Meet Hart Hagerty, a Charleston-born designer currently living in China. Hart has an incredible story (and name), and I truly believe she is doing something no one else is. I have so much to say about Hart and her line that I fear this might get a little lengthy, so bear with me. The just-the-facts-ma'am synopsis is that Hart is a fashion writer living in Shanghai and has just launched a label that produces one capsule of jackets per year. Each year a new traditional artisan community will be celebrated in her designs from around the world. Her first collection is the 2013 China capsule which features vintage Miao embroidery on two jackets and one vest.
So although next year Hagerty will move on from China to Laos (jackets coming at the end of July!), she is proving quite soundly that not all things manufactured in China are cheap and made by exploited labor. Last month Hart was visiting Los Angeles and I was so taken by her energy and passion for the fashion industry in China. She sees the good where a lot of people see the bad. Hart fell in love with traditional Miao embroidery and set out to make some jackets the right way, the old way.
"The sad truth is, the majority of fast fashion—and much of luxury fashion too!—are made by workers in questionable conditions all over Southeast Asia. I am not exonerating China from any manufacturing misdeeds, but I also believe that it is the scapegoat for the way the fashion industry is today. The fashion industry as a whole is one of the biggest polluters in the world and takes advantage of desperate people in developing nations. But when criticizing the fashion industry, many people continue to point the finger mostly at China, and less at the brands themselves or other manufacturing regions."
It's an apt point, it takes two to tango. Hart also mentioned that she missed the clean air. To be clear: she was referencing the air of Los Angeles. Yikes. China gets bashed a lot, but thanks to Hart, we can see that it's not all just polluted factories meeting the bottom line of big companies. There's also artisan craft and responsible manufacturing. China has a long heritage of beautifully made things such as porcelain, lacquer, woodwork, furniture, books, embroidery—which Hart so ingeniously honors and celebrates with her first collection. Does this mean a resurrection in China’s cultural craft heritage? Hart thinks there is a small but definite movement brewing, including the Hermes-owned line Shang Xia, which makes luxurious, updated modern homeware made by skilled artisans using China’s legendary techniques.
Like many of the brands that I try and promote on this blog, Hart Hagerty is helping to push that giant and heavy pendulum back from disposable fast fashion to artisan manufactured quality goods. Her jackets harken back to the era when luxury was conveyed by its maker's passion rather than a shiny out-facing label. Not only are the Hart jackets and vest totally wearable and can traverse seasons, but they're also, in my opinion, absolute works of art. Hart, we'll be looking forward to your next capsule. In the mean time, keep it up, you're doing something really great. Check out more about Hart and her designs on her website.