Last week I hustled around New York City to set in motion the development of REID MILLER Apparel. New Yorkers, including my relatives on Long Island, were grumbling about the persistent chill in the air, more snow and freezing temperatures when they were expecting to feel warm spring air. I, on the other hand, was gushing with optimism. Meetings with fabric merchants and a technical specialist were bringing the pieces of my project together to create clothing from my imagination. The idea of taking a small creative seed, nurturing it into tangible concepts, and grinding away to bring it to life, to share it, was bringing me intense joy – the kind that wakes me up at 3am and won’t let me go back to sleep.
As I walked the streets of New York, I thought a lot about the beauty that is emerging from many years of difficulty in this country. We have witnessed some bad times: unending war in the Middle East after the national trauma that was 9/11, the ebbing and flowing ferocity of climate change, shrinking household incomes, complete political inaction and corruption, and a creeping sense that how we have been living must change. Many of us have struggled to make ends meet, never mind investing in more efficient appliances or taking the time to protest injustice, leaving us feeling very stuck.
However, it is becoming clear that we are not stuck. People are pioneering new ways of doing things and little by little we can actually see the changes like green buds sprouting through the concrete rubble. Whether it is green energy, urban farming, reusable containers, bicycles, or slow fashion we are beginning to see the change and beauty to come. As life tends to go, growth occurs in some areas while others march towards obsolescence. Walking through the Garment District I got the feeling that time is up for fast fashion and food. Fabric stores packed with synthetic fabrics stand side-by-side with synthetic food. The addictive rush of cheap clothing and low quality food has become tiresome. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but sometime soon the era of fast paced waste will no longer be culturally acceptable.
Yet, this is not the death of fashion. Fashion is alive and well, bolstered by the blossoming creativity in this country. Wander across the Brooklyn Bridge, down to Noho or to the Meatpacking District near the High Line and the energy shifts entirely. Public art is celebrated, the built environment encourages walking, biking, and mingling, artists and craftspeople are taking risks and doing what they love. The small, independently owned Mexican restaurant is thriving. People are squeezing greenery into every crevice of the urban jungle. Business models are changing. There is hope in the air. Yes change is hard, but it is possible. There is no longer the feeling of stagnation. Old has ALREADY given way to the new, along the way digging up the American artifacts that worked like craftsmanship, entrepreneurial spirit, independence, freedom of expression, multiculturalism. Many of these neighborhoods ARE expensive and OUT OF REACH to the average American, but this is part of where changing tastes start in a capitalist economy. Change is coming.
In this new environment I can see quality, stylish clothing on women kicking ass and taking names to pursuit their dreams and create for a better future. I see color, texture, and lines that follow a woman’s curves gliding by on bikes in communities where art, people, and natural beauty are celebrated. Change is here.