A Venezuelan fashion designer and activist took the stage at Miami Fashion Week to dig into the dark side of fast fashion and marginalized women, and gave tips for creating more socially conscious fashion.
“I came here to follow that American Dream,” said Carmela Osorio Lugo.
She studied fashion at Savanah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and won Council of Fashion Designers of America Liz Claiborne Award in 2014. She used her winnings to create her senior collection. In 2015, she launched the sustainable label CARMELÀ alongside New York native and SCAD alumni Kyra Webb. Lugo currently works with Calvin Klein.
“Where does that piece of clothing you wear every day come from?” said Lugo at the start of her speech at Miami Dade College (MDC), Wolfson Campus.
She pointed out how this recent feminist movement has resulted in clothes printed with femme-positive statements.
“That shirt that you wear has a whole background story,” said Lugo.
According to Lugo, the fashion industry is one of the biggest in the world, being worth $1.2 trillion and has about 75 million people making clothes.
“100 pairs of hands touch your clothes before they get to you, the customer,” said Lugo.
Eighty percent of the 75 million workers in the fashion industry are women, ranging from ages 14 to 24, who work 14 to 29 hours in sweatshops, she said.
“They want to feel safe, they want to feel healthy, they want to feel financially secure and they mostly want to feel happy,” said Lugo.
Unsafe working conditions in the fashion industry have resulted in tragedies. In Bangladesh, the Dhaka Fire resulted in a death toll of 117, and the collapse of the Rana Plaza led to 1,134 deaths. The majority of the workers who perished were women. Lugo said retailers and consumers are partly to blame for these calamities that occur within the fashion industry.
Retailers create cheap markup prices and competitive pricing, which drives retailers to exploit their manufacturing factories. She said consumers should take some responsibility because they are always demanding better prices.
However, the 24-year-old Venezuelan designer said her generation has an emotional involvement when it comes to shopping, which might have to do with social media.
“[Sustainable fashion retailers] have that whole big picture that they really know how to sell it by showing that it’s sustainable,” said Lugo.
Sustainability is trendy, and her generation also buys vintage, Lugo said, which is one of many ways to be eco-friendly.
When considering the future of sustainable fashion in all stores, Lugo was hesitant.
“[Retailers] are all about making money,” she said.
But at the end of the day, it’s up to the consumers to change the minds of retailers in order for sustainable fashion to exist in every shop around the world, she said.
Members of the audience said they enjoyed her presentation, giving them a boost of confidence.
Sara Escalante, a business owner creating her own socially conscious brand, explained that Lugo’s talk had given her some inspiration for her career.
“It doesn’t matter your age, you can make an impact,” said Escalante.
Joneith O’Neil, a fashion enthusiast who works in the marketing department at MDC’s Idea Center, said the highlight of the presentation was choosing the costs of fashion.
“That’s the most important thing,” said O’ Neil. “Just try to support and give more opportunities to others and if you want to do that through fashion, that’s great.”