Among the conversations on the environment, race, rights, and women in the workplace, we rarely speak of how one of the biggest industries in the world — the fashion industry — is holding us back. Like, really holding us back. How?
The fast-fashion industry – consisting of international clothing companies such as Zara, H&M, Forever21, and Topshop – has taken “shop ‘till you drop” a bit too seriously. Adding hazardous chemicals and oftentimes lead into their clothing and accessories, fast-fashion labels are doing whatever is necessary to churn out cheap clothing at beyond-possible rates. Women and children are working 18-hours days against their will and against existing work codes. Parents are sending their children to live with relatives because they cannot afford to raise them on the salary they make. These companies are selling clothes literally made to fall apart so the consumer has to buy more, more often.
Shannon Whitehead, founder of sustainable apparel company accelerator program Factory45, says, “The reality is that the fashion industry is a 3 trillion dollar a year business, and only two percent of apparel companies source from suppliers that pay their workers a fair and living wage.”
What can we do about it? There are many ways you can help change the fast fashion industry. The first one is the simplest and simultaneously but the hardest:
1) Just stop shopping all the time.
Move your mindset from “buy, buy, buy” to “experience, experience, experience.” Don’t grab nine shirts at Zara, and instead reallocate that $40 to taking your best friend out to dinner. Or even a more novel idea: put it in your desperately hungry savings account.
2) Watch the documentary The True Cost.
In my super humble opinion, the easiest and fastest way to make #1 happen is to take an hour for this riveting film. I am obsessed with this movie — and I’m not even a “documentary person.” The True Cost follows a young mother’s journey working in an overcrowded textile production factory, and explores the many ways the fast-fashion industry is successfully destroying humanity.
3) Check the tag before you pop it.
The majority of fast-fashion production, from picking cotton to sewing, occurs in Uzbekistan, Cambodia, Bangladesh and India. Look for tags that read Made in America (like Mamachic), or in the UK, Australia, or Peru.
4) The New BOGO.
That’s right, there’s a new BOGO in town, and it’s called Buy One, Give One. Every time you buy a new item of clothing, get rid of an item that’s overstayed its welcome in your closet. Give it to a friend, consign it, or donate it. Remember: the minimalist movement is all about quality over quantity. You don’t need than one chambray top. You just don’t. 🙂
5) Shop for a cause.
If you care about it, there’s an ethical brand that does, too. From the fight against sex trafficking to women empowerment to alleviating poverty, there’s a clothing company that is in the good fight with you. Here’s a website to get you started on some responsible brands.
If any lifestyle change is going to successfully occur, you have to get excited about it. I love knowing that clothes I choose to wear have the lesser impact on the environment, or the people making them. I love being asked by someone where I got a shirt, and then I get to share the awesome cause the brand is working towards. I wake up in the morning so relieved I don’t have a massive closet full of clothes to choose from, but instead a small, beautiful collection of durable items that I love.
This is a guest post by Soren Chargois, a rising junior at Duke University and current Mamachic Intern. During the school year, she produces content for Duke Student Broadcasting, watches collegiate football, and tries new recipes. At home in Montana, she has helped raise her youngest sister, and in the process started following several mom blogs and parenting websites, and is even in her local “babywearers” Facebook group in order to stay up-to-date on the latest parenting trends and information.