Fast Fashion’s Tight Grip On LA (And Other Headlines)

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Every day, we make conscious decisions on what to wear. There’s this cute, bright green dress I got from Shein, the fast fashion retailer, that I love wearing to work. Without much hesitation or thought, I slide on the dress and get prepared for the next thing on my to-do list.

L.A. garment workers’ dilemmas

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As I’m preparing to leave for the office, there are other Angelenos just a few miles away from me that are cutting cloth and sewing on intricate threads to make the clothes many of us wear. Most get paid very little for it, too — often only per piece, no matter how long it takes them.

There are roughly 40,000 garment workers living and working in Los Angeles. The Fashion District downtown is a major retail manufacturing hub, helping make the fashion and textile industry in Southern California the largest in the U.S. In fact, an estimated 83% of all domestic cut-and-sew manufacturing happens in L.A. The rise of companies like Shein, which has been defined as “ultra fast fashion,” only adds more pressure on the people making our clothes.

In the latest How To LA podcast episode, host Brian De Los Santos joined producer Meg Botel and LAist’s Josie Huang to break down the relationship between fast fashion and L.A., and the role companies like Shein play in tightening the industry’s grip on our region, which include making Youtube reality shows and partnering with the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, or FIDM, on a scholarship program. The episode digs into fast fashion’s impact on the environment and the labor force. Listen here.

But fast fashion and low wages aren’t the only challenges L.A.’s garment industry is facing. My colleague David Wagner recently wrote about the city’s new aggressive plan to add thousands more housing units downtown and how that threatens to push businesses and workers out. There are proposals for how this could be avoided but, with their low pay, many garment workers fear not being able to live in the new housing units the city plans to develop right where they work.

Read David’s story for more.

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

More News

(After you stop hitting snooze)

  • A teenager died inside a Los Angeles County juvenile hall after an apparent drug overdose on Tuesday morning. My colleague Frank Stolze has more information on what happened and what’s being done to fix “illegal and unsafe conditions” inside these spaces. 
  • Landlords at Barrington Plaza, a high-rise apartment in West LA, are evicting hundreds of renters more than three years after a fire destroyed a part of the property. My colleague David Wagner has more information behind the landlords’ plans and what will happen to the renters as they install fire sprinklers and other safety measures. 
  • Two months before the murder of George Floyd Jr. in Minneapolis, Edward Bronstein died in California Highway Patrol custody in Altadena, screaming “I can’t breathe.” Now, the state of California is paying his family $24 million, one of the largest settlements of its nature in the U.S. 
  • Who in the world could be optimistic about climate change? Nurseryman Gary Gragg is. He’s taking advantage of the warming climate so he can grow mango trees in Northern California. 
  • As legalization has made marijuana more widely available, the plant has also grown more potent, which has been linked with psychological disorders. Regulators aren’t able to keep up. 
  • ICYMI: For all my 40-year-old women, it’s time to get mammograms. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is now recommending that women get a screening test every other year starting at 40.
  • *At LAist we will always bring you the news freely, but occasionally we do include links to other publications that may be behind a paywall. Thank you for understanding! 

Wait! One More Thing…

Revisiting the Hollywood Strike Of 1945

The man is shown in front of a building. Several other men are in the background, some with white hard hats.

Oct. 9, 1945: A man, cornered by his opponents, raises his arms for protection during one of the many battles during the protests outside Warner Bros.

(Herald Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

It’s currently Day 9 of the first Writers Guild of America strike in 15 years. Yesterday, we learned from my colleague John Horn that several big names like President Joe Biden, Actor Tom Hanks and Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin spoke out in support for writers. This is after learning that several shows stopped production.

Last week, we took a little trip with John through the technology changes and platform shifts throughout the past six decades that’s led writers to strike six times in 60 years. Now, let’s jump back in the DeLorean for a second time and go even further back to the strike of 1945. This strike was the big one that caused a huge shift in Hollywood.

But it wasn’t a writers strike. Back in 1945, it was the studio painters, carpenters and other crew members who were a part of the Conference of Studio Unions (CSU) who organized the strike.

It quickly turned ugly. Soon after crews gathered at Warner Bros. in Burbank, where writers are now marching with picket signs that express their demands, police officers and scabs violently beat workers on strike.

Here’s an excerpt about that bloody moment in history from Hadley Meares’ article:

“That morning at Warner Bros. was the most brutal conflict between billion-dollar studios and the people who keep them running but it was hardly the last. The struggle between Hollywood’s controlling business interests and everyday laborers continues, most recently with the narrowly avoided IATSE strike in 2021, which would have crippled the film and TV industry.”

Read more about this history here.

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