What exactly does an “ethical sweatshop” look like? New Yorkers who are curious to know can now head over to the lobby of Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel to glimpse one in action at WILBy’s temporary pop-up shop. In addition to showcasing local artisans getting their stitch on, WILBy (which stands for “What I Live By”) challenges visitors to re-examine how they shop by identifying with locally and sustainably made goods. Shoppers will also be able to participate in a series of DIY workshops and hear from guest speakers and designers who will be stopping by daily.
WILBy is a roving social experiment conceived by artist Heidi Heyoka (not her real name). “The ultimate goal of WILBy is to create a community of individuals in which we are able to consciously articulate our values in all we do – including shopping,” Heyoka told us. “WILBy as a concept and brand promotes the greatest luxury item of all, thoughtfulness – as something we can apply in all we do. The goal of what I am doing is to take the things we learn in the realm of education and experience in art and spiritual environments and practice applying them in the moment of consumption. To create an ethical style in addition to a fashion and financial style. To some it is a disruptive experience, given how masterfully we are all targeted as consumers.”
The current WILBy space in the Wythe is centered around a showcase of five different totebags: The “Factory-Made” Bag ($8), the “Made in the U.S.A.” Bag ($70), the “Local” Bag ($120), the “Do-Gooder” Bag ($30), and the “I Don’t Need Another Fucking Bag” Bag (which is actually just a $7 tag that buyers can attach to their current bag as a sign that they, well, don’t need another fucking bag). Shoppers can learn about the materials, labor and cost that go into making each bag, and decide which aligns most with their ethics. “I was really happy to see lot of people have been going for the ‘I Don’t Need Another Fucking Bag’ Bag,” Heyoka told us.
“The idea of integrating what we care about and getting beautiful useful objects that remind us of our value is new to many Americans,” says Heyoka.
“I love that [Heyoka’s] WILBy shop offers us personalized ethical options served up with a real interesting back-story,” said Amy DuFault, a Sustainable Fashion Strategist for the Brooklyn Fashion+Design Accelerator, which represents a number of designers featured in the shop. “Moving forward and navigating all of the levels of being conscious and ‘sustainable,’ we have to become better at recognizing what it is that truly is our focus as consumers. Do we want to really spotlight people or planet? Ethics or carbon footprints? And none of these choices are right or wrong, they are just one step towards approaching fashion consumption WITH a conscience. Making the decision to have the Brooklyn Fashion+Design Accelerator designers in there was to show that we support the WILBy vision as all of our designers, whether from fashion or tech, also are approaching and making decisions for their brands based on different levels of sustainability and consciousness. It’s hard for a brand to be and do everything right, so just highlighting what some of our designers are doing when it comes to pushing design, whether for the environment or ethics, felt really right to support and showcase.”
The WILBy shop will be open through April 7, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.