a socially responsible way. And having it made here, we can assure that that is the case. [If] it is made in Brooklyn or in Manhattan…you can go and visit the factory and you can see the conditions that the workers are in. And you can see who’s making your clothes. It’s a direct relationship between the person that makes the garment and the person that wears it at the end,” reflects Nathalie Kraynina, fellow designer of the Brooklyn Fashion League.
“By supporting local retailers and local designers, you are also supporting the local manufacturers and the local fabric suppliers, the local tool fabricators, machine makers and it’s a giant process. But if every step along the way is made locally and made within the United States with proper working conditions, we’re making a much larger step than just that one garment that you’ve purchased,” asserts Kaci Head, founder of the Brooklyn Fashion League.
But more than supporting the local economy, this brings us back to nature. Kate Fletcher, in also quoting biomimicry maverick Janine Benyus, posits, “If we look to parallels in the natural world we see that most biological systems operate locally, or as Benyus puts it, ‘nature doesn’t commute to work’. Nature- with the exception of migrant species- ‘shops’ locally, using local expertise to produce the resources it needs and process its waste.”
In addition to sustaining local economies and local environments, the Brooklyn Fashion League is also deeply invested in sustaining that local community sense. That soul-nourishing type of fashion that “sustain[s] communities- providing people with meaningful work and a sense of connection with the place and the people with whom they live” (Fletcher, 140).
Thus it has been an honor to call the Brooklyn Fashion League ReciclaGEM’s new home. We are amongst a league of designers dedicated to the sustainability practice of economic and environmental localism while also working towards creating that community space that is supportive, fulfilling, and culturally nourishing. Nonetheless, while fashion in itself can be quite an insular system, we are members of a fashion organization that seeks to extend that membership to the community…and to you.
As David W. McMillan and David M. Chavis reflect on their essay, “Sense of Community: A Definition and Theory,”
“Membership is a feeling that one has invested part of oneself to become a member and therefore has a right to belong.” (McMillan, 3)
What has the Brooklyn Fashion League meant to me? A league of talented fashion designers who have given me a place to belong, given the community a fashion partner dedicating to sustaining and extending this feeling of belonging, and has become an activist vehicle for supporting sustainable, locally created fashion. Locally based but internationally inspired, that’s what dreams are made of.
For more information on the Brooklyn Fashion League, please check out this video. Build a new world with us, one sustainable, locally produced garment at a time.
Fletcher, Kate. (2008). Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys. London:
McMillan, David W. and David M. Chavis. (1986) “Sense of Community: A Defnition
and Theory.” Journal of Community Psychology. Vol. 14, January 1986.