Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Random Hearts: Schmatta

You all know we love a documentary... Our thirst for knowledge plus our love of a great story make doc's our perfect kind of film. 

Remember when we told you about stumbling onto the Christian Hosoi film
Remember when we told you to check out the movie The Providence Effect
Well, we must be having wonderful luck with the documentary fairy because we have stumbled upon another gem.. 

And this time, the name of the game is FASHION! Well, the fashion biz that is and sometimes you get so wrapped up in the beauty of fashion, that we can forget that it is serious business! 

The new HBO film called Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags is super informative and super fascinating! 

Schmatta, is the yiddish word for rags, and this documentary takes an in depth look at the garment industry in America (namely New York) from the time of the industrial revolution up to today. Believe us it is really good stuff. 

For those of us who haven't been keeping track of the ailing garment industry, the most startling information revealed in this hour-plus documentary is the fact that in the last 40 years, the percentage of American clothing made in America has plummeted from 95 to 5. Five percent

Now we are not getting preachy on you, and every one knows how dearly we love our H&M, but that is a staggering figure. It feels really good to at least be informed about what has happened to this country's Garment Union. 

The film focuses a lot on the building of this Union after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911. in which over 140 female garment workers, trapped on the upper stories of their building, burned to death or died leaping from the factory's windows. 

After this incident with the Union fighting for the rights of garment makers many immigrants and many Americans found a chance to make a decent and honorable living in the garment industry. 

Through the 1940's and 1950's New Yorks garment industry boomed. 

Starting in the 1970's designers like Halston, Bill Blass and Ralph Lauren emerged from the back room and became stars. 

The decadent 1980s led to designer labels, $500 jeans and celebrity fashion. The rise of Wal-Mart and Costco required increasingly low-cost product and the government, beginning with the Reagan administration, began loosening import and export regulations. 

Today, the American Garment industry is virtually a thing of the past. 
This is sad for so many reasons... 
Americans out of jobs, 
Sweat-shops around the world, where workers have no rights and no union voice. 
In fact the movie comes full circle from the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire to the more recent 2000 fire in Bangladesh, that killed 45 mostly women and children trapped in a burning factory. 

Who will help protect these people? 
It is so hard to know these facts... But we feel better being well informed about the world and we can all try to do just a little bit to help out. 
And seriously we urg you to watch this movie... They do a much better job of not being a downer then we are. 

We can't say that we are going to stop shopping at all of our favorite places... And yes, that is super hypocritical. But we can be aware of the fact that we have choices and maybe when I go to get my kid his next winter coat, I will pay a little more and get it from a up-start company that is still small enough to make things right here. 
(pssst. Go to The Outfit for handmade goodies for the kids you heart) 

I can look around for new young designers and help to support them. 
Every bit of knowledge helps. 

XOXO- Things-We-Heart

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