|Photo ©John Carey 2014|
I'm involved in most aspects of Dark Garden, and have been since I started it all in 1989.
It's rare that I sit behind a sewing machine, but I've done a fair amount of that over the last month, and it's given me more time to reflect about Dark Garden & why exactly we do what we do.
I'm generally enmeshed in pattern development, meeting with and fitting clients for corsets and ensembles, and the day to day running of our business.
In August, I went to England to act as the keynote speaker at the Oxford Conference on Corsetry. There I had the great pleasure of getting to know a very skilled fashion technician in London named Ian Frazer Wallace who, with his business partner Joel Moore, has recently opened The Whitechapel Workhouse, where, among other things, they produce garments for designers that don't have their own workrooms, or may not have the level of skill that Ian and his team possess.
We develop leaders in communities who model joy and justice. We champion local, culturally significant heritage foods, customs and recipes – and bring these experiences into farms, markets, restaurants and homes. We teach the next generation how to grow, prepare and share food responsibly.
In my conversations with Ian, he asked me one day what makes me happy at work.
It's a fine question, one I think everyone should ask themselves on a regular basis, since our jobs are such a huge part of our daily lives.
What does make me happy are respectful clients who entrust their dreams into our hands. Making unique garments requires trial and error and patience and diligence. These clients are looking for an experience and product that is beyond the "fast fashion" that is common in our culture. The clients that respect that process and enjoy coming by for fittings and brainstorming with artisans and then tear up with delight at seeing their dream come true make me amazingly happy.
You know the Slow Food movement? Ian and I and many, many others are unwittingly part of the Slow Fashion movement.
This is what slowfoodusa.org has to say:
At Dark Garden, we champion locally produced and culturally significant garments, customs, and techniques. We also happen to be teaching the next generation to purchase materials responsibly - to pattern, cut, and sew individual garments using techniques that may otherwise be lost to time and the need for efficiency and increasingly cheap prices.
Do we really want to rely on artisans in other countries to make all of our clothing? This isn't socially or environmentally responsible.
Our quality is of utmost importance to me, and this has lead to making sure that my production team is very skilled and well trained. Every step has to be exceptional, or our corsets and other garments won't be. I don't find that a degree in fashion design helps when it comes to being part of the production team, but a steady hand and deep dedication to detail do. Most schools don't focus on the nitty-gritty how-tos of fine sewing, perhaps because actual hands-on work is becoming less highly valued; but, how can exceptional garments continue to be made if all of the techniques are lost?
We are the only corset makers on the West Coast (and maybe in the US) where you can simply drop in 6 days a week to try on a corset, perhaps be measured for custom work, or just do some shopping for clothing or accessories. We always have trained fitters in attendance during open hours, and appointments for private consultations are available with me 3 - 4 days a week. I mentioned that quality is of utmost importance to me, and this has meant that keeping all production in-house is vital.
Nowhere else will you have such access to the very people that create the corsets ~ ask any of our knowledgeable and helpful retail staff for a peek at the workroom next time you're in!