In 2013 the Rana Plaza building collapsed, killing 1,134 Bangladeshi workers and injuring almost 2,500 more. Progress has been slow in the time since the tragedy - the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights found that only eight of 3,425 factories in Bangladesh had remedied enough violations to pass a final inspection.
We started Discourse because we were frustrated with the unethical and unsustainable business practices of the Fast Fashion industry and felt compelled to do something about it.
Why manufacture in America?
Because we were tired of the obscurity in the fashion industry. It is so needlessly difficult to determine which brands care about treating workers well and which are bad actors. While many brands have made progress cleaning up their supply chains, there are still serious barriers to ethical manufacturing overseas. Working with an overseas factory that ostensibly adheres to acceptable workplace standards doesn’t guarantee much. The presence of a shadowy network of unregistered subcontractor factories makes it difficult to know exactly where clothes are being made. These subcontractor unlisted factories create a class of workers that are vulnerable to abuse, wage theft, and child labor.
Working with a local factory in New York City just simplifies things - we know that the workers are treated well, they are paid a living wage (New York City minimum wage is $15 per hour), and we can drop in to visit any time we want. It's worth the peace of mind.
The environmental cost of Fast Fashion.
The environmental damage that the Fast Fashion industry is causing has been well cataloged. Exorbitantly large production runs create excess material waste, poor craftsmanship causes garments to fall apart after only a few uses, and the planned obsolescence of styles (which increases the number of clothes you have to buy to stay on trend) by expanding the number of fashion seasons in a year have compounded to create an environmental crisis.
The result is that over a third of women wear their clothes fewer than five times before getting rid of them. Americans are purchasing five times the amount of clothing they did in 1980. Textile waste (as measured by weight) has increased by 400% over the last five years. Fully 70% of the average woman's closet goes unworn.
We're firm believers in slimming down your closet to staple pieces that last much longer than Fast Fashion. As a result, we're committed to only producing limited runs of our styles. This helps lower material waste, reduces our carbon footprint, and has the added benefit of ensuring that you're less likely to run into somebody wearing your outfit. We're also constantly on the lookout for ways to make Discourse greener, and plan to introduce more sustainable fabrics and packaging with each season.
The name Discourse came from our need to say something - to do something about the state of the fashion industry. We don't just want you to react to our initiatives, we want you to be inspired to say something too.