“What sucks about it all is that we really can’t do anything about it,” my friend said, sipping on her wine.
We had just finished watching The True Cost, because she had taken an interest in sustainable clothing as well.
She’s right to an extent, in that the film doesn’t provide you with a lot of next step actions to minimize your impact. So it can feel a bit hopeless. What she’s wrong about though, is that we can’t do anything about it at all. Embracing conscious consumerism and refusing to purchase items that you know weren’t manufactured ethically can have an impact. If we continue to buy fast fashion products because we think we can’t make a difference, clothing will simply continue to be produced this way.
You might be asking yourself why conscious fashion is suddenly such a popular topic of conversation, and why more people are demanding ethical clothing choices. I thought I’d break it down a bit for you here, if you’re new to the topic!
To an extent, it’s part of the cycle of fashion. 2010 through 2014 (or so) saw bold mass-market style choices, largely led by street style icons, bloggers and, to an extent, Jenna Lyons. Think pajama tops as workwear, statement necklaces and leopard print everything. In response, many consumers were eventually looking for simpler, minimalist choices. In a lot of respects, conscious fashion and minimalism go hand-in-hand. Stylistically they’re quite similar, and I think the mindset of fewer, basic pieces and the ease of getting dressed appealed to a lot of women after so much fussy styling. So, this movement, as many call it, is a bit motivated by regular old fashion cycles. We’d be foolish to think we aren’t susceptible to marketing and trends whatsoever. But, I think that it is becoming something more than that, the more people learn about who makes our clothes.
Fashion is creating an environmental crisis. In North America, consumers are buying five times as much clothing as we did 25 years ago. Eighty-five percent of this clothing ends up in a landfill. Oh, but you donate your old clothes? It doesn’t matter. Most of the clothes you donate are likely outdated or in too poor condition for resale or reuse. And, there’s simply too much of it. There is no way that charitable organizations can keep up with the glut of clothing coming in, so most of it is incinerated (which is detrimental to our air quality), sent to a landfill or shipped to developing nations who also don’t want it. These changing consumption patterns and the vast amount of waste being generated are forcing us to confront our clothing choices- now.
Feminism and human rights. For me, this was the biggest motivating factor in changing how I look at my wardrobe. Eighty percent of the world’s garment workers are women, working in unsafe conditions for incredibly low wages. They are also vulnerable to harassment because they may not have many other employment options (especially if they are refugees). I started looking at my clothes thinking, “someone just like me was mistreated so I could wear this.” And it wasn’t something I could accept anymore.
The below articles offer some really great, in-depth information about the impact of fast fashion if you’d like to read more.1