Anyone who graduates an art school is fiercely protective of their degree and don't take it lightly when other people (or industries) take short cuts to reach the same end result. Shortly after animal skins and "leaf briefs", humans began to create fabric and ultimately clothing. Primitive sewing needles and dyed flax fibers have been found in caves and before the 1800's, fabrics were woven from spinning your own yarns. The introduction of textile machines and factories during the Industrial Revolution and the patent of the sewing machine in 1846, contributed to the beginning of clothing manufacturing. However, in Europe couture houses made designs for the rich, while local dress shops or home sewers produced for the masses. A great deal of clothing was still made this way until the turn of the 20th century. I find it curious our interest in "hand made" items today and the popularity of sites such as Etsy, when clothing for all intents and purposes has always been made by someone's hands and still is today in mass factories all over the world. The NY Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911, killing 146 factory workers was eerily similar to the Tazreen Fashion factory fire in Bangladesh nearly 100 years later, and just seven years ago. It's hard to believe most Americans carry a computer in their back pocket, but clothing production has moved at a turtle's pace. The technology and innovations have been mainly in the equipment and fibers, not the actual way clothing is made. When the textile industry devastated North Carolina and other areas of the US moving overseas after NAFTA, it only took a couple decades for the birth of what consumers now crave. They want fashion and they want it fast.
Couture houses, Saville Row, local dress shops or tailors and even home sewers took great pride in their craft. Sewing is a skill. To start with a rectangle of fabric and from it create some of the most beautiful gowns in museums today is no doubt an art form. Considering how difficult it is to find a qualified and experienced seamstress or even sewing machine mechanic shows that this skill set must be learned and passed down through apprenticeship or be lost. As a small Made in America designer in a state known for it's rich history in textiles and textile production, I have been shocked at the lack of workers left in the industry and people in general who still value creating things with their hands. The Art of Fashion isn't just drawing beautiful renderings or sketching a crocus to hand off to the lead seamstress. It includes creating through draping and choosing stitch techniques to continue to add shape or detail to a garment. You could also argue part of the art is in the creation, which takes time and intentional thought. If a tailor is making a suit or dress shop finishing a skirt, there is a normal pace in the completion, with a variety of designs worked on within a day. This is impossible in a factory where unrealistic quotas must be met. When you line up 100 sewers making the same blue tee shirt all day, it strips the process down to it's barest form. Production. The sad part is as consumers we have come to not only expect, but demand fast fashion, one hour delivery, and immediate gratification without thought at what is lost in the name of immediate gratification. The art.