Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fashion Ed | Sustainability and Fast Fashion

Because today is Earth Day, I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about Sustainability in the fashion industry. So what does sustainable mean:

  • Sustainable - of, relating to , or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.

  • Sustainable Fashion - also called eco fashion , is a part of the growing design philosophy and trend of sustainability, the goal of which is to create a system which can be supported indefinitely in terms of environmentalism and social responsibility.

Ecouterre.com or Eco Fashion World are great resources to learn more about sustainable fashion and the textile industry. With that said, you can not talk about sustainability in the fashion industry and not mention the fast fashion culture and the  stigma that surrounds it. 

Fast fashion is the production of garments, designed similar to those seen on fashion week runways and magazines, manufactured cheaply and quickly so that the consumer can take advantage of current trends at  low prices. Because we always have to have the latest thing and since the price is low, we buy more of it till our closets are full. With the clothes being so affordable this also makes them extremely disposable. When the item is no longer trendy, you won't feel so bad throwing it out or donating it because it was so cheap.

Business of Fashion

Once disposed, if it does not end up in a landfill, clothing purchases are recycled mainly in three ways: it is resold by the consumer for cheap, exported in bulk for sale in developing countries , or it may be chemically or mechanically recycled into  raw material for the manufacturing of other apparel or non-apparel products. I found these great articles, here and here which talk about what happens to old clothes after you donate. It is what prompted me to write about this topic. Now I am in no way saying to not donate to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or other charities, it is just better to be more informed and see the bigger picture of what happens after donation.

While out shopping, do you ever wonder who made the item and where it came from? China is the largest exporter of fast fashion in the world with clothing increasingly being imported from countries as diverse as Honduras and Bangladesh. Most workers work in sweatshop environments while making as little as 12-18 cents per hour in poor conditions. Sweatshop is a term for any working environment considered to be unacceptably difficult or dangerous. Sweatshop workers often work long hours for low pay, regardless of laws mandating overtime pay or a minimum wageChild labor laws may be violated. Sweatshops may have hazardous materials and situations. Employees may be subject to employer abuse without an easy way, if any, to protect themselves. For more information about sweatshops, go to Laborrights.org. Also, visit JooJoo Azad ~ Free Bird. It is a fashion and social action blog and she has a boycott list worth looking at.

So does this mean to not shop at fast fashion brands like H&M and Zara in which I love? Not at all. To see what your favorite brand/store is doing to contribute to a more sustainable fashion environment, check their websites and see if you can locate a Sustainability report, Responsibility clause, Environmental policy or anything similar. If you find it, read up on what the company's policies are on the sustainability issue and what they are doing about their impact.

My hope with this post is to make you a more informed consumer and maybe even prompt you to do your own due diligence on this topic or anything consumer related.

Thank you for reading!


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