Emily Stochl is the Director of Education and Community Engagement at Remake, an organization dedicated to fighting for fair pay and climate justice in the fashion industry. With Remake, she works with a community of global ambassadors numbering around 1,500. She is also the founder and host of the Pre-Loved podcast, which discusses vintage and secondhand fashion. On Pre-Loved, Emily talks to guests from all over the world who work in different aspects of the vintage and secondhand fashion industry.
- Was there a moment or experience that inspired you to get into the sustainable fashion space?
I got into this work through my background in labor activism. My grandma was a single mom of six kids and worked at a plastics factory. She “retired” to take care of me. I grew up hearing about her work at the factory. She faced a lot of challenges throughout her life but would talk a lot about her union job. I know the protection of the union (during the ‘60s through ‘90s) helped her. It instilled the importance of unions in me.
I got into the vintage scene as an artsy, quirky high schooler. I didn’t make the sustainability connection until college when the Rana Plaza factory collapse happened. I studied literature, and a lot of my research was in labor activism. Rana Plaza connected my research to fashion. I saw my grandma’s story everywhere in these women who lost their lives in the factory collapse. It led me to Remake as the organization focuses on the fashion industry’s intersection of labor rights and environmental impact.
- Can you talk about the rise of the fast fashion industry?
I really like to emphasize that the fashion industry hasn’t always been in its current model. There used to be four fashion seasons. Around the 2008 financial crisis, we saw the rise of fast fashion, leading to 52 fashion seasons. Now, new styles drop every day.
The rise of fast fashion took off in the early 2000s and correlates to the rise of the internet and social media. When there is a financial crisis, as seen in 2008, people tend to spend less on clothes; fast fashion brands started selling the idea that we can have trendy and cheap clothing.
- What’s the potential impact of the FABRIC Act on “greening” the industry?
Readers may be familiar with the Garment Worker Protection Act passed in California in fall 2021. It ended piece rate pay, the legal loophole that brands use to get around paying an hourly minimum wage. Piece rate pay resulted in garment makers making $2 – $5/hour. Garment makers now also have roads they can take if factories are breaking the law. In addition, the law enabled joint liability. Factories often subcontract their work, so when there is a disaster, brands can say that those liabilities don’t apply to them. However, brands hold the power, so they are responsible. Joint liability holds them accountable for their subcontractors.
After the Garment Worker Protection Act passed, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand approached the coalition responsible for the bill about turning it into a federal bill. The California law informed the federal Fashioning Accountability and Building Real Institutional Change (FABRIC) Act, which also eliminates piece rate pay, enables joint liability, supports programs to provide tax credits to companies that move garment worker jobs to the U.S., and creates a $40 million grant program to produce high-quality textiles in the U.S. It has been introduced in Congress. To learn more, readers can check out thefabricact.org to get involved. Businesses can also sign on as endorsers.
- What are the green-washing trends in the fashion industry that consumers should be aware of?
A lot [of it] is language that brands use. We don’t have legislation on using green language. What’s particularly concerning is resale programs by fast fashion brands. They are profiting off secondhand and new clothes. Ways we can think about the sustainability of these resale programs is the overproduction factor. Is the brand producing less?
- How big of a problem is overconsumption?
Today, we buy more clothing than in the past, but we pay less. We know that corners are being cut. The root of the fashion problem is overproduction. Everyday people are victims of overproduction. For well-off individuals, we need to recognize that we have enough and don’t need to buy or make more clothing. Remake is championing the #NoNewClothes pact. We try and get people to not buy anything new for 90 days. That mental shift is the first step that needs to occur.
- The Pre-Loved Podcast focuses on the joys and benefits of secondhand shopping. What’s been your most significant revelation while doing the show?
Something I learned is how big and wide and historied the secondhand industry is. For a lot of people, the secondhand experience is shopping at or donating to Goodwill. This is not the case for many. I get to talk with people that have engaged with many aspects of the industry, discussing style, running a fashion business, and the stories behind vintage pieces.
- Are you heartened by the prominence of vintage and thrift-store culture these days?
I am. I’ve been in this work for about 10 years, and it’s wild to see the growth in such a short period of time. When the podcast started, there wasn’t a show that talked about vintage and secondhand clothing. The industry has since exploded, and it’s cool to see people get interested in it. I envision a world where secondhand and vintage clothing is celebrated the same way we celebrate the rest of the fashion industry.
- What do you say to people who are skeptical of shopping secondhand (for whatever reason)?
For people who are skeptical, I usually tell them to try out online platforms like Poshmark and look for a brand they already know. They might be surprised to see that the clothing item they desire is available. You can find almost anything on resale and secondhand sites: shoes, clothes, etc.
- Are there any more alternatives to buying new (i.e. mending, upcycling, etc.) you would emphasize?
I would tell people that there are a lot of tutorials, but you can also support your local economy by taking items to seamstresses and tailors who are skilled small-business owners. Tailoring used to be a thriving industry. Growing up, my grandma would fix or alter anything I had. I never had those skills, but now I take my clothing to a local tailor.
- What do you see as necessary to mainstreaming all these practices?
Talk about it with your community. When someone asks me what I’m wearing, I say, “Thanks, it’s thrifted,” and then I talk about what I do. People are more likely to listen to people in their community.
- You’re obviously someone who cares a lot about fashion itself, in addition to its ethical ramifications. How would you advise an individual who wanted to start curating an intentional, sustainable wardrobe?
I would start with the 90 days of #NoNewClothes. They need to have that mental mindset shift. Then, discover creative people who are doing cool things with styling for inspiration. When I think about clothing pieces, I think about the story of where they came from and how they got there. The clothing now has meaning. It’s important to start resetting your relationship with the garment, so it becomes more than an object. You hear stories when vintage shoppers talk about clothes. There can be history to pieces.
- What are your go-to resources for helping individuals learn more about fashion policy and individual action?
Follow Remake on our social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). If you want to do something, apply to be a Remake ambassador. We will provide resources, so you can begin educating your community.