NEW YORK — Fashion industry watchdog Remake and designer Mara Hoffman hosted a fashion week policy kick-off event Wednesday.
The event took place at Mara Hoffman’s SoHo store, celebrating the re-introduction of the “Fabric Act” or the ‘‘Fashioning Accountability and Building Real Institutional Change Act.” The federal bill was first introduced in May 2022 by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and will see a formal reintroduction next week.
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Despite the 90-degree heat, the store was filled to the brim with climate activists, designers and industry advocates. It was an evening beset with sustainable spritzes, inspirational poems and, above all else, hope.
“We cannot do this alone as a singular brand, so just to hear how much growth there has been in a relatively short period of time — it lays out this hope that there is room for transformation in an industry that is so desperate for it,” said Hoffman during the event.
There currently are 275 endorsers of the Fabric Act. Remake’s founder Ayesha Barenblat, the Garment Worker Center’s director Marissa Nuncio and garment worker and GWC member Delia Quiñonez Lima also joined the round of speeches to drum up support for the act.
The Garment Worker Center was the key organizer behind California’s Garment Worker Protection Act that went into effect in January 2022. Like this law, the Fabric Act looks to ingrain worker protections like the joint liability clause, which is a binding element meant to hold brands, factories and subcontractors jointly liable for wage violations.
“What we workers want is that this law passes so that all workers can find dignified work that pays a minimum salary where we’re not being paid by the piece and where everyone is taking responsibility for our wages,” said Quiñonez Lima in her native Spanish as translated by Nuncio. “That’s how we can have a better quality of life, and so we can buy the basic necessities of life. Right now, we just can’t. What we need is everyone in the community to support this law. Can we do it? Yes, we can.”
Echoes of “Sí se puede” rang throughout the audience, in a nod to Dolores Huerta’s past efforts for the United Farm Workers.
Fashion’s policy efforts are reaching a boil. At the state level, the “Fashion Act” will be reintroduced during New York’s upcoming legislative season. On Sept. 13, The Act on Fashion Coalition will hold a special reception at the New York Edition Hotel to rally support for the Fashion Act. The American Circular Textiles group also recently hosted a first-of-its-kind congressional briefing on the matter.
“The goals of the Fashion Act and Fabric Act are so commendable,” said Victoria Harmon, chief executive officer of VL Harmon Advisors, in a separate conversation with WWD. “The bill sponsors and organizers have actually done a lot in the last year to make the bills more tenable.” Harmon previously served on New York State’s executive clean energy policy team and was instrumental in executing New York’s clean energy and climate agenda.
New York City, especially, has an opportunity at hand. Business owners in the Garment District already cite loss of skilled talent and difficulty recruiting sewing operators and pattern-makers. A state or federal reshoring effort may be a solution, according to Harmon. “We’re losing talent, but we have so many migrants coming in seeking jobs…This is a very trainable profession. It’s an awesome opportunity to harness.”
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