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Sew Your Own Way

Los Angeles fashion students get a healthy dose of reality at LATTC

Dakotah Peña, 29, SoCal Native
LATTC (Los Angeles Trade Technical College) – Class of 2016
Twitter @OmniaContexta // http://dakotahtyler.clothing

Why did you choose to major in fashion?
My interest in fashion started around my late teens and my interest grew stronger over the years. Eventually a friend and I visited Japan for the fashion scene a couple years ago. Last year I was working at a company with very flexible hours and I started taking some early morning sewing classes at the Sewing Arts Center in Santa Monica before I decided to officially go back to school.

Why did you pick LATTC?
I had looked for fashion classes at community colleges in LA expecting to find several programs and found that LATTC had a massive program . Later I read that Rick Owens studied there in the 80’s and I decided to enroll in LATTC because of its well rounded practical skill building program.

What is your favorite thing about LATTC?
LATTC is results-oriented so there’s no coddling like there is in private colleges. It’s hard work, you learn real-world skills for getting a job in the industry. They teach you to not be delusional in thinking that it’s all glamorous and the teachers truly want you to understand how to market yourself professionally. A surprising number of my teachers have worked at FIDM and Otis and left because they felt bad for students who are run through school with massive debt and lacking necessary skills, such as basic sewing.

What are your plans after graduation?
I plan to work as a pattern maker while gaining fashion industry experience to slowly grow my own line.

What is your favorite thing about SoCal?
It has the benefits of an urban metropolis but you aren’t locked in a concrete jungle even when you are in the city. I think the mid-city area near West Hollywood to Hancock Park has the best concentration of stores and amenities within walking distance.

Where are your favorite places to shop in SoCal?
Opening Ceremony and H. Lorenzo.

What is your favorite fashion trend for Spring 2015?
I don’t pay attention to fashion trends, it’s wasteful because your clothes are passé after a few years. Great design is timeless.

Where do you find inspiration?
I am inspired by some of my favorite designers, of course, but also clothing from different cultures and eras. Almost all clothing produced by people outside of the developed world, usually to the cheapest and most practical of specifications, have some interesting detail that is inspiring or surprising. Even the way a hole is patched or a sleeve is reattached can be an interesting detail.

What do you think the biggest environmental concerns are in the fashion industry?
I think the biggest area for concern is pesticide use for fibers, dyeing processes that discolor bodies of water, or harsh chemicals used for a certain finish, such as bleached denim.

How has the fashion industry become more or less green recently?
I believe we are at the top of a bell curve of irresponsible practices and things will very slowly get more ecologically friendly. 100 years ago all clothes were crafted by experts, probably sustainably manufactured, and hugely expensive so people owned only a few garments. With the advent of mass production and fast fashion trends the industry has reached untenable levels of waste.

What do you see as emerging trends in green technology for fashion?
I think having the internet brings new possibilities for communication, collaboration, and digital workflows.

How can companies become greener and more profitable at the same time?
Organic textiles, domestic production, and natural dyeing processes could decrease profits in the short term. However, one thing companies can do right now is not participate in the race to the bottom with their prices. Consumers may love fast fashion for now but many may begin to realize the garments are poorly constructed with horrible fabrics forcing them to continuously throw them out or donate them. By producing quality made goods, it would cost about the same for customers over time because the prices force them to love the garments they buy and keep them longer.

Do you think there’s a trade-off between profitability and green technology?
Some industries can switch to more sustainable technologies easily and profitably but I think fashion and the manufacturing industry are areas where there is less financial incentive for recognizing what the pesticides and textile waste waters are doing to the oceans and waterways.

How can fashion companies encourage their customers to be greener?
By not contributing to the fast fashion trend, instead focusing on quality garments. The amount of donated clothing is incredible and is mostly attributed to fast fashion; people usually hold on to quality pieces. Also, placing less emphasis on the shopping bag can encourage customers to utilize one bag.

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