Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Thoughts on Sustainability and Fast-Fashion

Photo by Lillie Eiger

I received an email from a reader in New Zealand about the very inexpensive dress I included as part of yesterday's post showing a connection between the sculptures of Berner Venet and things I noticed floating around in the fashion ether.

The dress in question came from a D2C online Chinese company that I instinctively knew, after many years in this industry, couldn't be on the up and up. The reader was surprised and disappointed that I would include such an item despite my concerns, which I directly questioned in the post itself, about living wages and other labor and environmental violations a dress with such a low price would demand. She claimed that after clicking through to the site she felt like she needed a shower! Presumably because it was so icky and disturbing.

She was right to call me out. And so I removed the image as well as the link to the manufacturers site. If you check back you will notice that the post has been updated.

You probably know that I am an animal lover as well as a lover of all sweaters furry and fringe-y because they are a great alternative to using real fur. A while ago I pointed out that I would make sure to no longer post any image which has real animal fur shown. Because I'm also an advocate for sustainability and transparency in the fashion industry I mentioned the conundrum that faux furs create because the synthetic fibres from which they are made rely heavily on fossil fuels. I personally have made a choice that I would be anti-(real)fur first and support mills and bio-engineers working on alternative solutions for more eco-friendly materials.

In fact, I consulted with a brand that specializes in faux fur clothing to help them develop eco-friendly yarns which can be turned into eco-friendly, furry fabrics for their collection. They are being supported by both PETA and Cradle-to-Cradle in this endeavor. (Unfortunately I can't mention their name just yet.) This kind of thing is the future of fashion but it's going to take time.

We have a global culture of mass overconsumption. There is too much "stuff" in the world and $19 dresses contribute to the egregious waste of the earth's natural resources. $19 dresses also mean someone is probably not making a living wage or working in facilities that are safe.

53 million tons of clothing are produced each year and about 85% of that ends up in landfills. It is estimated that a woman wears an item of clothing an average of 7 times before getting rid of it. Each pound of clothing that ends up in a landfill produces 2lbs of CO2 emissions and landfill clothes, which can take up to 200 years to decompose in some cases, leak toxic dyes and chemicals into the soil, which can contaminate local drinking water.

Consumers are detached from this reality and unless those of us in the industry help to educate them, the cycle will continue. A return to quality and an appreciation for craft and skill must be redeployed.

I realize that most people can't afford luxury or contemporary priced clothing but fast-fashion, in its quest to achieve endless growth and profits, has trained customers to want more and more; faster and for a lot less. The more "stuff" they crank out, the more "stuff" we're convinced we need and like any addiction it soon spirals out of control.

I guarantee there is plenty of wiggle room between the $4.99 t-shirt at Forever 21 and the $499 one from Saint Laurent. Consumers need to be reprogrammed to buy less and buy better.

In any case, I welcome any and all comments and will strive to maintain my high aesthetic standards and a consistent POV while also making sure to uphold my core beliefs.

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