Saturday, 24 August 2019

getting what you pay for


A comment made by a reader on my last blog


I understand your outage, however most people cannot pay top dollar prices. They do their best to get what they want as cheaply as possible. It is unfair to the designer, but most people don't have the extra money to pay for designer clothes. We do our best to get by on what little we have. I rarely can get new clothes, and when I do I get the best I can get with as little money as I can. I have bills to pay. My partner and I are both ill. She more than me. We have 5 pets that are rescues...so we do what we can. I am sorry for your losses. Blessings darlin.


My response....

(I have interspersed this with pictures of clothes I've made in the last couple of weeks that I plan to take to the Craftfully Market in Newcastle on Sept 15/15th....for a little light relief)

Hi XXXX, thanks for your comment, I am sorry to hear of your struggles with your partner. It is very hard to get by with living with dignity in poverty. 

You are slightly missing the real point about what makes me angry. 

I do understand poverty really well. I don’t make a living income from my work, at best my “wage” averages about $100 a week. That is less than what I’d be entitled to if I claimed a social security benefit for being unemployed. It is enough to pay the rent on my studio. My husband supports me financially. He is 73 and still works part time as a teacher to support both of us. If he wasn’t prepared to do that I would have to get a job. I’m not eligible to claim an aged pension in Australia until I’m 67. The main kinds of work I’ve done in the past has been domestic house cleaning and working in aged care homes caring for the elderly. If I had to get a job that is the only kind of work I would be considered capable of doing as I don’t have any other qualifications or work experience, other than working a brothel. And I'm way past that for sure. All I want to do after 10pm most evenings is sleep with my husband in our bed.

Dress upcycled from doona covers, Aus$60

Regrettably I’d probably find it difficult to get even that of kind of work now because I have bad arthritis affecting my hands (fingers of my right hand are too stiff and swollen to touch the palm when I make a fist) wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees and hips. I broke my ankle in a workplace about 7 years ago and it took 6 months for the ankle to mend and when I went back to work the physiotherapist told my employers that I shouldn’t do any work that required squatting, walking up or down more than 6 stairs or lifting more than 8 kilos. With those restrictions I’m not going to be a highly sought after employee. 


skirt upcycled from denim jeans and vintage patchwork quilt.
Added details of stenciling and running stitch. Aus$80

I am also Aspergers, which means within a day or 2 in any workplace I’ll be driving people crazy with my pedantic-ness and they will be ganging up on me and working out how to get me ejected because I don’t join factions or make friends. I am a total pain in the arse who always ends up the workplace scapegoat.

I am not technically a “designer” in the fashion industry definition nor do I have a clothing business. I work alone, by myself and make everything either totally from scratch or reconstruct garments from second hand clothes. There is no manufacturing, no outworkers. Every garment I make is cut, sewed, printed and constructed entirely by myself. There is only ever one single garment made at a time and it is never replicated….never, never ever. That is why I can truly, honestly and justifiably describe everything I make as “art to wear”.


skirt upcycled from sheets. Large patch on left side featuring Frida Kahlo
is an artisan designer textile printed on linen I bought from Spoonflower. Aus$65 (the patch cost $18)


I have enormous sympathy for women with limited funds who want to have beautiful clothes to wear. As a single Mum living on a benefit in my early 20s it was that desire that motivated me to borrow my mothers sewing machine and teach myself to sew. The clothes I designed and made back in the 1980s were very artistic too. Even way back then I was stenciling by hand and tie dyeing fabric. In 1984 I studied at a NZ Technical Institute to get a certificate in Patternmaking and Sample Machining. That skill came in useful 5 years ago when I started making PDF sewing patterns to sell. Unfortunately, though I have 22 patterns in the catalogue the patterns don’t sell very well. Perhaps I’m just too niche eclectic, the patterns are bad or I’m a terrible marketer? Anyway, after working at the sewing patterns pretty much full time for 4 years and never having had it succeed as a money making enterprise my interests wandered back to textile art and most of my time this last year has been spent making art to wear unique clothes.


dress upcycled from sheets and vintage textile remnant. Frida Kahlo patch
is new fabric from fabric I bought from artisan fabric designer on Spoonflower. Aus$70


I’m not sure what qualifies as “expensive” in designer clothes. I’ve never bought or owned anything made by a designer. Quite frankly, for 45 years I’ve always been a hugely enthusiastic thrift shopper. A quick calculation of the clothes I personally own breaks down like this….70% second hand used clothes from charity shops, 25% self made, 5% new clothes. The last time I bought a new brassiere 3 years ago it cost $60. I was so appalled at the price I considered it a worthwhile investment to buy about $200 worth of supplies to make my own bras into the future.

I feel kind of pained to hear the clothes I make described as “expensive”. It is part of my approach to ethical making that I want to make clothes that are beautiful and unique. I want the people who buy and wear them to love that they have something that has had time and imagination invested in it to make it something special. Hopefully it will be something they take great pleasure to wear and that makes them feel proud to own it. I hope it is not the kind of garment they would donate to a charity shop after 6 wears, a year of ownership or if they think it is has become “unfashionable”. Though many of the clothes are upcycled from used I know enough about textiles to choose and use only fabric that is sturdy enough to have the potential for many more decades of wear. As a skilled machinist I make clothes well using techniques that make the item durable for the long term.


skirt upcycled from pillowcases. Skirt is from kantha bedspread I bought mailorder
from artisan makers in India. Aus$50

I abhor the concept of “fashion”. I don’t spend time watching what other people are making or feel concerned to try to copy the current “look” or fad. That is for turkeys. I price my clothes based on loosely trying to make $10 an hour from my labour. That is a much lower rate of pay that what a clothing machinist would earn working in an Australian factory or as an outworker.

It also pains me that after 30 years of mass manufactured fast fashion flooding the first world some people are still not getting it that they have been living in a cloud cuckoo land of delusion. Clothes have been cheap and disposable because the first world was riding on the back of the labour exploitation of third world workers. The fabrics were manufactured in 3rd world countries for unrealistically low cost because no one was counting the cost to the environment – the water, the electricity, the chemical pollution….

Globalisation and social justice means that 3rd world labour isn’t always going to be content to work for slave labour rates. They are beginning to catch up and rightfully demanding fair compensation for their work.

Now all that is coming home to roost and we are paying the piper…big time.


skirt upcycled from pillowcases, doona covers and remnants of curtain fabrics.
Large patch lower left is reproduction from renaissance art, purchased from Spoonflower. Aus $60


ChicV isn’t offering beautiful clothes at affordable prices to poor women from big hearted generosity.  
ChicV has appropriated photographs of my work (and many, many other designers) without my knowledge or permission from my blog and other places (Shopify, Etsy, etc) and put those pictures in their shops, pretending it is the product they make. They show that picture to the customer purporting that is what they are selling – indicating that the customer will receive what is in the picture.

IT IS A TOTAL LIE AND FRAUD.

The customer does not receive what is in the picture. It would be impossible. There is only one of that garment that was made and photographed by me. ChicV has never seen the real thing, let alone designed and made it.

What the customer receives is a nasty poorly made fake. It has a photographic reproduction of the surface of my genuine garment. Unlike the item it is faking, it is not patched, appliqued, stitched and stenciled.

It is a shitty, sad poor rag made in a factory. Buyers who receive it who aren’t outraged at being scammed will probably feel ashamed to own such a travesty of a thing and throw it in a bin or donate it to charity.

It is not a garment one person spent 10-20-30 hours labouring over by hand using imagination, skill and passion. ChicV peddle fakery that is the distillation of the crap fashion that is part of the wastefulness of resources that is contributing to the wrecking of our precious environment.

...btw, I have 2 rescue dogs and a rescue rooster.

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If you are interested in buying an artwork or booking a commission, please email me at pearl@upstairs-art.com.au