Editor’s Note: One of our members, Nogah Seidemann, is leading an independent research project on sustainable fashion and how to make textile sustainability more known and practiced at CSU. Here is what she would like to let you all know about her cause…
“Hi there everybody! My name is Nogah, I’m a member of of TFR as well as an Eco-leader. This semester I’ve been working on a independent research project surrounding sustainable fashion and how to bring more of it on to campus. One of the specific things I was looking at was switching the ForEver Green shirt to an organic fair trade version. I am getting the opportunity to present ASCSU and try to get the initiative passed in the upcoming senate meeting (Wednesday at 6) and I put together a petition to show student support/interest in the project and I’d love it if you guys would sign it!!! Much appreciated!”
Please help support your fellow Ram Nogah and her great cause by signing her petition! If you have any questions or want to help spread the word you can share the link listed above or email us here.
– Fashion Report CO
Do you know that one sweater? The one that you’ve had forever; perhaps it was even passed down to you. The one that, no matter what is going on, wearing it makes you smile and feel not only a little warmer on the outside, but on the inside as well. The one that had a hole, but you brought it back home to mom to fix because you “reaaaallly love it.” Or maybe for you it’s not a sweater, but a dress that just fits any activity or, possibly, it’s a pair of shoes. Whatever it is, stop and imagine it (are you smiling?). This is what fashion is supposed to be about.
Fashion was never intended to be a disposable product. However, in the past 20 years or so our culture has shifted making clothing a throw away item that is not just being used, but used-up and tossed out. Fast fashion companies, such as H&M have such a high turn-over rate that new items are brought into the store practically everyday 3). The average American bought 64 articles of clothing in 2014(3)! Overall the increase in the amount of clothing we purchase has increased approximately 400% within the past two decades (1). Clothing made by fast fashion companies are meant to last a few washes. That’s a problem.
Slow fashion is, you guessed it, the idea of slowing down this consumeristic cycle. Purchasing less products, but ones that are high quality and made in a sustainable and ethical manner. In short it’s about going back to the point of fashion- making clothing that is designed to be cherished, making the world better through craftsmanship.
Practical reasons aside, fashion is a form of self-expression. We are all given a canvas and we color it in to represent who we are, in general, and in that particular moment. But, like everything else what’s within matters even more than what we can see. Most people agree with and follow the golden rule; treat others the way you want to be treated. Yet, when the “other” at hand is not in our direct vicinity it becomes much easier to forget. A disconnect occurs when 97% of production occurs abroad (1). Treatment of workers in fast fashion production consistently lack basic human rights; wages that are significantly below livable, long hours with no breaks, unhealthy and dangerous working conditions, child labor, and no worker protection such as unions. If you have never worked on a sewing machine before, let me tell you, it’s surprisingly demanding. After sewing for more than 3 hours I always need a break from bending over and focusing my eyes- and I work at a rate and environment nowhere near what a worker at production factory would. It is an unavoidable truth that in many cases the workers are practically slaves. When a labor worker is replaceable management holds all the power, but that’s no justification for bad treatment. Brands are consistently able to get away with this treatment because they do not own factories and just contracting factories to produce their clothing, thus responsibility can be deferred.
Other than the human impact of the industry there is also a high environmental toll. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry (1)! It’s insane. So, where does all this pollution come from? Well, a very large portion of it is due to the drastic amount of pesticide and insecticide used to grow cotton. Besides this many chemicals are also used in the production of textiles, especially in the dying and finishing process. Lastly, as we consume fashion more and more quickly we are also throwing more and more out. Eleven-million tons of textile waste are thrown out in the US alone (1).
As you can tell, fashion has a big impact. But, that also means that you as the consumer have a big impact as well. I think it’s easy to see the magnitude of the problem and get overwhelmed and just push the issue aside. Still, it’s important to realize that you can make a difference. Here are some ideas on what you can do to take part in the slow fashion movement;
1. Buy less. The core of the issue is that we buy too much. As you start doing this more you’ll find yourself, or at least I do, only buying stuff that you are truly in love with. Over time you’ll see that you grow to love your closet more as ever piece is special, instead of something you mediocrely like.
2. Buy products that are higher quality. Yes, this does mean spending more money on one item. Where maybe I could buy three 10$ dollar shirts I now might buy one 30$ dollar shirt. It’s takes a while to adjust to- we have been deeply desensitized to the cheapness of clothing that the prices necessary to make a quality product and treat workers fair often seems outrageous at first glance but, they aren’t (usually).
4. Thrift stores- need I say more.
3. Watch out for and buy products with labels such as fair trade, organic (this means the cotton, or other fiber, is grown without use of pesticide and insecticide), and US made. These are all good indicators of a product that is leaving a better footprint on the earth.
4. Take care of your clothing; don’t wash it more than needed (this can wear it down) and fix holes and rips. When you do need to get rid of an item, always either donate it to a thrift store if it’s unwearable drop it off at a store such as Levi’s or H&M that offers a garment recycling program (yes, I know H&M isn’t 100% bad).
5. Learn more and share your knowledge. Before making a purchase, pull up the site of the company and see what its policies regarded worker treatment and environmental stewardship are, does it not say anything? Maybe consider finding another company that does.
That’s slow fashion in a nutshell- there is much more to it. I hope you learned something new and that you are inspired to join me in whatever way you can. Whether that’s just buying a little less, thrifting more or going full-out and buying everything from environmentally and ethically conscious companies, whatever it is you can and chose to do, it makes a difference. Vivienne Westwood summed it up well when she said “Fashion is very important. It is life-enhancing, and like everything that gives pleasure. It is worth doing well.”
Here is a small list of some companies that I’ve found that I would recommend checking out, there are many more out there though:
~Everlane– Men and women’s casual wear
~People Tree – women’s casual and formal
~Reformation– women’s modern retro clothing for any occasion
~Loomstate – women and men’s tops/t-shirts (primarily)
~Pact – men and women’s loungewear
~Toms (duh)- but also check out there market place they offer products from a bunch of other companies as well
~Etsy (handmade generally equals good worker treatment and higher quality. If your feeling super green you can also search by location and find something made in within the country or closer)
–http://www.ethicalfashionforum.com/ – this is a database to search environmentally friendly and ethical companies
Here is a list of some resources if you want to learn more about this topic (This is also my (shortened) bibliography):
1-The True Cost (via Netflix)
3- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Fashion (on youtube), http://www.cleanbydesign.org
4- How your T-shirt can make a Difference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEExMcjSkwA