The True Cost of Today’s Fast Fashion Industry
It is time to take a step back and think about being a sustainable consumer. I love asking people questions and this week I have a lot of them. How many of your clothes do you actually wear in your closet? Do you know where most of your food, clothes and material items are made? How many times do you buy things that you do not need. These are questions I simply ignored until last night because I did not know the answer to most of these questions.
Last night, one of my teachers for my Field Experience fashion class played a video called The True Cost. During this video I realized I am pretty sheltered when it comes to the cultural news of the world. In all honesty, when the movie was over I realized I consume more than I really need to. Something I never really thought of was where the clothes I wear came from. How many of you remember what happened in Bangladesh in April 2013? More specifically in the Rana Plaza.
On this day, 1,134 workers who produced products for different brands all over the world died in a horrific building collapse. About 2,500 people were rescued and some workers had to have amputations done to get out of the rubble. The workers there told their employers before the factory collapsed that it was not safe to be working in the building, but because of fast fashion today, they were forced to work in these horrible conditions. It is hard to say what companies were using this facility at the time, but companies like Old Navy, Wal-Mart, JCPenny and Benetton have all used this factory before.
When we hear stories like this, mostly everyone wants to help, but because of the distance between our country and foreign sweatshops, it is easy to forget or push that thought to the back of your mind. This video showed graphic pictures and film of people underneath the rubble and families and friends crying out for their loved ones. When you see pictures or videos of these events happening to other people it becomes more of a reality that these accidents can be prevented from happening.
One of the quotes that a Bangladeshi worker said while trying to hold back her tears was that she did not want people to wear clothes that their blood, sweat and tears have gone in to. I am not saying stop buying clothes, but by doing a little research and being aware of the products you purchase, you then in return are helping others. Livia Firth, Sustainability Activist, was at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit and made a thought provoking speech against H&M and many other companies who live by fast fashion. She said, “They make us believe that we are rich and wealthy because we can buy a lot. But in fact, they are making us poorer and the only person that is getting richer is the fashion brand.” I know firsthand that when I buy a lot of product for a little amount I feel like I got a deal, but in reality I do not always need the things that I buy.
This week I wanted to make you all aware of a rising issue in our world. The excess of stuff that we maybe do not need and the waste that it causes when we just throw it away or give it to charity. More than half of the clothes we give away to charity are never worn and becomes a huge pile of clothes somewhere in a landfill. Maybe this week take some time to think about not just bettering yourself but bettering the world. We may not be able to change everyone or everything, but by helping others and thinking what others go through, we can certainly make some big changes in people’s hearts.
We are consumers that businesses advertise to, and without us, they cannot profit. Take a minute and consider if you really need that blouse or t-shirt in three different colors. If the roles were reversed, how would you feel about people mindlessly consuming clothes that maybe your co-worker died over. Think of the person who worked their butt off to make that shirt for you; that way it is easier to feel appreciation for the things we own.
But there is some good news too! Many brands and small businesses out there are working the “slow” side of the fashion industry. Thanks to The True Cost documentary and other awareness efforts, environmentally conscious, sustainable, fair trade brands are gaining more traction and exposure. Take Kutula Kiss for example. The mission of this accessory brand is to bring quality craftsmanship from the hands of skilled artisans back to North America to ensure fair trade wages and a dependable income while empowering and supporting women to develop their handicraft. Another favorite is Orgotton Clothing who is creating luxurious clothing with a transparent and traceable business model, that is good for both you and the planet (ps – this Orgotton dress is insanely chic and comfortable).
In my opinion, the impact of today’s fast fashion industry is something that I cannot ignore anymore so I just want to bring awareness to you all this Mindful Monday!