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Are you hooked yet? Here’s why you shouldn’t buy fast fashion crochet

by Rosemarie Lundgaard

Crocheting and knitting have been popular among younger generations since at least the early 2000s. But lately, thanks to social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, the trend has been spreading like wildfire. Crocheting clothing yourself has become particularly huge: hashtags like #crochetersofinstagram and #crochetaddict have over 16 million posts in total, while popular crochet-TikTokers such as @emmamastone and @leniscrochet have over 100.000 followers combined. 

Crochet’s rising popularity as a hobby among younger folks may have something to do with the handcraft appearing more accessible to many; crochet requires only a single device—a hook, whereas knitting requires two needles. To crochet, you create loops and link them together to make a piece of fabric. And with greater flexibility than knitting allows, crocheting comes across as very approachable. Crocheting differs from knitting in that it doesn’t create stretchy fabric but instead can easily create material that is very lacy and is also well-adapted to chunky yarns.

Handmade, crocheted clothing is a direct response to the fast fashion trends we are constantly exposed to because, unlike knitting, crochet is the only handcraft that cannot be made on a machine; it must be done by hand. The popularity of crocheting has led to several small women-owned businesses selling crocheted pieces made by hand. An example of this could be @pauluschkaa.studio, @loupystudio and @crochet2k_, selling their handmade pieces on Instagram and Etsy

In the last few years, crocheted items also made their way onto the runway, and once again, this Fashion Week, crocheted clothing pieces appeared in multiple collections. High fashion brands such as Oscar de la Renta, GCDS, Kate Spade, and more all displayed crocheted fashion pieces on the runway for their Spring 2023 collections. 

Like all other fashion trends, fast fashion brands take the styles from the runways at Fashion Week and remake them in a more accessible price range. We all know that fast fashion is not suitable for the environment; they copy fashion trends and make much clothing of poor quality that will, shortly after purchase, be discharged. But in this case, many smaller designers have complained that more prominent brands are copying their designs and not giving credit where credit is due, especially when it comes to hand-made crocheted items. 

@emmamastone

redoing this bc i had typos but as a small designer myself whos seen a lot of my friends have their work stolen its difficult to see!! shein and aliexpress have taken so much from small designers!

♬ spongebob disappointment sound – Polish Person ??

Both Zara and H&M have added crochet pieces to their new collections, and so has the ultra-fast fashion brand SHEIN. But out of those three brands mentioned, SHEIN is probably the least transparent with its production. SHEIN claims they are more sustainable than other fast-fashion outlets because they produce a lot of small collections instead of more extensive collections to avoid wasting material. While this sounds nice, it’s doubtful that it would categorize them as a sustainable clothing brand. Fashion Revolution is a fashion activist organization that aims to make the average customer aware of what is behind clothing brands. Every year Fashion Revolution makes a Fashion Transparency Index where they rank the 250 biggest clothing brands in the world according to their “level of public disclosure on human rights and environmental policies, practices, and impacts.” SHEIN has been categorized as one of the least transparent brands, scoring only 2% transparency out of a hundred.

SHEIN sells various crocheted clothing at their site at the moment; everything from tops, bikinis, skirts, dresses, and so on. SHEIN sells crocheted bucket hats for only $11 on their website, whereas in comparison, Pauluschkaa Studio (@pauluschkaa.studio) sells her bucket hats for anything between $85 and $99. There’s a noticeable price difference between those two similar hats, but the worker’s payment behind those items may be the most significant difference. Pauluschkaa Studio reveals on her Instagram that creating a dress can take up to 20 hours of crocheting – whereas SHEIN sells a crocheted dress for as little as $11.25. The incoherence between the amount of work behind the items and the price of the articles shows a disconnect. With the lack of knowledge about SHEIN’s production— and comparing the prices of their crocheted items knowing it can only be made by hand—it is not hard to imagine the workers behind the clothing are not getting fair payment. 

166254376962dc4332753cde5efa25a2078a718031 thumbnail 900x 333eaCheckered Pattern Bucket Hat from SHEIN, $11

Evvia, the designer behind Loupy Studio (@loupystudi), expressed her dissatisfaction with fast fashion brands interest in creating crochet pieces for their collections in an interview with Refinery29: “When we see things that we assume are machine-made it’s a bit easier to dissociate the person making the piece from the piece itself. Unless you’re a very good machine-knitter for example, you don’t really know how long it takes. But when it has to be handmade you have context… And then you see what it’s sold for.”

Untitled design 15 c8463Top: Crochet top for sale on Etsy.com by designer LuckyHandsKnitting; bottom: similar crochet top for sale on Shein. Both tops are handmade. But only one maker is being paid fairly.

Crocheted items have become a fashion trend so quickly that not everyone has the time to learn to crochet, and many others do not have the interest, which is also okay. The thought of crocheting clothing for oneself can seem as unattainable as the high fashion couture displayed at Fashion Weeks around the world. But fast fashion brands have taken notice, and that might be the downfall of it all. Fast fashion has made us impatient, and homemade handcrafts such as crocheting are the epitome of slow fashion. With fast fashion and ultra-fast fashion brands taking part in the trend, it takes away everything that the art of crocheting is supposed to be about—the uniqueness of each item, the patience, the quality, the time spent, and the sense of accomplishment. Worst of all, fast-fashion crochet, since it is guaranteed to have been made by hand, and with a generous amount of time, pretty much guarantees that a worker’s craft has been exploited. And that’s not a trend anyone can get behind. 

Opening photo by Shelter on Unsplash

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