Alyssa Hardy Wants You to Know Who Made Your Clothes

The InStyle Senior News Editor gets transparent about the world of magazines and advocating for a better fashion industry. 

 

As the Senior News Editor of InStyle.com, Alyssa Hardy’s job is “literally to know what's happening on the internet all the time”. Her and her team of writers cover everything from celebrity news, fashion, award shows, beauty, and politics- but mostly what Hailey Bieber and Rihanna are wearing. Keeping readers in the know requires plenty of event coverage, even when fashion week is quieter than normal, virtual panels begin to feel disengaging, and red carpet stories are produced via late night tv watching- “this year, (it) looks like me sitting on my couch eating ice cream and covering it''. At the same time, she’s managed to make writing her book on the garment industry a priority. 

 

In college, Alyssa knew she wanted to be a writer, “or to write” she corrects herself, “I don't think you need to be a writer, you can write whatever you want, but I also really loved fashion”. Knowing that being in the city would keep her close to the industry, she spent two years studying in New York at Marymount Manhattan College. Finishing her degree closer to home at SUNY Albany, she immersed herself in fashion in ways that were local and earned school credit grading papers for a professor while also interning for a publisher. It was there that she got experience as a stylist, working on photoshoots for cosmetology textbooks.

 

 Alyssa had professionals take her seriously before she herself did, pushing her to realize her potential in fashion magazines, “they were like, oh this is the stylist! and I was like, oh that’s me”. In 2013 she went to her first fashion week, having jumped at a Craigslist ad for a startup online magazine for beauty doing backstage reporting. Attending around 40 shows, it was there that she met Phillip Picardi, former chief content officer at Teen Vogue and told him she wanted to write for a real magazine. He later got back to her in search of a fashion writer and she began writing things like “90 Times Taylor Swift Wore a Crop Top”, before the publication’s 2017 restructuring around no longer doing print allowed her to come on staff as the full-time fashion editor. She is candid about the unstable nature of publishing, describing that having three different Editor in Chief’s during that time and wanting to diversify what she wrote about lead her to going freelance. At Teen Vogue and beyond, Alyssa often wrote pieces that educated consumers about hidden issues in the industry, providing insight into why retailer’s inventory levels contribute to landfills and how luxury brands tend to get a free pass when it comes to labor practices. Her ethics and sustainability reporting caught the eye of InStyle where she has now been since 2019. 

 

Over the years, her conscious perspective has shifted around topics that are often excluded from the ethical fashion conversation, “the most important thing used to be accessibility, I understand why someone would buy things at a certain price point, or a lot of time fast fashion companies would be the only ones offering extended sizing or adaptive clothing”. For someone like Alyssa who is passionate about fashion that is good to the environment and the people that make it, balancing a love of clothes and having to sell them through a magazine means having no fake objectivity, “I feel that if I’m going to work at a place that's gonna tell you, oh you need to go buy this H&M dress, I also need to tell you that a woman was just murdered at a factory by her boss that was probably making that very H&M dress” she says frankly. Garment workers in developing countries are paid well below a living wage and work in horrendously unsafe conditions. In 2013, a factory in Bangladesh making clothes for the biggest global fashion brands collapsed and killed 1,134 people. 

 

Telling the story of the women across the world who make our clothes in a way that is not victimizing them or using them in any way is exactly what Alyssa has set out to do with her book on garment factories. Because we have become so accustomed to buying cheap, fast fashion companies have turned a profit that would allow garment worker wages to be raised significantly without affecting the cost of our clothes, and yet, this isn’t the case. While pictures of these women holding signs that say “I made your clothes'' are great for spreading awareness, it often makes the average consumer blind to the fact that these are real people doing skilled work for little money, “I mean, I can't make a dress” she says. The investigation into disposable fashion was set off by Elizabeth Cline’s Overdressed, a book that served as a wake-up call when it was published in 2012 by revealing how outsourcing and increasing pressure to cut costs drastically changed the way Americans dress. Alyssa’s own book will take things a step further, including interviews with garment workers and commentary on how her experience as a fashion writer and someone who works with celebrities has led her to see how the industry’s ignorance continues to cover up what goes on overseas.

 

With much of our wardrobes going unworn this year, people have been forced to notice the role dress plays in our identities and our lives. Without the therapeutic routine of getting dressed for work or any social obligations, it’s hard to feel like yourself, “The reason I feel so strongly about making this an industry that's a safe place for women and women workers especially, is because of how important fashion can be in people's lives and so there’s no reason this important, huge thing that is so universal for all of us should be the cause of gender-based violence”. There’s irony in the disconnect between liking fashion and being accountable for its effects, “even the people that claim they couldn't care less about fashion have a favorite pair of jeans and as someone who works in it, it's partially my responsibility to make sure that those favorite pair of jeans aren't harming someone”. 

Alyssa’s book is being published by The New Press, non-profit public-interest publisher that amplifies progressive voices for a more inclusive, just, and equitable world; it comes out in early 2022.