I love being able to express how I feel through what I wear. But, I don’t love the consumerism, exploitation and environmental destruction of fast fashion. I have wrote a few previous posts about fashion (Fashion + Sustainability?), and today decided to watch the documentary The True Cost (which you can find on netflix).
While watching the film there were a several facts and key moments which made me pause from my crafting and really absorb what was said, such as:
1. Only 10% of the items we donate to local thrift shops actually get sold at the thrift shops, the other 90% are shipped to developing countries like Haiti where our cheap “cast offs” displace the local textile industry thus causing many individuals to get laid off and loss their jobs. I love thrift shops: I buy 90% of my clothing from them continually donate back clothes as well. In my head this cycle was always a closed loop within my community, however now that I know most of the clothes I donate do not stay local at all it I am going to have to be more critical of my consumption cycle, even if it is second-hand.
2. The fashion industry is the 2nd most polluting industry today, second only to the oil & gas industry. This surprised me because, similar to many friends of mine, I assumed the food industry would pollute more then the fashion industry. However, when you consider growth of cotton (over 90% of the cotton grown globally is genetically modified and Round-up Ready) and other materials (not to mention leather and fur from animals), the chemical treatment (which get washed into the water systems) of the materials, and the giant landfills of discarded clothing that take ~200 years to biodegrade it is no wonder the fashion industry is so destructive on the environment. The chemicals used on crops and textile treatment have also lead to skyrocketing levels of cancer and other diseases in communities that depend on this dangerous work.
3. There is little if any global legislation in place to protect the rights of individuals working in sweatshops in places like Bangladesh and Cambodia, which results in very low wages (~$2/day), frequent abuse from management, long hours, poor working conditions and no respect. These horrible conditions are what lead to disastrous events such as the Rana Plaza collapse in which over 1000 people died.
All of this environmental and human abuse is hidden behind bright lights and glossy photos which coax us in the western world into buying the newest cheap thing that we don’t need but hope will make us as happy as the models in the advertisements look. It is truly hard to be critical, sometimes you do just want to buy that cute skirt, but as one of the individuals interviewed in the movie stated “the customer is in charge”, as customers we have the power support what we want and change the system. We can refused to purchase products that abuse workers overseas and the environment and rather opt for clothing from companies like The People Tree which place the environment and the well being of the people making the clothing as their number one priority.
I strongly encourage you to check out this documentary. And when you are done, check out these folks, that I personally know are doing great work in changing the fashion industry: The B A L A N C E Project, EF Magazine, and Eco Equitable.