Economists chatter dispassionately about ‘creative destruction” most people (including many of economists in their role as human beings) recoil from the spectacle of the destruction of useful goods to eliminate “overcapacity.” Journalist Jim Dwyer and Cynthia Magnus, who goes to the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, started some destruction of their own with Dwyer’s column in the New York Times last week. His reporting exposed H&M’s deliberate cutting up of discarded clothes to make them unwearable. The damage quickly spread from the ruined clothing on 35th St in Manhattan to the reputation of the mass retailer itself via the Internet. It quickly rose to the number 2 spot on Twitter.

If you haven’t heard, Magnus discovered this practice and first complained to H&M in Sweden to no avail, then contacted Dwyer. (Although Wal-Mart discards similarly damaged were found a few doors down, the Arkansas corporate bad boy did respond promptly and promised an investigation.) H&M eventually came forward with a statement that they wouldn’t do this anymore.

Some folks in the long comment space did see why a retailer would not want people scavenging the clothing to bring the items in for returns or sell it; others vowed “never” to shop at H&M again. One post “revealed” high-end retailers had been destroying left-overs for years to protect their “exclusive” merchandise.

H&M along with Zara and Top Shop have imported their “fast fashion” approach as aggressively as McDonalds invaded Europe. The trend to “fast, fast and damn the torpedoes” approach has been reversing in domains of life such as investing, food, and building. Slow Food has become a lot more fashionable than Burger King.

The downscale march of designer clothing has missed an element of haute couture that made it special—taking the time for quality construction and craftsmanship. Instead, merchandise is cycled at breakneck speed, bringing runway “looks” to the masses. Here, at GrassrootsFutures, I enjoy spotting new trends myself, but just because I see them coming I don’t like to see what should be a thoughtful tasting plate heaped too soon with supersize portions.

This blog makes its home on the nydesignroom Web site. In the nydesignroom showroom, GGrippo will often be able to unearth a version of The reDress he did a half-dozen seasons ago, carefully stored and looking as fresh as the day it was first displayed in the store. He has been executing slow fashion at a measured pace since he opened the store. The fresh, ahead-of-the trend clothes he sells are for savoring. Although designs are retired, there is continuity from season to season. Patchwork, as in The redress, almost a signature theme, may change from overstitched primary color sports t-shirt pieces to a fabric mosaic of cashmere in shades of gray, but the theme stays around, like the memory of grandmother’s homemade quilt.

Aesthetically, Grippo draws from found object and assemblage. The redress and his upcycled cashmere sheaths, re-created from discarded T-shirts and sweaters, recycle designs but dramatically up the stakes. On occasion he will even remake a well-worn and well-loved garment into a new design for a client. “Here,” Grippo assures a client, “we respect clothes.” Oh, and in case you were wondering, the fingerless cashmere gloves were made that way. Great for fumbling with keys to get out of the cold.

Frances Chapman
January 2010
grassrootsfutures at

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