Where’s the catch in the crochet trend?
There is no doubt that hooking is the current craze and has earned its rightful place as a beloved lockdown activity. Handcrafted pieces can be found everywhere on Instagram and TikTok: plaid crochet tote bags, bucket hats, tank tops and cardigans. A youthful spirit has reinvigorated the craft, transforming what was once considered a hobby more suited to your grandma into a bright and colorful expression of style. However, fast fashion’s entry into the crochet scene presents broader ethical issues.
Since the start of the pandemic, as many people have turned to arts and crafts as a form of escape, hand-made and slow fashion have taken center stage. Activities traditionally associated with domesticity have become an art form during confinement; while spending more time at home, we found new hobbies and adopted a slower lifestyle. I tried crochet for the first time and was immediately won over by its attention and therapy, complementing a pink gathered summer crop top first, then trying on a cardigan.
“Activities traditionally associated with domesticity have become an art form during confinement”
Designer brands also picked up on the trend and featured crochet patterns in their collections. Last year, Harry Styles’ rainbow patchwork JW Anderson cardigan went viral after appearing on the Today spectacle. As most couldn’t afford the $ 1,500 knitting, a DIY craze was sparked and fans around the world decided to replicate Harry’s style. The cardigan, like most things that adorn Harry, has become so iconic that its designer, Jonathan Anderson, shared the design on Instagram.
This summer, crochet even made its debut at the Tokyo Olympics. Tom Daley – Britain’s national treasure – captured the hearts and minds of the world as he sat in the Olympic stands knitting and crocheting between events. His healthy dedication to the profession, which he embraced during the lockdown, can be seen on his Instagram page @madewithlovebytomdaley which has amassed over 1.4 million followers. He showcases all of his DIY projects, including a cozy Union Jack medal for his gold win and his impressive Olympic cardigan that he recently modeled for the cover of Wonderland magazine.
Naturally, the fast fashion brands clung to the crochet trend, which seemed paradoxical and ingenious. How can a trade based on a slow fashion cycle work at the scale and business model that fast fashion relies on? Crochet cannot be machine-made, unlike other methods, which means that the time required to produce a crocheted item is extended. The crochet process requires careful attention to detail and meticulous attention from the producers, as everything is done by hand. Despite this elaborate process, Boohoo’s crochet dresses still sell for £ 6, H&M’s crochet bag costs £ 12.99, and Pretty Little Thing’s crochet cardigan currently costs just £ 7. When the costs of design, materials, shipping and packaging are combined, low prices cause us to question the ethics behind the crochet pieces produced by fast fashion.
“How can a craft based on a slow fashion cycle work at the scale and business model that fast fashion relies on?” “
TikTok creator @dreas_hook highlights the problem in a seven-part series analyzing a crochet bikini top from Target, retailing for $ 22. Drea deconstructs the Target product and reproduces its own sample of it, revealing that it is a “tedious” and “labor intensive” project that could only have been done by hand. . She estimates that the entire top would take about three hours to make and points out that the garment worker could not have been fairly paid for the effort. Given the ethical production issues already inherent in how fast fashion brands operate, the problem is further compounded when crochet pieces come into the picture.
Fast fashion crochet also devalues the work of ethical independent brands. The low prices offered by PLT and Boohoo are normalizing, so consumers are discouraged from buying from independent designers. This in turn forces small businesses to lower their own prices to remain competitive with their business-funded competitors. More alarmingly, fast fashion brands have become infamous for stealing designs from independent designers. An exact replica of designer Elexiay’s crochet sweater was sold on Shein in July, leaving her “squashed” as she took Twitter to write: “I spent hours designing and thinking about this design and it takes days to crochet every sweater.” Unfortunately, these design theft opportunities extend far beyond the realm of crochet.
In the hands of fast fashion brands, crochet items are becoming throwaway pieces for those who can afford to keep buying and shedding trends as and when they want. Crochet emerged as a healthy trend, a conscious escape from lockdown, and a fun expression of individuality. He still has that unique power in the hands of DIYers and independent designers. The dark side of the trend, however, cannot be ignored as fast fashion retailers are breaking the positive hook. Ultimately, the underlying issue of garment worker exploitation cannot be left out in the conversation on the hook.
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