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Episode 202: Art is an essential part of the slow fashion movement, with Janelle Abbott

Amanda is joined by artist, designer, sewist, and small business owner, Janelle Abbott.  We will learn about her recent performance, 14 Hours, in which Janelle spent 6 days sewing for 14 hours each day, demonstrating the lived experience of a Bangladeshi garment worker. 

Other things discussed in this episode:
  • Art as a means of helping others understand the impact of fast fashion
  • Upcycling as a necessity for a better future
  • What is “sustainable” when you are an artist and maker within the slow fashion realm
  • How we can get others to be “activated” to help us dismantle the fast fashion system by better understanding the lives of garment workers 
  •  Why art is an essential part of slow fashion
 

Find more of Janelle’s work (and her brand JRAT) here: janellerabbott.com
Learn more about Janelle’s Zero Waste Methodology:  Madness Behind the Method
Check out Prairie Underground
Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present

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Transcript

Amanda 

Okay, all right, why don’t you introduce yourself to everyone?

 

Janelle

Okay, hi, my name’s Janelle Abbott. I’m an artist and designer based in Seattle, Washington, and I work with Reclined Clothing and Textiles to make clothing, furniture, soft sculpture, large -scale paintings, all kinds of different works.

 

Amanda 

You do a lot of things.

 

Janelle I think, yeah, there’s a lot of fabric out there that needs resolution. And so I’ve found different avenues for repurposing clothing. And all my work is zero waste. And so I think that also exponentially means I’m making more and more work because I’m trying to resolve smaller and smaller pieces of material.

 

Amanda

I like the way you refer to it as resolving and resolution.

 

That’s a really good way of looking at it. I asked people on threads recently, what are we going to do with all of this extra fabric and fast fashion clothing that’s just piling up? We have to come up with a use for this stuff because it’s not going away. And so many people were just like, I don’t want to be involved. They were like, it’s gross. I don’t want to be a part of it

 

Janelle

Which I can respect. Yeah, and a lot of the material itself is sort of undesirable because it’s polyester or the garment itself is like nasty baby’s first corporate attire, you know, like it’s it’s nothing that should have existed in the first place or like yeah, like out of date club apparel or just like micro trends that. didn’t even have a moment really because it passed by so fast. And I feel like part of my practice is to intentionally seek out materials that are undesirable and they’re doomed, like they have no hope. And so I’m trying to invest a lot of creative labor and like emotional energy into this material to validate its existence because it’s true that it’s here and there is I feel some personal contention about the fact that yes I do work with polyesters and by using that and allowing it to exist in a realm where maybe it’ll enter the wash cycle if someone’s wearing and washing it like that does perpetuate an issue of microplastics.

 

but I also just can’t get past the fact that these things exist. Like there’s no denying all this clothing, all these textiles, they exist. And so I feel like my role as an artist is to sort of be a firefighter. I’m just trying to put out the fires when and where I see them. I can’t necessarily take the time to…be the fire marshal or whoever investigates, like, who’s this arson that’s setting all these fires? Like, that’s not my job. And I’m not going to be the policymaker who’s saying, like, we need more rules about fire safety. Like, I’m just here to solve a problem. And so that’s really, it’s a big part of the work that I do is focusing on a resolution for an issue that I can’t deny. It feels very prescient and like, Everywhere I look, there’s just orphaned clothing that needs a solution.

 

Amanda

Yeah, I mean, it’s true. It’s sort of overwhelming. And I think…

I mean, the solution is so complex, right? It’s interesting because I do, like on one hand, I recognize how complex it is and how to resolve it. We need policy. We need people working on finding resolution for these fabrics. And we also need to stop the flow of these fabrics. So it’s just like multi -tiered. But so often I come across people saying sort of like, well, it’s a problem too big, so I don’t want to touch it and these fabrics are gross and I don’t want to waste my time on them. Or like whatever, this is just how the world is now and we have to accept that things suck. Like I just, it’s a lot of, it’s depressing, right? So how do you stay motivated to work on this when you realize, like this is a hard problem.

 

Janelle 

It is, and yeah, it’s true, it’s a massive problem, and it’s one that, like, I’m not gonna stop Shein or Temu, I’m not gonna stop them in their tracks, or like, bring them to their knees as corporations, like, that’s impossible. But I think what really keeps me motivated is the constant flow of materials. I’m routinely riding my bike down the street and finding a free box full of…bed sheets and t -shirts or having someone reach out to me saying, hey, I’m moving and I don’t want to donate my clothes. Would you like to take them? And in the past, I’ve been like, send me some pictures. Let me see what you got. And they’ll send me pictures. And I’m like, this stuff is garbage. I don’t want any of it. And then I’ll message them back and I’ll be like, I’ll take it all. So.

 

I just, I routinely put myself in situations where I’m responsible for something that isn’t originally my responsibility, but that’s what keeps me creatively motivated to continue working is just constantly having new materials to resolve and remaining willing to resolve other people’s problems.

 

Amanda 

I mean, it’s incredible, like, your commitment to this, and I really admire it, but you’re, like, on top of, like, okay, the sort of, like, logistical issue of, like, you’re dealing with these fabrics and trying to find uses for them, and you’re also an artist. And I think that that is a really important piece of this equation, that, of course, there are companies out there, not enough of them trying to find a use for these fabrics, trying to develop the technology for recycling, and there are policymakers out there trying to build policy around corporate responsibility for these textiles. But you’re literally there turning them into something that, in theory, would be enriching the world, which is interesting, because these are fabrics that no one wants.

 

Janelle 

Thank you.

 

Yeah, yeah, and I think that’s the transformative power of art is to trick people into believing that, you do want this now. Like, it was, it was a nasty polyester, like suit jacket that somebody bought for their first, you know, foray into the corporate world. And they’ve graduated from that and found something more appropriate for maybe their budget now that they’ve climbed the ladder a little bit and so it could have or it’s you know something completely out of style like I’ve been ending up with a lot of really like nasty geometric prints from 10 years ago that I still haven’t you know what I’m talking about like

 

Amanda 

I know exactly. yeah, like I full body cringe when you said it. We all remember.

 

Janelle 

We all remember. I definitely, I probably owned a few things of this nature in the form of leggings. And I feel like I, yeah, I’m kind of pulling one over on people by, you know, painting it, dyeing it, slashing it, reconfiguring it, smashing it together with other materials and kind of hiding that history, underneath all these different layers of creative intervention and then bringing it back forward and saying, hey, you want it now? What do you think now? You like it now?

 

Amanda

I mean, I appreciate that. So here’s my question. How did you get started on this path? I mean, sure, there’s a chance you were like five and you were like, I see that there’s going to be this problem with wasted textiles. I’m going to start building my whole life towards this. But I suspect probably not. So how did you find yourself here resolving or trying to resolve fabrics that no one wants?

 

Janelle (08:26.798)

Hahaha.

It’s funny because it did start pretty young. Like you’re almost spot on. My parents own. Yeah, it truly has been a lifelong pursuit. My parents owned a clothing manufacturing company when I was growing up. And this was in the 90s when still I think it was about 50 % or more of clothing consumed within the United States was made within the United States. And so at that time, they manufactured everything in Seattle, Washington, where I grew up. And so I was homeschooled through ninth grade and I spent a lot of time at the warehouse just hanging out and making things. I played with the fabric scraps from the cutters. I learned how to sew. I first learned how to sew on just like a home sew machine, but at a young age, I was working on an industrial machine and Connie, the sample sewer, would sometimes help me, sometimes she’d bat me off the machine and finish my projects for me, but it was really a big part of my education, was seeing the behind the scenes of garment production and also using clothing and my personal styling explorations as a way of expressing myself creatively, but also really approaching fashion as an art form from a young age. But my parents’ company closed in the early 2000s in part because September 11th happened during New York Fashion Week. And so that meant that particular season, the showrooms shut down, buyers went home, and a small brand like my parents, being like a boutique brand, they really struggled to pull through with that rift in sales. And then post…9 /11 there was a recession across the country and that meant a lot of people were choosing to diminish their budget for clothing and being that my parents were making high quality clothing and manufactured under ethical conditions it was more expensive than fast fashion which was on the rise like that was a new interjection into the market in the United States and so their company closed in the early 2000s and that meant both my parents lost their jobs at the same time. So I feel like a certain aspect of my pursuit in fashion is to recover from that early childhood trauma. And I do sometimes feel a little bit like Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride. Like you killed my father, prepare to die. Like against fast fashion. I feel like fast fashion killed my parents’ business and I want them to pay. 

 

So I went to Parsons School of Design to study fashion, even though when I told my parents I’m going into the fashion, they were like, maybe don’t, maybe consider something else. And now thinking back, I’m like, they were so right. I could have been a scientist or a therapist or someone who like…

has a quote unquote legitimate job with a steady paycheck, but I chose to pursue fashion and I’m grateful that I did because at school that’s where I learned about the zero waste pattern drafting methodology, which has become one of the foundations of my practice today. And by that point, I already had been radicalized. I was in, believe it or not, it was like a church youth group. We were learning about human trafficking and modern -day slavery and participating in all these different events of like awareness and fundraising and I was about 15 when I learned that most clothing consumed in the United States even by that point that was like Three or four years after my parents company closed closed most clothing that we were consuming was connected to exploitive labor and So at 15 I decided I cannot buy newly manufactured clothing and feel okay about myself or what I’m contributing to the world or the way that I’m contributing to other people’s lives. And so I have over the years made some concessions, but to the best of my ability, I still don’t buy newly manufactured clothing. And the concessions would be like, if a friend has a brand and I trust that they are producing within ethical conditions or there’s been a couple times that I’ve bought a t -shirt to support a nonprofit or tennis shoes are really hard to find. Something that’s sustainable and ethical. So I have had to make concessions, but I entered college with that very radical mindset and ended up in conflict with quite a few of my professors and also in conflict because I was trying to approach fashion design from an artist’s lens and I was going to a very commercially focused design school that was all about churning out the next Marc Jacobs and I didn’t necessarily see myself as that and I also didn’t see how the way I wanted to create fashion or the way that I related to fashion really fit in with the

corporate understanding of designer brands and all the things you have to do to make a business like that sustainable, because it really doesn’t come down to the clothing in the end in order to balance the budget. So leaving school, I felt really unmoored. I just didn’t know how to do what I wanted to do. 

 

And so I kind of ran away from what I wanted to do with my life. And I became a tour guide in Seattle. There’s this underground part of the city. I was a tour guide for a company and I’d take guests down and tell them the history and answer questions. And it was actually a great experience. I learned a lot about how to communicate and met people from all around the world. And it balanced my other job, which was working for an artist as a studio assistant and then weaving chairs. We did caned wicker, Danish Modern. I learned how to weave all kinds of different chairs. And so that was like a very isolated, contemplative work environment. And then tour guiding was very social and high energy. So I did those two things and I had a collaboration with a friend for about seven years, but that kind of crashed and burned in 2020. And so at that point, that’s when I really was forced into starting my brand and figuring out how to build a career in the arts that was sustainable, which sustainable for me is a plural word. It’s both about the means of manufacturing and the materials, but also energetically and emotionally sustainable, which I feel like I’m still trying to figure that out.

 

Amanda 

I also hear that. I have to have this conversation with myself quite a bit. And, you know, like it has felt this year that a lot of like slow fashion brands and makers have been sort of like shutting down. And I do think a big part of that is how difficult it is to make doing right now, you know, like in the times that we live in, it’s really difficult to make things ethically and sustainably while also being emotionally, spiritually, creatively, financially sustainable. Because it’s all of these things. It’s all of these things. And I think sometimes it’s like, you know what? I’m tired of worrying about money. I’m bowing out. Or sometimes it’s like, I’m tired of worrying about money and I’m just so burnt out because this work is not physically sustainable.

It is so many reasons. It’s really hard. And a lot of all of the people I know who work in this space, I mean, they’re working really, really hard all the time. And while also worrying.

 

Janelle 

Yeah, it does feel endless. Yeah. And for me, feeling like I can’t make that, I don’t know how to make that shift yet of like leveling up where I could do the same amount of work because it is always an insane amount of work, but just make like slightly more, like keep working this hard, but just like bump it up slightly. I felt really stuck just in a space of grinding myself into oblivion and not being able to leverage that to get to that next level.

 

Amanda

I mean, I have had this conversation with so many of my clients over the past couple months because it’s sort of like, what you really need, it’s like, here’s some advice for you. What you really need is to be able to do more sales so that you can hire someone to help you. But in order to do more sales, you have to have more work to sell and you can’t hire anyone to do that until you do the more sales. And it’s like, you know, I don’t have an answer either. It’s unfair for sure. So I totally get that too. I mean, this is a hard space. It is difficult. 

 

How do you exist as an artist in late stage capitalism?

 

Janelle 

My first response is like, I see how other people, like there is a method of small makers where you kind of put an idea out there and see how the market responds to it and then go with your best results and allow yourself to be pigeonholed into. like a certain aesthetic or a certain product or a certain material and like really own that. And so, and then get rewarded by continuing to produce like the same flavor and just like slightly subtle variations. So I think that’s one way that people do it. And I just, I’m like, I do not know how to do that because part of my work is accepting the material that comes my way. And there’s…

 

There’s almost no way that I could boil it down to just one kind of material or one kind of aesthetic or one kind of idea. Because I also am willing to just allow my creativity and my expression and even my brand identity to morph so long as, for me, the foundation is, it’s always zero waste, it’s always reclaimed materials, and it’s always authentic to the moment that I’m in.

 

Which I think usually is pretty in line with what’s happening out there more broadly, but maybe it’s like a little off kilter. But I feel like what I’ve had to do, especially since 2020, because in 2020 I lost all my jobs. The tour shut down because you can’t take 40 people underground during a pandemic. And the artist I worked for moved so I could no longer work with him in the studio. So being forced to or feeling forced to monetize my creative labor and really build a brand, I’ve had to turn myself into a one -woman factory and just pump out as much as possible. And thankfully my method allows for that because I’m always trying to resolve the material at hand and so I always have an opportunity to make and make and make and make and make and make and make, but that’s really, that’s been my solution. It’s like, make more and sell it for less. And learn. I know it’s so, I mean, yeah, that’s really, that’s been the way, is like to play the game, to be a part of this system that is churning itself into the ground, like allow myself to be churned into the ground. And I’m good at that. That’s been one of my survival tools is just working myself beyond my capacity and not acknowledging it and staying in that space so that I never allow myself to experience burnout. If I don’t take a break, then I won’t recognize how exhausted I am and that’ll allow me to keep going.

 

Amanda

Yeah, I mean, it’s honestly, everything you just said is exactly where I have where I have been and remain. So I think I sometimes will. I mean, and I’m sure you hear this from people sometimes where someone will be like, I just don’t know why you just don’t take a break or do less or this like you like the implication is like that you don’t care for yourself or love yourself, I guess. And I’m like, that’s actually not true at all. In fact, I love myself so much that I am willing to put in all this work for this thing that really is important to me because I want to make myself happy. You know, like I don’t know. I think that people have definitely like, I don’t know, like work shamed me in that way. And I’m like, I promise that if I’m too tired, I’m not going to do it. Like, just just relax.

 

Janelle 

Yeah. But it’s like, I never feel, it’s rare that I feel too tired. Like I choose to not be so tired that I can’t do my work. And I will publicly admit the past two days, I slept in until 8 a Like unheard of, unheard of. And I think it’s because I knew I was choosing to get up early and be available early for this interview. And so I allowed myself to make some adjustments and sleep in a little more and maybe take it a little easier at my studio because I’m also, I’m kind of dragging my feet on some projects. And I’ve noticed that too. I think that’s where I’m pushing back against myself. I’m working on a, I just did a huge collection. I made 167 garments in collaboration with Prairie Underground, which is a Seattle garment manufacturer. And they produce 100 % in Seattle, 80 % in their own warehouse, and then 20 % with contractors. And so I’ve had the privilege of working with them quite a bit this year, which going to their warehouse is like stepping back in time. It feels like my childhood. I’m like, this is, it’s like going home. I feel so comfortable here.

 

But I did this collaboration where I reworked their dead stock or damaged garments and kind of excess textiles into this. It’s a massive collection. So that just seemed to drag on. I couldn’t get it done because, again, being zero waste, I had seams and little scraps and all these materials. I just kept having to find a solution for and.

 

Right after that I’ve got a friend who’s getting married and so I’m making her wedding dress and I was dragging my feet on it and we had a fitting on a Friday and I didn’t have anything ready until Thursday evening. Like I allowed myself to wait until the day before the fitting to get all her samples done and I’m like that’s how I push back against working myself as hard as I do. Like sometimes I do choose to drag my feet a little bit and then like.

 

turn the heat up just before the deadline and get it done. And I would have never, never acted that way in college. I always had my projects done like three to five days in advance. And so I feel a little rebellious being like, I got it done just before the deadline.

Amanda

Okay, so let’s talk about 14 Hours, which is, I mean, would you call this like a performance art project?

 

Janelle

I think so. It is very, I mean the purpose is putting on public display the lived experience of garment workers across the world.

 

Amanda 

And what made you decide to do this? Like what was the process to getting there?

 

Janelle 

It’s interesting because I’ve had people ask me this and I’ve tried to think it over. I cannot remember the moment where I thought I’m going to sew for 14 hours a day, six days in a row. Like when, when did that come to my mind at some point last year? But I don’t know exactly why, aside from the fact that, Hey, garment workers work like 10 to 16 hours a day sewing or pressing or cutting or folding. There’s a lot of different aspects to producing a garment, but a good majority of them are just sitting at machine sewing. What would that feel like? And I think part of the impetus is over a decade ago in 2012, my professor Timo Rassanen, who was the one that taught me the zero waste design methodology, he and a collaborator, Sala Saleen, put on a performance that was a part of a broader exhibition looking at the intersection of art and fashion. It was in Helsinki, Finland at the Amos Anderson Museum and both Timo and Sala are Finnish. And the installation that they created was called 15%. And so it required someone to be live in the museum cutting, sewing, pressing, folding white t -shirts on display for the public to come witness. And I ended up having the privilege to play that role of garment worker in the museum. And the title 15 % comes from the percentage of material that’s wasted in the production of clothing. It’s about 15%, which represents, like if you think about the positive shape of a neckline, it’s a U, but then you have that half circle of fabric that’s cut away and thrown out. And that equates to be about 15 % of the fabric. So whenever someone bought a t -shirt, which the t -shirts I was making live were for sale in the gift shop, you would also buy a little tissue wrapped, a little bag with tissue wrapped scraps in it. And so it was all the negative parts of the positive t -shirt to also represent that you the consumer, when you buy a garment, you’re paying for all three yards or two yards, whatever it takes to make that garment, but the factory, the clothing brand, they’ve decided to throw 15 % of that fabric away, even though you paid for it. So in this case, we’re like, hey, you get to keep all the fabric, but now you also get to figure out what to do with these scraps.

 

And the other element of it was the t -shirts were available for five euro. And so people would come back in after watching me make a shirt, they’d go and buy one, and they’d come back in and they’re like, I just watched you make this shirt from start to finish. How can it only be five euros in the gift shop? That’s so cheap. And honestly, the only thing I could really say was exactly, like, how is it so cheap?

 

Because you can go to H+M in the mall next door and you can buy a white t -shirt there for five euros. Like, how do they do it? And clearly the answer is exploitation. It’s slavery. It’s unethical working conditions that allow for companies to completely degrade their workforce for the benefit of their CEOs, their stockholders, like for their bottom line.

 

So that performance, I felt really honored to be a part of it, but leaving it, I didn’t really know what to do with that in my own practice. And so it’s taken me over 10 years to figure out how do I represent a similar concept or a similar message in my own practice. 14 Hours sort of, it became a callback to 15 % and maybe a retelling or a reinterpretation of the narrative and a re -presenting of this reality in the realm of the white box, the gallery, the museum. So I think that’s in part where the inspiration for 14 hours came from.

 

And then actually executing the performance. I have a friend who works with Fashion Revolution and he mentioned that Fashion Revolution week was happening in April and I’m like, I have this idea for a performance. Maybe I’ll try to put it together for during that week. And I reached out to Prairie Underground who I’ve been working with quite a bit this year and said, I’ve got this idea for a performance. I sent them a little write up about it.

 

And what I really needed in order to execute the performance successfully was a white box, some sort of sterile space to present it in, because I didn’t want to do it in my studio, because my studio is full of my tchotchkes and memorabilia, and it’s very comfortable, and I kind of make my own rules in my studio, and so I wanted a place that felt a little more foreign, a little more uncomfortable. And clinical, like being kind of clean and minimal and devoid of my personality. So I asked Prairie Underground, they have a gallery space at the front of their warehouse. And I sent them the proposal. And I also needed an industrial machine because that felt very important for the reality of a garment worker. They are going to be working with an industrial machine, but also for the speed of the work, it was just going to be faster and more successful.

 

if I had an industrial machine to use. And so I asked Prairie, could you provide me with space? Could you provide me with the machine? And they were like, yeah, of course. And so then all of a sudden I’m like, OK, I guess I’m doing this performance now. So I just set up to do it and I did it.



Amanda 

So, did people come to watch you?

 

Janelle

That was an option. Yeah, they are, they also, next to their gallery, they have a store. And so the store at Prairie Underground is open from, I think, 10 to four most days. So people, they could walk by, there’s a window facing the street, so people could walk by and see me through the window, but they could also come in and visit or chat with me during the performance. But very few people came to visit. And I don’t take that personally. I told my mom, I’m like, you could come by on Saturday if you want on my last day and visit me. There is sort of nothing to see. The one cool thing that happened was a professor at the University of Washington found out about the project through a friend of mine and brought some of his grad students down from the art department and they came to see the performance that I was able to talk about with them about more of the nuts and bolts of the performance, you know, as opposed to more of the messaging, which that was cool to share with them because it’s a hard thing to put together. It feels like performance art can be really rigid and unforgiving, but I gave myself a lot of agency, in part because this is sort of a rough draft. I see 14 Hours happening again in the future. And so I allowed this to be a little bit more experimental of, you know, what’s the best approach? What are the different variations of the method? So I was able to talk with them about that, but I also live streamed it so people could tune in. I did it on Twitch.

 

Amanda 

I was wondering about that. I was like, I wonder, cause you had mentioned live streaming it and I was like, huh. And I was sort of laughing to myself. I was like, I wonder if she did it on Twitch. That’s amazing.

 

Janelle

Yeah, I did. I had a neighbor who one day, it was 11 o ‘clock at night, he was like, hey, can you come out and watch my car for me? And I was like, sure. And he was loading all of this really expensive sound and video, like audio equipment into his car. And I found out he’s an AV guy and that’s what he does for work. And afterwards he was like, I totally owe you one. And I said, you know, I have this project coming up where I have to live stream for 14 hours a day for six days in a row. And I don’t know how to do that. I am not a tech person. Like I barely want to participate on Instagram, like for the sake of my business, you know, like I’d rather just be invisible online if I could manage that. And so I consulted with him and he did the research and said,

 

Because I thought YouTube, but he told me you can only live stream on YouTube for up to 12 hours and Instagram maxes out at four hours. And so he said Twitch is the only platform that you can live stream for 14 hours. So I signed up and I got some trolls on Monday. Yeah. Until I figured out how to turn off comments for only people who follow you or whatever, but somebody said my website looked like shitty children’s drawings. And I was like, thank you. Actually, that’s a compliment. And they were also like, what is she sewing? Is it pants? Is it a curtain? No one will know. But I felt like that’s also part of the performance because who cares what I was sewing for 14 Hours? It ultimately doesn’t matter.

 

Amanda

It doesn’t, it doesn’t, right? I mean, and I think it was interesting. You were telling me that people wanted to see, like, didn’t your mom ask you to see what you were sewing? And you’re kind of like, I don’t, your aunt, okay. And you were kind of like, I don’t, that’s kind of part of the point I’m trying to make.



Janelle 

Yeah, yeah, my aunt was texting me. She was like, wave at the camera. And so I wave and like grimace like, okay, I’m not a monkey. And then like, what are you sewing? Show us what you’re sewing. And, and it was, it was a part of the messaging in that I set myself up to sew for 14 hours a day. And the, the product that I created, I originally, you know, as I said, I allowed the project to sort of morph into what it became. I had ideas, but I allowed those ideas to change. And so originally what I wanted to do was just sew two pieces of fabric together in straight lines for 14 hours to represent the monotony of the action of sewing, but also the futility of what many of these garment workers are producing, because I think it’s 30 % of all garments produced are never sold, let alone worn.

 

And they end up, right? Like they end up in landfills, they end up being shipped to developing nations that don’t want to deal with these problems. They get dumped in the Atacama Desert where they’re set on fire eventually. And so I wanted to represent that, you know, there’s millions of people living their lives where they’re literally wasting their time, sowing nothing for no one. So I just wanted to produce nothing by the end of it.

 

Amanda 

It’s devastating.

 

Janelle 

But I realized in partnering with Prairie Underground, since they do their production in -house, they had production scraps. And I thought, okay, so I can add another layer to this where I am utilizing their production scraps to alleviate some of their waste, but also do something slightly more interesting for myself each day.

 

So I had an opening event and people came and were very confused about what I was doing. And I’m like, I don’t, the project hasn’t started yet. I’m not here, you know, on, I started it on a Monday. And so this is the Saturday before, like I wasn’t there that Saturday prior sewing for 14 hours. I was just sampling different textile manipulations that I could use in that coming week. And,

 

I set out to have a different material each day because Prairie Underground works with a variety of different textiles. So I’d have a bag of, you know, like I had a bag of white cotton jersey knit. And so I was just experimenting with different textile manipulations to figure out on day three, day four, what was I going to do? And so by the end of the opening, I had a variety of different textile manipulations that…

 

involved sewing one piece of fabric to another, but sometimes I was like folding the fabric, I was pleating the fabric, I was twisting the fabric, I was doing something slightly interesting but repetitive and the stitches were always straight lines. I just sewed vertical straight lines for 14 hours every day. The thing that shifted was the way that I was manipulating the fabric, the top fabric on top of the backing. And so,

 

After day one, I had this very large piece of, you could call it, textile art, tapestry, quilt, something. And I just rolled it up and put it on this shelf. And that’s how it stayed for the whole performance. And I thought by the end of it, that’s kind of how I want to present this work, is just rolled up and obscured so people can’t actually see the labor inside of it. And I was also choosing…

 

manipulations where the fabric would layer over and sort of hide the stitching so that you couldn’t really see the work. Like the work was there but it was obscured by the method in the same way that when I look at a garment I don’t always think about the hands that sewed it or cut it. I just look at the garment and I’m like cute or well this is kind of ugly or that is not for me or no I just I just think about it from more subjective point of view than actually being, except if sometimes it’s like something really exceptional and it draws you in towards looking at the labor. Most garments aren’t created like that. It’s a t -shirt, whatever. You look at the print on the front of it, you don’t look at the seams inside. So I was trying to find textile manipulations that lent to that, where you weren’t really looking at the work, you were looking at the product of the work.

 

And the work itself sort of disappeared into the background. Because that’s how life is for garment workers. Like their work actually doesn’t matter.

 

Amand

Yeah, I mean, it’s horrible to say that out loud, but we know that that’s true. I mean, I still encounter people all the time who aren’t living in this slow fashion bubble, who do believe that robots of some sort are making our clothing. Now, I’m not talking like a C -3PO, but it’s somehow very automated, is their assumption, which I get, because like, that’s how Cheetos are made and that’s how like industrial bread like, you know, in a bag is made and like frozen foods and all kinds of things are really, they’re made by machines monitored by people. But clothing, yes, there’s a sewing machine involved, but the human element is like, it doesn’t exist without the humans. The humans aren’t there monitoring, they’re making. And I think that work is just so invisible to people, even, like you said, even to people like us who know the labor involved, we still view an article of clothing as like, that’s cute. Ew, it’s ugly. I would never wear that. That’s amazing. But it’s the garment that is amazing or cute or ugly. It’s not the work. Right. And I think that is probably.

 

I would say of all of the things we consume in our day -to -day life, I feel like clothing is the one where we’re the most unaware of the human labor involved. And I mean, and that says a lot because everything we touch is in one way or another made by humans, but clothing is so human intensive. And we’re just completely unaware of it.

 

Janelle 

Yeah, yeah, and I fall victim to that too.

 

Amanda (54:00.139)

It’s, yeah, yeah, we’re more likely to be like, ooh, that fabric or, I don’t like that print. Yeah, right, but we’re never like, well, like how’s the sewing? You know, like, it’s interesting. It’s very, it is, I think it makes it really easy for people to overlook the massive exploitation built into this industry because, you have to do extra work to remember that people made the things. Like you have to do extra mental work to remember that. And so it’s easy to just be like, I don’t know, like I look at the way that the industry itself when it’s greenwashing, when it’s trying to sell us the latest like conscious or sustainable collection, it’s always about the fabrics, right? It’s about like, this is a recycled polyester or this is, you know, organic cotton, but they never talk about the people who made the clothes.

 

And that’s because they don’t have to because people forget about that. I think we focus so much on even just the materials and the environmental impact of those materials and those clothes. And we don’t think enough. And I say the collective we, not necessarily you or me, but like the collective we, we don’t think about the human cost of it all because we’ve been like taught to focus on the material aspect of it.



Janelle 

Yeah, yeah, and that’s really what I wanted to explore with 14 Hours is like, what is the human cost? Like, what is the toll of sewing for 14 hours a day, six days in a row? And I found at a certain point, like it wasn’t…

 

I think my body, if I continued to do it, because I only did it for a week, because I chose to do it for a week, and then I could go back to my regular programming and choose to live the life that I’m living. And I think if I had continued to do it, I would have felt a lot more physical effects, because most people after the fact or during it, they’re like, wow, how are your fingers? How are your hands? They must be so tired or so sore. And I’m like, well, you know, I sew every day. 

 

It’s not like I just came to do this out of the blue. Like this is work that’s really built into my day to day. And so it wasn’t my fingers and my hands that were sore. Like my hips got a little uncomfortable and maybe that’s just because of the chair that I was sitting in. And you know, my neck and back felt a little hunched over because of the action of hunching over a sewing machine. But the thing that was most upset throughout the performance was my stomach.

 

Like just sitting for 14 hours. And I, as I said, I designed this to be a little mushy in some places as far as the method that I was using each day. Like I didn’t have quality control so I could, you know, allow the work to be a little more emotional and show the periods where I was kind of losing it or I felt like really on. And so the work…

 

kind of has that ebb and flow of emotional energy. But the thing I didn’t really train for was sitting for 14 hours a day. I only allowed myself to get up to use the bathroom every two hours. And at noon, I could take a 20 minute lunch break. But it was so short that really I had to stay in my chair and eat at my sewing machine because I didn’t have time to get up and go do anything and then if I was still hungry at six, I could take a 10 minute dinner break. But I found just sitting and sewing, like I was using so little energy, but I was still like feeding myself as I normally would. And so my stomach like all day was just upset from the lack of mobility and then like the lack of use of the energy I was consuming. Like I really didn’t need it. I would eat half a salad at noon and just be like, I feel sick. I feel so full, I’m sick. And I haven’t even eaten half of my lunch. And it was a decent salad. It had roasted vegetables in it and chickpeas and a really nice hearty dressing. It wasn’t a wimpy salad by any means, but it just, yeah, the most…

 

Consistent motion of the day was an ankle flex only on my right foot and you know with an industrial machine to lift the presser foot you use your knee. So I’m pressing my knee, only my right knee out and in to lift the presser foot and then just pushing fabric through the machine and sometimes I had to really like wrangle the fabric so maybe there was.

 

more times where I really got my arms and my back into moving the fabric around. But for the most part, it was just ankles, fingers, and wrists, and that was all that was moving. And I noticed after day one, I didn’t train myself in this one particular way. And what I really needed to train was my internal body. It wasn’t about training my…

 

my arms and my legs and even my mind, like it felt actually very meditative the first day. Like, I can do this until about 10 hours. That’s when I hit a wall and I’m like, I think I want to be done now, but I have four more hours of sewing to do. but what I really need to do was like train my, my internal organs to be willing to live life like that. Cause usually at my studio, like,

 

I’m crouching down, I’m standing up, I’m walking around, I’m going up and down stairs, I’m leaving when I need to, like I’m sitting down, I’m standing up, I’m sitting down, I’m standing up. I just, I move a lot more in very small ways and sewing for 14 hours doesn’t afford that.

 

Amanda 

Yeah, I mean, I think that’s a really interesting call out is that like, you know, we talk a lot about obviously like the financial exploitation of garment workers and certainly that they’re working really long hours doing difficult skilled work. But there is this there are these other quality of life issues, right? Like there is the wear and tear on your body over time beyond even just like your hands using sewing machine, but your body as a whole and just that like good health, generally feeling well means moving around throughout the day. I mean, this is a conversation we have constantly about office workers and there’s like desk treadmills and standing desks and all these other gadgets that have been invented to minimize the physical impact of having to sit at a desk all day. Well, there’s no option to have a treadmill under your sewing machine or go take a walk at lunchtime or you know, get up and stretch every hour. And these are serious quality of life and health concerns.

 

Janelle 

Yeah, I couldn’t imagine doing that more than a week. Like after a week, I felt like I really needed some time to recover because like my body just, it didn’t feel well. Like I can’t keep doing this unless I seriously change the way that I engage with food or my expectations about my body’s ability. Like I would have to seriously diminish.

 

the way that I lived in the world. Like I just have to get smaller, like eat less because I’m moving less and just shrink down.

 

Amanda

Yeah, I think it is so difficult for many people to imagine what it is to be a garment worker in the era of fast fashion. And I think telling these stories is how people can start to see themselves in it and understand it in a bigger way. Because often this, I mean, and this is a pushback I get all the time, honestly, when I talk to people about garment workers.

 

and what their day -to -day lives are like and how little they’re paid. The pushback I get from people who, you know, they just kind of don’t want to hear it or they’re not ready to hear it is, well, things are different over there, right? It’s always that things are different. And I’m like, is it, these are not a different species of people, right? We’re all humans. We have the same physiology. There is a toll from doing this work, right? And having it as your only or best option.

And your ability to eat or have a place to live at all is dictated by you coming to work every day and sitting still for 14 hours and letting that job over time degrade your body and your quality of life, all at stake for survival, right? And I mean, I think about this a lot even with warehouse workers to put it in a realm that maybe feels more familiar to some people because they might know someone who’s worked in a warehouse or they themselves have. It’s like someone said this a couple of years ago on Reddit and it has stuck with me since then that warehouse work used to, it doesn’t even now pay as well. But in 2020 and 2021, it was one of the better paying jobs because basically what the companies were paying you for was to slowly break your body. And then, you know, because it’s not, you’re not gonna have a long career in a warehouse. Like your body can’t take it, right? It’s just too much. You might get a couple years before you start having physical issues, maybe even sooner. And that’s why, you know, at that point, now, of course, like warehouse pay has also gone down. But people were, like Amazon warehouses were starting people at like $25 an hour, right?

 

And it was because we’re paying to destroy your body at the same time. And I think like the difference here is that like, well, I don’t think that’s okay either. But for garment workers, they are also destroying their bodies and their quality of life to make us clothes that we’ll barely wear, if at all. And they’re being not, they’re not being paid a living wage on top of that. It is worse. And I get a lot of pushback on TikTok, especially where people are like, well, I’m overworked and I’m tired, too. And I’m always broke. And I’m like, I think you need to understand. Well, one, we don’t uphold all systems of oppression because we exist within a system of oppression. Right. And two, I promise you that the situation that garment workers are living within is worse. Even just that they’re sitting in a sewing machine for 14 hours a day.

 

You know, I, so something else that you were telling me is like you sort of, you set some other rules for yourself, not even just breaks, but for example, that you made yourself ride your bike to and from the factory each day.

 

Why did you decide to do that and what was that like?

 

Janelle 

The motivation for that came from the reality of the financial compensation for 84 hours of labor in a week. And I do want to note, I was specifically looking at garment workers in Bangladesh because there’s some of the…

 

Lowest paid and subjected to some of the most dangerous and unsafe working conditions. And I did work myself slightly more because legally a 72 hour work week is the maximum. But I chose 84 hours to represent the fact that even though by law in Bangladesh, a garment worker can work eight hours plus four hours of overtime for six days a week.

 

In reality, they are often working more than that, especially during certain times of the year where they’re working towards a deadline for a season or, you know, like every, every garment clothing company is coming to them at the same time trying to get production done. And so that ups the amount of production they have to do within a narrow window of time.

 

So I was working myself slightly more and I was also paying myself slightly less. Because I think in Bangladesh it’s $113 a month is the legal minimum and that’s something they had to fight for. It’s up from 90 and garment workers are asking for like $220 a month and you know, Western fashion brands don’t want to pay that and so they’ve settled on $113 and that’s the other thing speaking to what you just said about people pushing back and saying things like, well, at least they have a job or, you know, I work a lot and I’m underpaid too. Okay, garment workers in Bangladesh, they’re making $113 a month, but $86 is the average cost of a one bedroom rental in a city. And if you’re working, for a garment factory, you have to live in a city and you have to live close to where you work. So I paid myself slightly less. It’s like $4 .70 is the average per day. And I paid myself $3 .50 a day. Again, to represent that even if 470 daily wage is the average. There are people making less and there’s people making more. But to make $3 .50 in Seattle, Washington a day, that meant I couldn’t afford to take the bus in two directions. It’s $2 .70, one 75 cents, one direction to take the bus. And if I’m making $3 .50 a day, I definitely cannot afford to have a car. So that meant my only means of transportation being that the factory was 13 miles south of my apartment. My only means of transportation was my bike. And historically, I have ridden my bike everywhere. And that’s in part because when I moved back to Seattle after graduating,

 

From college and performing 15 % in Finland, I couldn’t afford a car when I first moved back here. And so I would bike everywhere. And it also felt like a choice that was a positive action towards the climate by reducing my personal carbon emissions. But since the pandemic, I haven’t had to commute as much because my commute was mainly from my job.

 

and I didn’t have those jobs anymore, so I was just riding to and from my studio and my studio happened to be a lot closer than my two jobs had been. So I felt leaving up to 14 hours a certain amount of anxiety about going back to that lifestyle of having a really big commute and then I had to ride 26 miles a day for six days in a row and I knew I could do it but I was like, do I want to do this?

 

And I didn’t, especially because when, when, when I signed myself up for this project, we live seven miles north of the factory. And then between the time that I got all the pieces together and the performance actually happened, we moved six miles farther north so that my commute basically doubled. So originally I was only supposed to ride 14 miles a day, which in my world, that sounds really manageable, but I’m like, 26 miles. It’s doable, but I didn’t want to do it. But I had to do it. And I was even talking with some of the folks who work at Prairie Underground thinking, you know, should I choose to sleep here? Because if I’m working 14 hours a day just doing the math, that was the other thing about this project. I’m like, just doing the math is really sobering. Working 14 hours a day means I only have 10 hours that I’m not.

 

working. And so in theory, I should be sleeping at least seven of those hours. So then I have three hours left to like live a human life. But if I’m living this far away from the factory, I’m having to commute like two and a half hours. So that means I really only have half an hour during the day where I’m not sleeping, sewing, or riding my bike. Like that, okay, garment workers in Bangladesh, at least they have a job. But you can’t have a life under these conditions. If you’re married, you have to be married to someone who works in the same factory as you, or you’ll never see them. If you have children, I don’t know how you raise them. I don’t know how you would take care of them, and I don’t know how that paycheck would even go towards supporting them. And the other thing is a lot of these communities, they live generationally, so you might have elders as well that you’re trying to support and care for. And maybe they’re helpingnout with the children, but then what do you do when one of them needs help or care? Like, there’s just no margins. There’s no time. And there’s no way to take a break or take a day off or be like, I need a mental health hour. Like, the deadline isn’t going to afford that. So that’s what for me ended up being really sobering and also helped me realize more clearly just how many choices the luxury of my choices that I have throughout the day. Like I get to choose when I show up at my studio, I get to choose when I leave, I get to choose when I go use the bathroom, I get to choose when I take a lunch break, I get to choose if I want to finish something the next day, I get to choose if I want to shift from sewing to working on something on the computer or doing you know some sort of designing or contemplating for a future project. Like I get to choose if I stand up, if I sit down, if I squat, if I sit on the floor like where if I’m cutting something if I’m like I just I have so many choices that someone working within the confines of a garment factory they don’t have and so that just the scheduling of it and

 

The physical restrictions of the project is what was really sobering for me. And coming to really embody the fact that, okay, yeah, I have a job, but I don’t have a life. And I’m married. And my husband leading up to this, he was like, so do you need to work really long, hard hours to make no money when you normally work really long, hard hours to make no money? And I’m like, how dare you?

 

Yes, I need to do this. And of course, he supports me, but he’s also looking out for me too. Like a lot of people are like, are you going to be okay during this, after this? Like, is this going to be good for you? Like people were concerned about me coming up, you know, during the,

 

Opening event being like can I come check in on you? Can I bring you like something to eat during the performance? Like people were really worried about me and I’m like, why is anyone worried about me? Like I’m choosing to do this. No one is telling me to do this. I am choosing to do this  Why are we not more worried about the women? Especially across the world. It’s like 80 % of garment workers are female and women of color like why aren’t we more worried about them and the lives that?

 

that they are more or less obligated to live. Why not show more concern and support for them? I don’t need the concern. I don’t need the support. That’s also what felt like, I felt a little indignant anytime someone brought up that concern, but I also didn’t want to shame someone for having empathy for me as an artist making a really radical decision. I respect that, but nobody needs to worry about me.

 

Like we need to worry about the millions of people who are trapped in these kinds of situations and they don’t have better options and companies based in our country, companies who we benefit from, they are proactively trying to keep these people in this type of situation.

 

Amanda 

Yes, I think that’s really important to call out is that many, many people are working very hard to ensure that this system continues as is because it is the exploitation of these humans that really fuels this industry. Yes, consumers obviously feel it on the opposite end with their money, but the pricing, the availability, the entire business model doesn’t function if people.

 

aren’t being underpaid and overworked in this way. It just, the math doesn’t math. That said, like, you know, I, it’s interesting. You know, I have this like revelation the other day where I was thinking, what if I, every time someone,came to me on social media with a really bad faith argument that I’ve already had to talk about 5 ,000 times, if I could start charging them by the hour to explain it to them again. I was like, wow, that would be like a really great income source for me because it certainly is a lot of work and it’s really annoying. And I was like, what if I could charge people $100 an hour to explain this thing that I’ve already explained 500 times to someone else when they know they’re coming to the table with a bad faith argument in the first place?

 

And I had posted this thing on threads about, you know, the fashion act and like how you could email representatives this week, blah, blah. Very like to me, what’s controversial there, really? And this woman shows up who I, you know, of course I went and looked at her commenting history and I think she just likes to fight with people on the internet as far as I can, I can determine. But she was like, so what you’re saying is you don’t want working class women to have anywhere to buy clothes anymore because you want to pay a living wage to garment workers. And I was like, wow, that is like exactly not what I said. And in fact, if garment workers were paid a living wage for where they live, because once again, things are not different over there. We have rent, we have food, we have quality of life, we have kids, family, friends, all that stuff, because we are humans, right? The paying these garment workers a living wage would barely, we as customers would not even notice the difference in pricing. That’s the thing. We don’t give up anything in order for these people to have a better life, but companies do, right? They have to like change, they have to take a few extra less cents in profit margin. I mean, the system is so broken anyway, that that’s just like one element of how broken it is. But I feel like the bad, this bad faith argument that once again, I am willing, if anybody else wants me to,

 

talk to them about this, I will do it for the rate of $100 an hour because I’m tired of having this conversation. We are not in an either or situation. It is not either garment workers make a living wage and have a better quality of life and then we all walk around naked or we can have a plethora of clothes and no one’s naked while they suffer. That is not the scenario and I am so…This is why I want to be paid $100 an hour to talk to people about this. I’m so tired of having this conversation. Like, this is not real. Like, just because one, life is hard for us, does not mean it should be even harder for other people. We should be working to lift everyone up at the same time, because when one group of people is lifted up, we all are lifted with them. It’s not a like, if their life gets better, then mine get what’s worse. And to make it, this argument even more ridiculous.

 

The way that people look at like, well, if garment workers have a better life, then my life gets worse. The way that they think it gets worse is that suddenly clothes are more expensive and they don’t get to have lots of cute new clothes anymore. So it just makes this argument like extra infuriating as if we would ever think like a steady stream of cheap clothes is more important than human life. Like, I just can’t with that argument anymore. And it’s really, really frustrating to me. So.

 

For me, I think there is so much value in what you’ve done with 14 hours because it’s not even just the experience of people watching you do it. It is you talking about it afterwards that might reach some people and make these issues real to them, like humanize them. That if someone said, like if a friend of yours was given the option of either having lots of cheap new clothes all the time,

 

and you having to work and live like this forever, or you not having to work and live like that forever and having a better quality of life, and they had, well, the same amount of clothes, but paid 25 cents more for them. Why would they ever choose, no, I’d like to save that 25 cents, so Janelle, get back to the sewing machine. No, they would never, right?

 

So anyway, if anybody wants to argue with me about it, send me $100 on PayPal and I’ll set a timer for an hour. I will argue.

 

Janelle 

Sounds like a good investment.

 

Amanda 

Maybe I think I have like a headache all the time. What is $100 worth to me, I guess, is the real question. But I do think like there is this intense value in making what is hard to understand or feels distant real to others. And there are all these ways we can do it, right? It’s like talking to others and sharing information. But I think art plays a major role in that, in connecting people with experiences they don’t understand or haven’t been able to see on their own. You know, like I was telling you when we were prepping that I have this like dream where we raise money to just go around and dump dump trucks full of discarded textiles in like mall parking lots so that we can all like dig through it and show what we’re finding. And like, hopefully people would watch and learn from that because like we have to make it real.

Because right now, like the waste problem isn’t real to most people either, because we don’t see it. We are lucky in the global north that it is out of sight, out of mind.

 

Janelle 

Mm -hmm. Yeah, we just we have the privilege of making it other people’s problems.

 

Amanda 

Yeah, we do, we do. And I think the issues of exploitation are one element of that that we often don’t need, we don’t get to see, but we need to see to understand. I mean, I think some of us, when you were talking about the bicycle and how exhausted you were and how little free time you had, the closest experience that I had personally to that in my life was when my daughter was a baby and a toddler and I was working retail.

 

And in Portland, Oregon, I was working at Urban Outfitters and I made $8 an hour. And after taxes and daycare and rent and food, you know, diapers, all those things, I did not have enough money to take the bus to and from work and or to take my daughter anywhere on the bus. So I had to take her everywhere on my bike. And so in the morning, I would get up at five in the morning. I would get dressed. I would get her dressed. I would put her on the back of my bike later in a trailer on the back of my bike, I don’t know, like four miles to her daycare, drop her off, drop off the trailer, bike seven miles to work, work all day, get back on the bike, bike back seven miles, get her, put her in the trailer, bike home four miles unless we just stopped for groceries, which we like always had to because we didn’t have a car so we could only get a little bit at a time. And I still would, after I put her to bed at night, I might have a couple hours of free time to read or draw or whatever, you know, like two hours maybe, and then I have to go to sleep to get up and do it all again. And that is still nothing in comparison to the life of a garment worker, you know, or to what you were experiencing. And yet, like, I can hear you talk about this or I can even just think about what that experience is like, and I can liken it to that time in my life and how tired I was and how I didn’t get to do social things or date or have friends or…

 

really do anything because I was just surviving. And yet that was a luxurious version of what garment workers are experiencing every day. And so I have life experience that can make that feel relatable and understandable to me, but not everyone does. And so I think like creating art that puts it in front of people can make it more real, which is important. That’s like a really valuable thing for the world.

 

Janelle 

Yeah, and I think that was another layer of the piece and calling out the absurdity of living this lifestyle. Being a white woman in a white box, sewing for 14 hours a day for six days in a row.

 

The thought is like, why? Why do you have to do this? You don’t have to do this. And I kept thinking, well, why not? Why not me? Why am I not subject to this kind of lifestyle? Why do I deserve to be exempt from it when literally millions of women are not? Why that?

 

And I got to choose to live that life for that moment. And it felt like I didn’t become a part of the sewing machine in the same way. I was trying to equate it for folks who’ve not had this experience. What would it, what is an equivalent in the story you just shared? Like absolutely living through a time like that in your life sounds very similar to what I began to experience through this performance. The other synonym I was thinking of was driving a car for 14 hours a day, six days in a row. Right? And like getting up on day five, day six to go and drive for another 14 hours and stay awake, stay alert, stay capable, stay safe. Like that, because the action too, it’s like you’re just moving your arms, you’re moving your foot. That’s sewing, like that’s, and you’re just sitting in a chair for 14 hours. And, and that…

 

In some ways it’s like, you know, you become a part of the car, you become a part of the machine. And that’s not necessarily what I felt as I was sewing. I’m like, I am my own machine. And I am having to stay conscious enough to work in concert with the sewing machine. And there are multiple times each day, like hitting 12 o ‘clock in the afternoon to take lunch.

 

It felt like a gut punch. It wasn’t like, thank goodness. I finally get a break. It was like, my gosh, I have eight more hours of sewing to do and I already sewed for six. And so it felt like the six hours I just sewed didn’t even happen. Like that was just a bonus. The real, like work actually starts now at noon because that’s my eight hour day of sewing. And I would also hit these moments where kind of midday, maybe like two and six or maybe two and two and four because I would I would sew from 6 a to 8 p so yeah but from 2 to 6 I really felt my energy dissipating and like my willingness to

 

stay on top of the ball and keep my momentum up. It just, after lunchtime essentially, really started to deplete. But then there was, there would be a moment that I realized, if I don’t pick up the pace, I’m not gonna hit this arbitrary goal that I’ve set for myself. Whether it be covering all of the base fabric with this particular textile manipulation or there were two days where I was working on quilting squares.

 

because the first two days I worked on huge yardage of fabric that I was having to roll and really push and fight through the machine. So by day three, I was like, I don’t want to do that anymore. So I was just working on quilting squares because it felt more manageable, but I had to do like 52 quilting squares with this really intricate, intricate textile manipulation. And so there would be a point where I started to drag and then I realized if I don’t pick up the pace, I’m not going to hit that goal. So then I’d have to

 

kind of artificially motivate myself to get my energy back up and get myself moving again. And I would start to feel guilty forever having felt depleted or tired as though I needed to or was slowing down. Whether or not I really was slowing down, I’m not sure, but I just felt myself slowing down. And so I’d feel guilty about that. Like, I should have been more on my game, kept my energy up so that I could meet this goal by the end of the day.

 

because if I don’t meet the goal by the end of the day, I don’t have time tomorrow to make up for my lack of production the day prior.

 

So it was really interesting, even though I had a lot of agency and I wasn’t working under the very strict conditions that garment workers do, I still felt some level of accountability to the process and the practice. And also I was under surveillance. I was being live streamed for 14 hours on Twitch. And so, you know, at times there would be someone tuned in watching me. And so I would start to feel paranoid, like, did they just see me, like, stop sewing?

 

for five seconds, like I just lean back in my chair to take a little breather and it’s like, nope, can’t do that. Somebody’s watching, gotta keep sewing. And if I don’t keep sewing, then I might not hit that goal and I might not make it to the end of the day, accomplishing everything that I have made myself obligated to accomplish. And I just, you know, I can’t imagine showing up day in, day out, year in, year out, working under those conditions. It’s just, it’s inhumane. It’s like pure.

 

purely inhumane. And at the end of the day I kept thinking, well if I am a garment worker, how would I feel to learn that everything I just created in the past month got dumped in some desert in Chile? Like became a pile of clothing, got added to a pile of clothing so large it’s visible from space. Like how would I feel about the sacrifices that I was making and the situation I was stuck in? And if I’m only making, you know, $4 .70 a day, how am I gonna get out of this situation? Like, I… It just, the futility of the process became more and more apparent up until day five. And then day six I thought was going to be the worst of all days, in part because it was a Saturday and the folks at Prairie Underground weren’t in office that day, so I feared that being alone was going to make this experience that more excruciating, but it actually felt really liberating. And I think it’s in part because on day one I had all this energy, like, what a novelty, I’m just gonna sew for 14 hours. Usually I’m having to spread my time throughout the day over a thousand different to -dos and tasks, but I get to just sew for one day. And then by day three, it’s like no more novelty, like this is no longer fun or playful, like this got real. But then by day six, I’m like, I don’t have to sew tomorrow. And so all of a sudden that novelty came back. And so I feel like in the middle of the project, that’s when it felt most real and what I would suspect most true to the experience of a garment worker, that it’s…

 

It’s dehumanizing. Like, it’s not that I became a part of the machine. I had to figure out a way to become a machine myself and think like a machine and act like a machine and treat myself like a machine so that I could be a machine. And on day one and day two, the difference was I still had some semblance of my humanity left.

 

I get Sunday off and then Monday I can sleep in until whenever I want. I don’t have to wake up at four in the morning so I can get on my bike at 4 .30 to get to the warehouse by 5 .30 so that I can start work at six so that I can sew until eight p and immediately leave because if I don’t then I’m not gonna be home until like 9 .45, 10 because it took an hour and a half to ride home because it was more uphill than down and then go to bed at like 10 .30, 11 so I can wake up at four the next morning.

 

Like, my humanity still existed day one and day six, but in day three, day four, day five, like I realized being a human was actually counterproductive to the task at hand.

 

Amanda 

I mean, yeah, this is like, I can’t imagine, like if I had done this once as you’ve done, that I would ever be able to do it again, because it is such like a physical and psychological toll and I think I would be filled with this dread. But you talked in the beginning about doing this again.

 

Janelle

Yeah, I do, I plan to, I’m already talking with someone about finding a venue to do it again later this year. And there’s this other element, that I want to do a public performance of 14 hours because Shein opened a fulfillment center in Bellevue, Washington, which is on the other side of the lake from Seattle. And I really want to do 14 hours on the doorstep of their building. 

 

Amanda 

I support that because some stuff just came out recently about their workers and some of their factories working, you know, 70 plus hours a week.

 

Janelle 

Yeah, and like should that be a shock or a surprise when you see their product and how like the fact that what make a hundred billion garments a year or something obscene like that like yeah of course their factory workers are being exploited so I want to go and set myself up right outside their building and make sheen knockoffs and sell them for less than Shein.



Which like, how could that be done? I basically would have to be giving these things away for free. 

 

Amanda 

Yeah, yeah, you’d have to be like eating the cost of materials. Yeah.

 

Janelle 

Yeah, yeah, exactly. That’s some of the logistics I need to figure out because like no one funded 14 hours but for Prairie Underground providing me with free space and a machine and my friend who helped me figure out the live stream came in and took like a professional video one day and so he donated his time and support to the project. So there was no funding for 14 hours round one and if round two is this like public protest against Shein.

 

I’m gonna need to find some way to fund just the cost of materials because I could end up producing a lot in one day given like what trash their product is and if I’m knocking off trash I’m just gonna be making more trash and I can make a lot of trash if it’s just like made trashy so

 

I haven’t figured out how to execute that iteration quite yet, but that’s on my mind.

 

a friend in New York, I’m going to be spending some time there. She saw 14 Hours and was like, come do it here. And if anybody could find me a venue to do this performance again, she could. So I think realistically, if I’m able again, to find someone to donate a venue and an industrial machine and help connect me, I think using production waste feels like a really authentic contribution to the project. So if I can, find production ways to work with again. I will definitely do it again. But as I was sewing during 14 hours and reflecting on all the ways I had provided myself with a lot of freedom in the project, I could see that I could work more restrictions into it, like having other people design the projects that I would do each day, or having other people source my materials for me, so that I just, as I do different iterations, I can eliminate some of those freedoms and luxuries that I had afforded myself, so that the experience can become that much more true to what a garment worker experiences.

 

They don’t get to choose if they’re sewing jeans for Gap one day and you know, like baby dresses for Carter’s the next. They just sew up, show up, sew up. They show up to the sewing machine each day and they get assigned the task at hand. And so if they’re working with denim, they’re working with denim. If they’re working with, you know, a polyester, then they’re working with a polyester …So yeah, those are my thoughts about how I could do different iterations going forward. But as of right now, there’s no hard plan to do it again. But I am open if anybody wants to bring me on into their space to do this insane thing that’s actually not that impressive and not that abnormal. That’s the other thing about it. I’m like, why even celebrate this performance? It is not worth celebrating. It’s not impressive. It’s not a great feat. It’s not even a great thing.

 

Or original. Like I’m just cosplaying someone’s real life and and that’s that’s kind of the point you know to bring that more into the present reality of people’s consideration as they’re going out into the world to shop and consume clothing. But it’s just it’s like not it’s…It’s not even anything to celebrate. And so I feel like even the performance 14 hours should sort of dissipate into, you know, obscurity. Like it just shouldn’t, it shouldn’t be noticeable. It shouldn’t be noteworthy. It should just like evaporate in the same way that the work of garment workers just kind of evaporates from the world



Amanda 

That work, that experience isn’t valued. It’s invisible. Why would this performance be valued more? But I also just think about, you know, your friends and family telling you like, you don’t need to do this to yourself. You don’t have to put yourself through this. Well, my question is, why should anyone?

 

Because that’s happening right now as you and I are recording this. That is exactly the life that people are living and they shouldn’t have to live that either. Especially so that, you know, what is, I don’t know, this is like what makes me the saddest about this all. And there’s like so much to be sad and angry about. It’s like so much work, so much sacrifice, so much physical toll, so much negative impact on one’s quality of life.

 

And yet, who does it benefit? I guess it helps billionaires make more money, right? It doesn’t help us. I know, I think the conversation that comes up a lot, no one says this explicitly, but their language reflects it. That like, we shouldn’t criticize Shein because they make cheap clothes available to everyone, right? Like that.

 

When people say that, what they’re really saying is like, we need to preserve and protect Shein, this entire system, because they do this public service of selling us cheap clothes. When you say it out loud like that, it sounds preposterous, but that’s the underlying meaning when people jump in to say things like, you know, well, when you criticize Shein, where do you want poor people to get clothes? Like, that’s what people are saying, right? But really what you’re saying is, this company is in the public interest, which it’s not.

 

And these cheap clothes don’t benefit us either, the customers. They don’t benefit this planet. And obviously the creation of them involves exploitation and suffering, unhappiness. So the only people who are benefiting from the system are people who already have way more than their fair share of everything. So why are we okay with this?

 

You know, like I, I mean, this is I know this is something you think about all the time. So do I. But I do think like there is so much value in demonstrating this to people like I almost wish in addition to charging people one hundred dollars an hour to argue with them about fast fashion. I also wish that people could have this experience that you’ve had, even if it was just for one day. For many people, it’d be very telling. But here’s the thing: Most people don’t know how to sew. So it’s not even a conversation we can have.

They don’t know how it hurts your eyes and your back and your hands and you get uncomfortable. Like they don’t know that.

 

Janelle 

And yeah, they don’t know like really how much concentration it takes and how much, like how many years of intentional practice it takes to get excellent at it, to become so good that when people see your work, they assume a machine did it automatically. Like they don’t even know there’s a human element that was needed for that machine to operate. But it’s funny you say that because it’s another iteration I was thinking about inspired by Marina Abramovich and The Artist is Present. She did back in like 2010 or something at the MoMA where you could sit across from her. She sat in a chair for however long the museum was open each day and you could sit across from her and see how long you could like sit and stare at her until you broke. And people were lined up for hours to sit across from her during this performance. And I’m like, we could do a version like that where I have two sewing machines. And so I’m sewing for 14 hours and then anybody else can come up and sew for as long as they want right next to me.

 

to me and like, just see how you do, see how long you can last. Probably not long. And if I could get up and leave the performance, I would, but something I kept reminding myself and it came up when these grad students came to visit, they said, you know, like how, like what’s keeping you accountable? Like how do you choose?

 

Why do you choose to continue to do this work even if no one is tuned in to the live stream at this moment and no one has come in to visit you in the gallery? Why would you keep doing it if no one’s watching? And I kept having to remind myself, well, I have integrity and I told myself I was going to do this and I chose to do this and so I am holding myself accountable to it and I’m the only person who is going to hold myself accountable to anything that I choose to do or choose to believe in or want to abide by or live within the confines and like I am always going to be the one responsible for whether or not I actually accomplish those things and I think that’s a big part of how I approach my creative work and how I had to approach this project because even though I had the kind of ominous presence of a live stream it’s true there were times where no one was tuned in and no one was in the gallery watching me but I still had to keep sewing because I said I was going to do it and so I had to do it.

 

Amanda

Yeah, I think that’s a really interesting call out too, because this was already in itself like a really brutal experience, but you didn’t have like factory managers like sort of pressuring you to work faster, right? Or watching you in the same way or harassing you or threatening you with physical violence or actually, you know, hitting you. And that and even without all of that, this was still a brutal and affecting experience, which says so much. It says so much. Right. You got like the I mean, and this is like the Disney version of it, I guess, in comparison. But yet it was still so hard.

 

Janelle 

Yeah, miserable and unnecessary.

 

Amanda 

Yeah, completely unnecessary. Once again, like this idea that like somehow this work is beneficial to society because we get all these cheap clothes is such a fallacy because the cheap clothes don’t bring us happiness either. And they actually, you know, they create bigger problems for the planet. It’s, you know, when I’m I can’t wait until people start sending me that hundred dollars, because as we’re talking, I’m like coming up with all these great comebacks for those conversations. So thank you for helping me work through this exercise. 

Amanda 

So, you know, we’ve been talking for quite a while, but I wanted to just talk for a few minutes about what you actually do to make a living, because obviously this, you know, 14 Hours, not and that not a lucrative experience for you. And when we were talking before, you said, quote, I make clothes all day every day. And that is because that is also how you make a living is by making clothing. How many garments have you made this year?



Janelle 

Counting the pieces that I created during 14 Hours, which included, I think, six large -scale sort of tapestry works and then…20 or so quilting squares, so I counted all of those like one quilting square counted as one garment because I was doing an intricate sort of textile manipulation across the face of it, but then one Tapestry that’s like five yards of fabric that counted as one garment so trying to You know qualify like there’s there’s not a good balance between Like garment to garment how much labor it takes or material it utilizes, but I think I’m at like three hundred

 

180 or so at this point this year Because in January alone, I made 51 garments and then as I said, I made 167 for the collaboration And then there’s there’s been a lot of other pieces in between But my biggest year to date was 2022 I made 550 garments that year and so I’m gonna top it this year for sure

 

Amanda 

Wow.

I mean, there’s only 365 days in a year. See, you really are sewing clothes all day, every day.

 

Janelle

Yeah, so all day, every day. And part of it is my method. Like I’m very improvisational.

 

And I’m very motivated by waste reduction. And so that keeps my work ever perpetual. But I also, I design in a very exacting way. Like I don’t contemplate decisions. I just make them. And then if it turns out I made the wrong decision, that becomes a design opportunity to reinvent and reconfigure and maybe discover something new through a process of adding labor on top of my labor. But yeah.

 

That is my day to day, JRat is my brand. I make one of a kind clothing from reclaimed materials through the zero waste methodology. I usually work within the context of collections because I really curate the materials that I’m working with and I do a lot to augment the surfaces through painting and dyeing and different textile manipulations and embellishments so that things that maybe shouldn’t live together are married through that creative intervention and I also I make wearable furniture being that I learned how to weave chairs I’ll weave on to a found chair frame and then with fabric sewn together like yarn and it’s usually strips of clothing that just maybe someone gave it to me and I didn’t actually want to work with it to turn it back into a garment. And so I’ll cut it into strips and sew it into yarn and weave it on a chair and then I’ll knit a sweater which gets attached to the chair. And so when you wear the sweater, you wear the chair. So you’re kind of obligated to stay seated. And it can be like sort of cocooning space of contemplation, but it also can be like a torture chamber of rumination depending on.

 

You know, where you’re at mentally. And I also make rugs that have pants woven into it. So when you put the pants on, you put the rug on and you’re kind of set up for this like Shavasana type corpse pose posture, just lying on the ground. Which is ironic because I was at the time investigating like my chronic overwork. And I’m like, let’s do a really labor intensive project to create something. It’s built for rest.

 

So then I’m not actually going to use like they just sit at my studio and I put them on display at different times But I don’t I don’t actually utilize them for the benefit they might bring but I also I do a series called wall dolls, which was my exploration into bringing My work of clothing more into a 2d sort of fine art presentation. So there are these soft sculptures that look like life -size

sort of Muppet style dolls and they’re adorned with J -Rat inspired garments. And I also run a project called Wardrobe Therapy where I work with clients own garments that usually it’s things they really love but they don’t wear for a wide variety of reasons and yet they can’t get rid of. Because I myself have this bag of clothes in my closet where I just, I’m not ready to give you up, but I don’t know what to do with you. And so that practice involves a pretty extensive interview process so I can really understand the client’s relationship to fashion, where it started, where it’s at, where they want it to go. And by the end of the interview we sort of co -design a way to reconfigure these pieces that they love into things that they can wear again and love that much more. And then I do the labor of cutting and sewing and there’s a fitting process and I deliver the finished piece to the client when the project is completed. So that’s sort of what I do day to day throughout the year, some projects, like with JRAT making collections, that’s what I do most day in, day out. But I’m trying to schedule going forward more time to quote unquote take a break and invest a lot of energy into something that won’t make money. You know, like I can sell garments, but I’ve never sold one of my chairs or wearable rugs or a wall doll, because I priced those adequately for,

 

The time and the energy and the material that’s invested in them, but I don’t price my clothing adequately so that I can sell it so, Yeah, the balance is the things that don’t make money they get less time Invested into them, but I still invest a lot of time and energy into the things that do help me earn money I just I kind of undervalue myself, and I think that’s another another reflection of the way that garment workers across the world their labor is undervalued and it means that most people either are unwilling or unable to budget adequately for a garment such as what I create and that means that my labor becomes undervalued as well. And that’s something that I’ve had to accept and choose to live within because I know I have a choice as to whether or not I continue to work in this way or do this kind of work. And so in some ways it feels like the sacrifices, not to sound grandiose, but like a public service, like wardrobe therapy, I definitely don’t charge enough, but I feel like that’s a public service to engage people in their relationships with clothing so that they can better understand themselves and their motivations and start to see places where maybe they can make different choices that are more ethical, more sustainable, more respectful of garment workers in their lives. And through talking with people, I feel like I have made an impact. A lot of people have reflected back that they started to think more about whether or not to buy fast fashion, either because they were a wardrobe designer or because they were wardrobe therapy client or just because they’ve seen my work. And I really appreciate that feedback because I try not to be preachy about what I do because I have made that decision in the past and I found it just didn’t work for me because I’m not up for the challenge of having a debate online. I don’t have that constitution. That’s not what I’m good at and people are good at it. And I really respect what you are doing because you put yourself out there in the fray and like really take on those conversations that can be like emotionally draining and and and like sometimes psychologically devastating. I’m just not always available for that. So I’m trying to find the ways that I can bring this message forward in a way that’s authentic and again sustainable for me. And so what I’m doing right now is more or less sustainable. And I’ve had to redefine like…my personal definition of success and being a graduate of Parsons, like, success is showing during New York Fashion Week or becoming a great brand, a big name, like creating this sort of facade or fulfilling someone else’s vision of success in fashion. And I had to abandon that and center on my own definition, which has just beencreating a sustainable career in the arts and accepting sustainability as a plural word.

 

It’s financial, of course, but it’s also ethical, it’s social, it’s political, it’s spiritual, it’s emotional, it’s physical, it’s relational. Sustainability for me has to be an all -encompassing pursuit. And I know right now, I’m only 50 -50. My business is sustainable in that I’m exclusively using reclaimed and dead stock materials. I’m resolving material issues for other people and for larger situations that are completely outside my control like fast fashion. To the best of my ability I try to subvert what they’re doing by creating sustainable work out of what they are making which is inherently unsustainable.

 

But the aspect of my business that is not sustainable is the time and the energy and the emotional drain that it takes to do what I do. But again, like I’m making a choice, I’m willing to do it for as long as I’m willing to do it. And I think at a certain point I might have to accept that I’m not going to be willing to do this anymore. I just don’t know when that is. And I know I’m not obligated to explain myself or be accountable to anybody else on that front. Like if I want to stop doing what I’m doing tomorrow, I get to choose to do that.

 

Amanda

Yeah, yeah, I mean, I think that’s a good way to look at it because someday you just might not want to do it anymore. And that’s OK. I think often it’s like we’re sort of going full circle here because we’re going back to sort of where we started our conversation with like how so many recently it feels like it. This is strictly anecdotal. Like it has felt like so many makers, brands, designers in the slow fashion space have said like, OK, I’m done in the past like six, eight months. And I feel like people always show up to be like, I’m so sad or like, I can’t believe you’re leaving or I wish I would have supported you or I always planned on buying something I didn’t. And I think really the best thing to show up with in those situations is like, wow, I’m gonna miss you, but I’m also happy for you. I know that sounds weird, but it’s like, I get it. Like people who are working in this way, they’re throwing everything of themselves into it. And that isn’t sustainable long term, despite the work itself, the final product being sustainable. It’s so complicated, right? And as you said, like people no longer understand how much clothing should cost. And so you are pushed into a position where you are selling clothing to people who…

 

Your customers, of course, are going to be more mindful of this. But even they don’t know how much clothing really should cost. Because most of us, the last time clothes cost what they should have cost, we were probably very small children, or before we were even born, to be honest. And so we just like, we don’t know. We don’t know. And we don’t know a lot of people who sew.

Most of our parents didn’t work in a garment factory because you know, it’s not here anymore. And I think that means you’re coming up against a lot, a lot of things that make doing what you’re doing really hard, really hard. You know, you said when we were talking before, you said, you know, like you don’t see upcycling as a fad or a trend. It’s a methodology. It’s a new way of making stuff.

 

And the reality is if even fast fashion went away, what you’re doing is really the way forward anyway, which is like using everything until it can no longer be used anymore. And so there is this part of me that feels that you and everyone else who is doing this kind of work, you’re really pioneers of this new way forward, this new way of looking at items and their elements, their materials, and seeing that long -term value and the building and building from it and building from it until you can’t anymore. And so we’re in this weird time where, I don’t know, it’s like you’re creating the future, but the present hasn’t caught up with it yet. And so people don’t wanna pay for it. But over time, right? Like, cause you’re in the early stages.

 

Over time, what you’re doing in an ideal world will be how everything is done. Right. And by then, people will understand that robots don’t sew our clothes, that this work has value and that no one should be exploited to make clothing. And in time, because there used to be a time where sewing clothing, making clothing for people was a good, solid, middle class living. Like, let’s get back to that.




Janelle 

Yes, yes, yeah. Yeah, it does. It feels. Thank you and it does. It does feel. You know, five days out of seven that what I do is. Like it’s my pleasure like this is this is truly my pleasure to spend my day messing around with clothing and goofing off with a dress form and figuring out, you know, different ways to reconfigure things that already exist and turning them into new and different forms. Like it’s really, it’s what I enjoyed doing in junior high. Like my parents let me cut my clothes up and sew them back together in different ways. And…

 

And I really, I don’t want to be doing anything else. So it does, I feel spoiled that I get to do what I do. And I get to contribute in a positive way to a really problematic situation that I have the privilege of validating these things that already exist and allowing them to persist in a way that is that much more.

 

acceptable or like engaging as opposed to just letting them like languish and die in a thrift store or a landfill or a pile of clothing on fire in the desert. Like I really do enjoy what I do and I want to keep doing it and my studio at this moment my my studio at this moment is like vomiting out material left and right. Like I am drowning in material in this moment. And so what I think about most of the day is how I want to resolve all of this material. Like that’s really what I want to do. I want to make and make and make and make and make and make and make until I can’t make anymore. And I know there really will never be that moment. Like there will always be material available. So there will never be a moment that I can stop unless I choose to because…

 

There’s just always going to be this problem to resolve. Living in a world where what, the next six generations have clothing, like it already exists, we don’t have to keep making clothing. It feels like a real privilege to do the work that I do. So I am very grateful.

 

Amanda

 Well, I’m really grateful for your work. And I know I can’t wait for everybody to hear about what what you do and learn, get to know you, because I just as hard as I know it is, I’m just I’m just so grateful that there are people out there really, you know, being the pioneers in this space. Like I said, like this is like the first generation where we’ve really like had to start thinking about this way and think creatively and change.

 

change these processes going forward. And like, hopefully things get easier. I guess it’s like what I think. I’m like, am I going to be like 80 years old fighting with people for $100 an hour on the Internet about why we don’t need cheap clothes from Shein? Fingers crossed, no. Right. Like we’re we’re getting there. I hope by then I’ve like raised my arguing with me on the Internet rate. But like, I I think that like we we are in the 

I don’t know, I was like in the time that we’re living in right now to what I consider personally one of the worst periods of human life, which is like seventh grade, where it’s just like, you’re going through puberty, everyone’s mean at school, you’re like neither a child nor an adult, you’re not even a teenager, you’re just like in this weird, difficult time where you’re learning how to move forward and everything is hard. And I feel like that’s where we are.

 

in terms of like fighting climate change and dismantling fast fashion and just setting ourselves up for this like better future. You know, and the things I listed are just like a few things on the list of things that we are like trying to exist within right now and improve and make, you know, all part of making the world like a healthier, more just place for everyone. And I like to think that like even though it’s really hard and the work is hard,

 

and it’s tiring that there are so many of us who are so passionate about it that we are setting the stage for things to be better going forward. So that’s the hope that gets me up every day and keeps me going.

 

Janelle

That’s very encouraging. I like that perspective. I feel like I lose it sometimes. So thank you for the reminder. 

Yeah, I really believe that we can because if you look back historically, people have made major changes in the way the world functions. Sometimes for the worse, you know, like fast fashion being a great example, but often for the better. And so we just need to remember that the early stages of all of those movements, they were hard for everyone involved, but they got to look back hopefully and see their progress. And I see that for all of us.

 

Well, I want to thank you, Janelle. This was like so much fun. Like I could talk about this for six more hours. So you definitely have to come back again so we can talk about it more.

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Clotheshorse is brought to you with support from the following sustainable small businesses:

Thumbprint is Detroit’s only fair trade marketplace, located in the historic Eastern Market.  Our small business specializes in products handmade by empowered women in South Africa making a living wage creating things they love like hand painted candles and ceramics! We also carry a curated assortment of  sustainable/natural locally made goods. Thumbprint is a great gift destination for both the special people in your life and for yourself! Browse our online store at thumbprintdetroit.com and find us on instagram @thumbprintdetroit.

Picnicwear:  a slow fashion brand, ethically made by hand from vintage and deadstock materials – most notably, vintage towels! Founder, Dani, has worked in the industry as a fashion designer for over 10 years, but started Picnicwear in response to her dissatisfaction with the industry’s shortcomings. Picnicwear recently moved to rural North Carolina where all their clothing and accessories are now designed and cut, but the majority of their sewing is done by skilled garment workers in NYC. Their customers take comfort in knowing that all their sewists are paid well above NYC minimum wage. Picnicwear offers minimal waste and maximum authenticity: Future Vintage over future garbage.

Shift Clothing, out of beautiful Astoria, Oregon, with a focus on natural fibers, simple hardworking designs, and putting fat people first.  Discover more at shiftwheeler.com

High Energy Vintage is a fun and funky vintage shop located in Somerville, MA, just a few minutes away from downtown Boston. They offer a highly curated selection of bright and colorful clothing and accessories from the 1940s-1990s for people of all genders. Husband-and-wife duo Wiley & Jessamy handpick each piece for quality and style, with a focus on pieces that transcend trends and will find a home in your closet for many years to come! In addition to clothing, the shop also features a large selection of vintage vinyl and old school video games. Find them on instagram @ highenergyvintage, online at highenergyvintage.com, and at markets in and around Boston.

St. Evens is an NYC-based vintage shop that is dedicated to bringing you those special pieces you’ll reach for again and again. More than just a store, St. Evens is dedicated to sharing the stories and history behind the garments. 10% of all sales are donated to a different charitable organization each month.  New vintage is released every Thursday at wearStEvens.com, with previews of new pieces and more brought to you on Instagram at @wear_st.evens.

Deco Denim is a startup based out of San Francisco, selling clothing and accessories that are sustainable, gender fluid, size inclusive and high quality–made to last for years to come. Deco Denim is trying to change the way you think about buying clothes. Founder Sarah Mattes wants to empower people to ask important questions like, “Where was this made? Was this garment made ethically? Is this fabric made of plastic? Can this garment be upcycled and if not, can it be recycled?” Signup at decodenim.com to receive $20 off your first purchase. They promise not to spam you and send out no more than 3 emails a month, with 2 of them surrounding education or a personal note from the Founder. Find them on Instagram as @deco.denim.

The Pewter Thimble Is there a little bit of Italy in your soul? Are you an enthusiast of pre-loved decor and accessories? Bring vintage Italian style — and history — into your space with The Pewter Thimble (@thepewterthimble). We source useful and beautiful things, and mend them where needed. We also find gorgeous illustrations, and make them print-worthy. Tarot cards, tea towels and handpicked treasures, available to you from the comfort of your own home. Responsibly sourced from across Rome, lovingly renewed by fairly paid artists and artisans, with something for every budget. Discover more at thepewterthimble.com

Blank Cass, or Blanket Coats by Cass, is focused on restoring, renewing, and reviving the history held within vintage and heirloom textiles. By embodying and transferring the love, craft, and energy that is original to each vintage textile into a new garment, I hope we can reteach ourselves to care for and mend what we have and make it last. Blank Cass lives on Instagram @blank_cass and a website will be launched soon at blankcass.com.

Gabriela Antonas is a visual artist, an upcycler, and a fashion designer, but Gabriela Antonas is also a feminist micro business with radical ideals. She’s the one woman band, trying to help you understand, why slow fashion is what the earth needs. If you find your self in New Orleans, LA, you may buy her ready-to-wear upcycled garments in person at the store “Slow Down” (2855 Magazine St). Slow Down Nola only sells vintage and slow fashion from local designers. Gabriela’s garments are guaranteed to be in stock in person, but they also have a website so you may support this women owned and run business from wherever you are! If you are interested in Gabriela making a one of a kind garment for you DM her on Instagram at @slowfashiongabriela to book a consultation.

Vagabond Vintage DTLV is a vintage clothing, accessories & decor reselling business based in Downtown Las Vegas. Not only do we sell in Las Vegas, but we are also located throughout resale markets in San Francisco as well as at a curated boutique called Lux and Ivy located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Jessica, the founder & owner of Vagabond Vintage DTLV, recently opened the first IRL location located in the Arts District of Downtown Las Vegas on August 5th. The shop has a strong emphasis on 60s & 70s garments, single stitch tee shirts & dreamy loungewear. Follow them on instagram, @vagabondvintage.dtlv and keep an eye out for their website coming fall of 2022.

Country Feedback is a mom & pop record shop in Tarboro, North Carolina. They specialize in used rock, country, and soul and offer affordable vintage clothing and housewares. Do you have used records you want to sell? Country Feedback wants to buy them! Find us on Instagram @countryfeedbackvintageandvinyl or head downeast and visit our brick and mortar. All are welcome at this inclusive and family-friendly record shop in the country!

Located in Whistler, Canada, Velvet Underground is a “velvet jungle” full of vintage and second-hand clothes, plants, a vegan cafe and lots of rad products from other small sustainable businesses. Our mission is to create a brand and community dedicated to promoting self-expression, as well as educating and inspiring a more sustainable and conscious lifestyle both for the people and the planet. Find us on Instagram @shop_velvetunderground or online at www.shopvelvetunderground.com

Selina Sanders, a social impact brand that specializes in up-cycled clothing, using only reclaimed, vintage or thrifted materials: from tea towels, linens, blankets and quilts.  Sustainably crafted in Los Angeles, each piece is designed to last in one’s closet for generations to come.  Maximum Style; Minimal Carbon Footprint.

Salt Hats:  purveyors of truly sustainable hats. Hand blocked, sewn and embellished in Detroit, Michigan.

Republica Unicornia Yarns: Hand-Dyed Yarn and notions for the color-obsessed. Made with love and some swearing in fabulous Atlanta, Georgia by Head Yarn Wench Kathleen. Get ready for rainbows with a side of Giving A Damn! Republica Unicornia is all about making your own magic using small-batch, responsibly sourced, hand-dyed yarns and thoughtfully made notions. Slow fashion all the way down and discover the joy of creating your very own beautiful hand knit, crocheted, or woven pieces. Find us on Instagram @republica_unicornia_yarns and at www.republicaunicornia.com.

Cute Little Ruin is an online shop dedicated to providing quality vintage and secondhand clothing, vinyl, and home items in a wide range of styles and price points.  If it’s ethical and legal, we try to find a new home for it!  Vintage style with progressive values.  Find us on Instagram at @CuteLittleRuin.