“I’ve always believed clothes have stories behind them and should live more than one life if they’re physically able to.” – Corliss Elizabeth Williams, proprietor of the Lowry Estate.
The annual farewell to summer and embrace of fall is typically marked by a collective feeling of novelty and excitement. Back-to-school shopping is a staple of the season, as consumers are bombarded with fashion standard-bearer’s list of fall trends.
This year is different for myriad reasons, chief among them an unending pandemic that has altered all conventional notions of time, seasons, and tradition. The COVID-19 health crisis has ravaged the economy, leaving most with tighter budgets and less expendable income. Consumer behavior has changed. The ongoing national reckoning with police brutality and systemic racism has also altered consumer comportment.
Corliss Elizabeth Williams, creative director and proprietor of the Lowry Estate, a Detroit-area vintage clothing shop, says she has seen a substantial change in her business since social media initiatives have amplified Black entrepreneurs.
“Black businesses pretty much were not on people’s radars as much before all this,” says Williams. While the impetus for the new spotlight is bittersweet, Williams says she is both grateful for her longstanding customers and for the newfound support.
Another key pillar of conscious consumerism is the move away from fast fashion to brands that pay a living wage to workers. A recent piece in Crain’s Detroit Business referenced a report by Detroit Regional Partnership citing a dramatic increase in apparel manufacturing jobs in the city over the last ten years. Jobs that represent a prioritization of domestic production and fairly compensated skilled labor.
Thrifting, vintage and secondhand shopping have become increasingly popular among consumers. Shopping resale is better for the environment and has emerged as a trendy solution for people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford independent designers.
As trendy as thrifting may be now, it was originally born out of necessity for many. Most shoppers frequent secondhand stores as a means to save money and obtain access to clothing at an affordable price point.
“I have always been extremely mindful of that…I think that everybody should be able to own pieces that they love, that empower them, and that make them feel good,” says Williams.
In typical Detroit fashion, DIY clothing-makers have also materialized as a preferred means of shopping for many people in the city. Independent designers are turning to social media to sell their re-purposed or handmade garments direct-to-consumer. With no middleman and most of the clothing being handmade, this option is both affordable and sustainable.
Cassady Schrock started to sell her vibrant, custom-made halter tops on Instagram after receiving positive feedback on the small number of garments she made for friends. What once started as a pet project has turned into something more expansive, as Schrock alters, delivers, and ships her crocheted tops independently.
Sustainability is important to her burgeoning business, utilizing her own yarn collection and integrating recycled materials into her process. “I hope to create 100% recycled yarn tops once I utilize the remainder of my existing yarn collection,” says Schrock. Initially, she wasn’t charging for her wears, instead opting for a donation-based model.
Now that she is charging for her work, Schrock hopes to offer a holistic experience to her clients. “I am really trying to emphasize the collaborative nature of the product and ensuring the garment is exactly what they envisioned, is their style, fits their body, and lasts – giving the customer more than just the product for their money,” says Schrock.
Your Guide to Sustainable Fashion in Detroit
Looking to spice up your fall wardrobe? Explore Detroit’s assorted sustainable fashion landscape