We’ve gotten the junk food out of the cupboard. Now, what about the junk fashion in the closet? Umm...it might seem hard to break the habit when the high of buying a $5.00 t-shirt bears an uncanny resemblance to a sugar rush. But here’s something to contemplate next time you’re stuck in the checkout line under glaring, florescent lights with your heart racing as fast as the beat of booming techno-music: the bargain basement price tag on that garment comes with many hidden costs.
Did you know the environment pays big for our appetite for fast fashion? Mass-production of garments negatively impacts the earth in more ways than one. We can start with the depletion of precious natural resources. It takes 20,000 liters of water to create just one t-shirt. Then, there’s the fact that textile waste has increased by 40% since 1990.
And only a single industry creates more pollution than big oil and that’s fashion!
How about the high human cost of cheap clothes? The Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in 2013 is just one tragic example. The factory collapse killed over one thousand people, and turned the world’s eye to human rights violations in the form of unsafe working conditions and lack of a living wage in sweatshops around the world.
Or how consumers have become part of the viscous cycle of fast fashion? As globalized, mass-produced clothes make the trip from design stage to retail floor quicker, the fashion industry pushes a shorter trend cycle...which consumers crave, because of cheap pricing...which results in over-consumption...and repeat. Today, we buy 400% more clothing than we did 20 years ago!
Is it time to “just say no?” The slow fashion movement thinks so. The term was coined in 2008 by sustainable design consultant, Kate Fletcher, and has become a “farm to closet” call-to-action of designers and consumers, who are demanding accountability and transparency at all stages of the clothing production cycle.
"I'm happy to see that a movement towards creating sustainable clothing has started within the fashion industry,” said AK Mojet, founder of the clothing line sharmbaa. “Our brand tries to puts sustainability into practice by being aware of the process of making our clothing. And we encourage the idea of changing consumption habits -- buying fewer, high quality pieces.”
So how should our clothes be made to meet these goals? What are some of the commitments of slow fashion and sustainability? We’re breaking it down.
- Locally Made: Means buying clothing that’s made near you, which cuts down on transportation costs and fossil-fuel pollution with the bonus of supporting workers in the community where you live.
- Ethically Made: Means looking for companies that have made a commitment to a fair, living wage, as well as safe working conditions for their workers.
- Organic Materials: Means finding pieces that are made from pesticide-free plants, have undergone minimal fiber processing and/or use pvc-free dye, all of which make less of an impact on the earth.
- Recycled Materials: Means buying clothing produced from recycled materials -- everything from plastic from the ocean to recycled soy -- that cuts out one part of the production chain altogether, as well as decreases the amount of textile waste that ends up in the dump.
- Built to Last: Means finding companies whose construction you trust, so your clothing will stand the test of time. Also, choosing looks that are classic, versatile and will live past the latest trend, which increases the time between production of the garment and when it is eventually discarded.
- Take Good Care: Means choosing garments that are easy to care for, as well as mending, protecting and caring for the clothing you own so it will last. It also means thinking of donating unwanted items that are no longer of use to you, instead of throwing them away and adding to the mounting textile waste problem.
Right now, it’s a challenge to find garments that hit all these sustainable and humanitarian marks. But a leaner, greener wardrobe starts with a road map about how to get there. It’s the first step in making sure slow fashion becomes a way of life a whole lot faster!
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