Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Seattle as a Fashion Industry

We live here in Seattle and every ady we miss so many interesting things on the street and we never wonder how or why things work the way they do. So before I start putting up pictures I wanted to introduce Seattle as a fashion industry to those people that are reading.

Seattle is an interesting fashion industry, and was very popular in the late 20th century, not because of its glamour and its couture fashions, but because of its fantastic focus on athletic sportswear.

Seattle is a leader in Men's sportswear, in the outdoor industry and in a lot of vintage apparel. this is because Seattle started as a city for miners and workers, who lived and worked in a very harsh environment. Seattle was a little town in which railroads appeared very late and in which lived a very low population of people. For those of us who know and study fashion history we know how important roadways and highway systems are for the fashion industry. We all remember what happened in the US after WW2 when highway systems in our country expanded dramatically....well we had a big rise in domestic production of apparel. Roadways help move things around wholesalers get their raw materials faster, and they can ship to retailers faster, who then in turn can get the products to the customer faster. Roadways allowed for fashion to cycle faster. Unfortunately, being Seattle, we did not get those opportunities until a lot later. So we, of course, fell behind in the haute couture and pret-a-porter fashions.

Seattle was a port that did not have the population necessary to run giant factories, but we did have enough workers to work the land. And these workers also needed clothing...thus a lot of fashion innovations arose in the northwest, in order to help serve the needs of the workers. Our fashions were durable, and were made for workers, adventurers, and for sports and fishing. this is why it is important to understand that Seattle fashion is very much geared towards this outdoor industry. We see casual attire and athletic attire in Seattle and in the Northwest as a very common and accepted 'garb' for outerwear as opposed to the street fashions of french people. But that is not to say we are not creative.
The Northwest is known for designers like Eddie Bauer, Trapper Nelson (first structured backpack in 1920), CC Iilson, and stores like REI.

In fact, while we are on this topic is important to note the newest creation for sportswear...the toe shoe.

Still, Seattle is filled with innovations. While fashion merchandisers and marketers would travel from trade show to show; from shows like MAGIC in Las Vegas to New York...people would stop at Seattle and over time noticed how interesting and innovative our fashion industry was. More and more people started to stop in Seattle for sports and for innovative ideas in athletic sportswear. Union Bay, Brittania Jeans, Gennera, Shah Safari, International News, TOmmy Bahamas sprung up. Factories began to appear in Seattle and we...over time....became a fashion center for the sportswear industry. In the 1970's sportswear buyers would go to Magic and stop by Seattle, eventually we became a bigger stop for them than Las Vegas.

However, with the movement to off shore production we lost a lot of the factories that once stood here, and a lot of stores had moved away. We still are a big place to find great athletic sportswear, and sportswear. One must note that the Northwest has Nordstrom and other retail boutiques. We even have a couturier here Luly Yang. But our styles are inspired by street wear, casual wear and the emergence of no-fashion.

When discussion Seattle's fashion history it is important to note that we are known for the emergence of Grundge in the 90s that brought about a very interesting trickle-up economic fashion movement. In fact, even today grundge is remade and/or incorporated into many designs. 2006 fall saw the emergence of neo-grundge. We shall see it again.

Anyways, as I prepare for work...I hope that this has been an enlightening conversation. It helps a great deal to know the history, when you see people make weird fashion decisions on the street.

And thank you REI for the toe shoe that is pictured here.



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