Tag: fashion

Hannah’s (Practical) Guide to Sustainable Fashion

Our clothing says a lot about who we are, but no one wants their clothes to say that they support labor exploitation or contribute to environmental waste. Sustainable fashion is an umbrella term that is used to describe the ethical production and consumption of  clothing garments. The life cycle of a garment is important to consider when it is being classified as sustainable fashion–this includes the garment’s design and uses outside the original intent. Sustainability is an ever-growing trend, and the average consumer is becoming more aware of the dangerous effects that our spending habits can have.

 

The three main types of sustainable fashion are as follows:

  1. Eco-fashion, which refers to the effects clothing has on the environment;
  2. Slow fashion, which refers to increasing the lifespan of clothing and slowing down the fashion seasons; and
  3. Ethical fashion, which refers to the ethical standards surrounding the production of a garment.

 

Many of us have been turned off from the idea of sustainable fashion due to concerns with cost and accessibility, but being ethical about your shopping isn’t as difficult as it seems. I’ve put together a beginner’s guide to sustainable and ethical fashion without limiting your style choices. Here are four ways you can stop contributing to the negative effects of the fashion industry.

 

  1. Care for your clothes
    • The easiest way to start living sustainably is to value and take care of the clothes you already own. Your clothes will last longer with proper maintenance. When you care for the clothing you own, you expand the lifespan of your most beloved outfits, and as a result, you will tend to shop less. The mass production of garments has only contributed to society’s wasteful attitude towards fashion consumption, and neglecting the clothes you already own is exactly what fashion retailers are preying on. Take care of the clothes you have and you can help slow the high consumption rates caused by fast fashion.
  2. Shop less
    • If you only buy pieces that you know for certain that you’ll get a lot of use of and wholeheartedly love, you will be less likely to shop more clothes. As the saying goes, “quality over quantity;” this is another easy way to incorporate sustainability in your daily life with little hassle. Fast fashion tends to have a reduced quality, as brands create clothing quickly and cheaply, trying to adapt to the trends that quickly come and go. Choose clothes made of better materials that you know are not going to fade or shrink after a couple washes. The more durable your clothes are, the less often you’ll have to dispose of or replace them, effectively ending the toxic trend of frivolous consumption.
  3. Buy vintage or second-hand
    • Buying clothing that is vintage or secondhand has become more mainstream thanks to the surge of retro fashion cycling back into society. A simple way to participate is to shop pre-loved fashions; in doing so, the clothes are being recycled and reused, and the linear cycle of production to disposal is slowed down. Thrift stores and consignment stores are a great way to source second-hand clothing and online shops such as Depop and Poshmark allow you to buy and sell your gently used clothing.
  4. Support ethical brands
    • Reject fast fashion and start shopping locally; purchasing pre-worn clothing or clothing from sustainable brands allows you to support independent designers and environmentally conscious efforts rather than directly supporting a fast-fashion company. There are curated vintage brands such as Shop Suki and sustainable brands such as Reformation which repurpose vintage styles and use locally sourced and sustainable materials.

 

With the rising popularity of sustainable fashion, many modern clothing companies are making the switch to ethically produced clothing. Consumers can aid in extending the lifespan of the clothing by reusing, recycling, and repurposing clothing we already own or can easily access. Sustainable living seems like a difficult adjustment, but simple acts–such as the ones mentioned in this article–do a lot; an individual can help change the rate of fashion consumption. Every little bit helps to replace the consumerist fast-fashion habit with an ethical closet that is better for the environment.

 

By: Hannah Tran

The Race to Destruction: Fast Fashion’s Effects on the World and Society

Since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, there has been a steady incline in the efficiency of clothing manufacturing, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that clothing companies began to really produce garments with intense speed. Fashion became easily accessible to the public for consumption at lower costs than ever before; the allure of having trendy and fashionable pieces in one’s closet catalyzed more demand for these cheap and fast clothes. Fast forward to 2019, and clothing brands such as H&M, Forever 21, Zara, Charlotte Russe, and TOPSHOP are everywhere and dominate the closets of children and adults alike. Who wouldn’t pass up a $3.90 pair of leggings or a $4 dress? This cycle of the production of “fast-wearing” clothes and even faster consumerism has paved the way for detrimental consequences for the producer, the environment, and the consumer.

 

Cheap labor is the euphemism, in this case, for sweatshop workers who unfortunately do not make enough money to surpass the poverty line–the workers who live heavily-clustered in slums without the basic necessities and resources needed to have a decent quality of life. In the 1990s, the textile industry began moving overseas at an extremely high rate–fewer labor laws overseas would lead to the opportunity to rapidly amass products and cheaply sell them without having to worry about workers’ wages and rights. The sweatshops aren’t safe; “accidental mass killings” aren’t just a tragedy of the early 20th century. They still happen even in the most technologically advanced generation we’ve seen thus far. In 2013, the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing at least 1,138 workers making clothes. In response to this incident, a European-led coalition of unions and allied NGOs (non-governmental organizations) teamed up to work with Bangladeshi labor groups to create a worker safety initiative focused on empowering workers themselves, adopted largely by European firms and led by H&M but also adopted by several major U.S. brands. Even with such a development, the initiative has had some trouble staying afloat, and there is still more that needs to be done. How can we support the abuse and complete disregard of the very people that give us the things we crave most? Textile factories have also been found to be ripe with the foul stench of human trafficking, found even in the United States. Girls and women promised jobs and opportunity come only to be bound to a cycle of abuse and servitude; real people in terrible situations are grossly underpaid, mistreated, taken advantage of, subjected to devastating health problems, and even dying- to make disposable clothing for the “lucky” us, the consumers.

 

This radical mass production creates pollution, and the mass waste caused by consumers carelessly tossing old garments contributes to utter environmental chaos. During the farming process for cotton, the pesticides that are used are being linked to cancer and birth defects in farmers’ children in the Punjab region of India, as well as contributing to the development of a brain tumor in the case of one Texan farmer. The production of cotton, though only making up “2.4 percent of the world’s crops… is responsible for 24 percent of global insecticide sales and 11 percent of global pesticide sales,” as well as the immense consumption of freshwater–one t-shirt can take up to 2,700 liters of water to make–and the facts don’t stop there. American clothing waste, nearly 3.8 billion pounds annually, ends up in landfills, which amounts to nearly 80 pounds of textile per American citizen–which seems practically unimaginable. In addition, over 80 billion pieces of clothing are purchased each year, mostly by Americans, even though the clothing was made in outsourced low-income countries such as China and Bangladesh. The factory workers’ subjection to environmentally unstable working and living situations is appalling, yet Americans can’t seem to decrease their demand for trendy and cheap clothing. Textile waste begets the production of methane during decomposition and the dyes and chemicals used to color and create the textiles could sink into the soil; whole communities and agricultural systems are crumbling due to mass production of fast fashion.

 

As a modern consumer, there seems to be something extremely satisfying about inserting a card into a chip reader and walking out of a store with a new purchase. With fast-fashion retailers churning out new trends and styles many more times a year than in the high-fashion realm–either as a continuous release or around 12 seasons for fast-fashion retailers versus 2 seasons for typical high fashion–buyers are armed with the caveat that they must shop then and there in order to stay up-to-date with the most current style. Having this feeling of staying on top of “the game” tends to bring an immense feeling of instant gratification when compulsory shopping, a feeling that is catalyzed with each swipe or chip read, and to keep feeling that instant gratification, we buy. This cycle can very easily turn into an addiction with us giving immense support and money to the factories and fast-fashion companies.

 

As the public eyes turn more towards to atrocities associated with fast fashion production and retail, hopefully, change will come. Remove fast fashion from your spending habits, buy second-hand clothes, boycott the fast fashion industry, or even just learn about and advocate for sustainable clothing.

 

Sources:

Ross, Robert J.S. “The High Toll of Fast Fashion.” Dissent Magazine, http://www.dissentmagazine.org/blog/the-true-cost-review-fast-fashion-rana-plaza-accord.

Morgan, Andrew, director. The True Cost. 2015.

Bailey, Carolyn. “Slow Down: Fast Fashion Has Harmful Effects.” Trusted Clothes, 10 Sept. 2016, http://www.trustedclothes.com/blog/2016/02/09/slow-down-fast-fashion-has-harmful-effects/.

“The Impact of a Cotton T-Shirt.” WWF, World Wildlife Fund, 16 Jan. 2013, http://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/the-impact-of-a-cotton-t-shirt.

Bick, Rachel, et al. “The Global Environmental Injustice of Fast Fashion.” Environmental Health, vol. 17, no. 1, 2018, doi:10.1186/s12940-018-0433-7.

 

To learn more, watch The True Cost on Netflix.

 

By: Aly Sickles