If you’re reading this and you know me, hi, thank you so much for being here to support me. If you don’t know me, let’s get the formalities out of the way. My name is Alyssa Hardy and I’m a fashion writer and soon-to-be-published author living in New York City. Throughout my career in magazines, I’ve written about almost everything fashion adjacent you could think of. Shopping? Of course. Trends? Absolutely. Celebrity style? Truly my bread and butter. But nothing has been more important to me than telling the stories on the other side of the fashion industry. The ones that are so often hidden out of view, and behind flashy marketing campaigns and runway shows. The stories about where our clothing actually comes from and how it impacts the world. Yes, I’m talking about garment workers and sweatshops, but beyond that, I’m talking about how each piece of clothing we wear tells a greater story about the world and ourselves.
Let me give you an example.
Right now, I’m wearing a pair of overalls that I bought at a vintage store in Nashville. The story of how I obtained these perfectly wide-leg, dark-washed denim overalls is part of why I love them so much. It was the morning after a night out at my best friend’s bachelorette party. Yes, we were those girls. She and I love vintage shopping and had been following this place on Instagram for a long time. Unfortunately, it was about an hour drive from our Airbnb and we had been out late the night before. Still, our friends piled into the car with us, some stopping to puke on the way, and came along for the store. The place was in a random strip mall with nothing around it. It was also expensive – I guess that’s what you pay for curation these days… more on that later – but it was a dream. There were perfectly worn-in band t-shirts, walls lined with cowboy boots, and a gorgeous girl sporting a Jenny Lewis-esque wavy bangs hairstyle. I walked down the stairs, taking my time while my friends, whose patience was wearing, stepped outside to nurse their hangovers with some water (and probably some dry heaving).
When I turned a corner there they were folded over a table with a worn-in t-shirt tucked underneath to show the styling. I tried them on for the one friend who remained, and even though they were too long on the legs and a little big on the straps, I was sold. They made me feel more like myself than I had in a long time. It was like I had found a little piece of who I wanted to be, a casually dressed, maybe a little more punk, adult with enough confidence to wear wide-leg overalls. That night, I wore them to a Karaoke bar, and I felt so good. Like standing straighter and singing a Beatles song that I only know the words because of a cover kind of good. I think the only thing I faked was enjoying the cheap beer they were selling.
I know this sounds corny.
To me, the way I feel in these overalls is a small introduction into why I think clothing is so important and why I have gotten so uncomfortable with the way we all treat it. I named the newsletter “This Stuff” for that reason. It’s a silly play on the 2006 movie The Devil Wears Prada, which I’m sure you’re familiar with if you found your way to this article. There is a scene where Miranda Priestly, the Editor-in-Chief of Runway Magazine (a thinly veiled Anna Wintour of Vogue), snaps at her new assistant Andrea for calling fashion “stuff.” Of course, the following monologue was slightly satire. Miranda's response was disproportionate and hilariously serious, but the sentiment was there. “This stuff?” Miranda retorts after her painfully earnest assistant says she doesn’t know about a set of belts. She then goes on to tell her why her blue sweater is part of the entire ecosystem of the fashion industry in which trends trickle down from the runway to the contemporary stores and into fast fashion. “That blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of “stuff,” she finishes.
It’s a memorable and iconic moment in the movie, made even more genius by Meryl Streep’s delivery. For me though, it was the note about countless jobs, that always made it resonate. Sure, she may have been referring to the people in that room, but in 2020, there were an estimated 75 million people working in the garment industry, most of them in factories. When we remove the value from clothing and think about it as “stuff,” we take away from the real work that goes into getting that garment on a rack, and the lives that are often risked to make something that we may not have thought twice about before adding to cart. Just last week, a boiler at a garment factory in Bangladesh exploded, killing two workers and injuring others. Why are women having to risk their lives for clothing that we are so often willing to toss to the side the second the trend is over?
This newsletter will highlight how fashion is more than just a pile of fabric. You’ll get timely news stories about garment workers, personal essays about fashion, commentary on trends and celebrity style, and interviews with people about what style means to them. I’ll probably talk about my book writing process for my forthcoming non-fiction book Fashion Dystopia – it’s a big part of my life right now. Things will change and evolve, but I appreciate you being here and can’t wait to show you more.