Demystifying Fast Fashion

Today on the subway I saw an advertisement for an $8 jacket from a brand called Missguided. Was this meant to be Ironic? No. It made me angry. Because this is ridiculous.

An $8 jacket means the fabric, likely cotton grown with pesticides, which destroys soil and contaminates water and is proven to cause cancer or maybe polyester made from oil, is almost certainly covered in disgusting cheap chemicals to dye it. The person who sewed it definitely made less than $1 for their work. The markup on clothing for sale to consumers, often 100%+, means the cost of this jacket was certainly $4 or less – materials and transport take up a big chunk of that. And because the factory is making clothing so cheap, they have to cut costs somewhere to operate.

Four years ago, almost to the day, a building in Bangladesh collapsed and killed over 1,100 people. They were sewing clothing, fast fashion to be precise. The building was structurally unsound and exits were blocked.

Conditions like this continue today: low wages, hours hunched over sewing machines to meet deadlines to produce more stuff that we wear and then throw away. Chemicals handled by workers without protection are dumped directly into our waterways, even in Los Angeles. And I hate to say it but it’s everywhere. Even Patagonia found slavery in one of it’s supply chain when it researched it’s supply chain. Essentially what am I saying? Well, we are still buying and producing clothes that kill people.

As a citizen and consumer, it’s easy to feel helpless and want to look away, to feel like we’re at the mercy of the system. Except we’re not. We have power. Like food, clothing is something we use EVERY DAY. We’re the ones that buy the clothing and our dollars collectively do matter. Look at Uber. Look at Ivanka Trump.

We’re the ones who can call our representatives. We’re the ones who can call customer service. We’re the ones who can talk to our friends about these issues. We are the ones who DO have a voice. Not the woman or man who sewed that misguided jacket.

In fact, each day with a small change in what you wear, your impact matters. Don’t you dare think that your small decisions don’t matter. Every time you buy something you send a small signal. So if I may, let me empower your voice with information and alternatives. If I can encourage you to buy one less item without knowledge, than I’ve done my job today.

As a citizen and consumer, it’s easy to feel helpless and want to look away, to feel like we’re at the mercy of the system. Except we’re not. We have power.

If you’re looking for a resource to know where to shop, go to Project JUST. Look up a brand, read up on their practices and then make a decision for yourself. You can download an app called Good On You and search hundreds of brands. Check out Fashion Revolution’s resources, articles and stats. The movement is growing; info is out there.

If you want a quick watch to get up-to-date on all of these issues, watch The True Cost on Netflix. Like podcasts? Check out AWEAR World. Like blogs with all sorts of cool conscious living resources? Check out Ecocult , Sustaining.Life, Sustainably Chic, Simply Live Co, THE NOTE PASSER and anyone from Ethical Writers Co..

Convinced? Want to make small changes in your daily life? Shop vintage, consignment or thrift stores. Email/Tweet/Ask brands questions that matter to you before you buy. I know from our work that they listen to you and they’re waking up.

I know some people can’t afford new ethical fashion. I get it. I know people have to make decisions that fit within their budget. Read this article for some affordable options.

Please don’t be misguided. Be informed. Be an activist in your daily life. Take a minute while you’re on your phone today to tweet, tag or email a brand. We must start taking responsibility for our actions and our impact.

Photo by Kris Atomic

Natalie is the co-founder and co-CEO of Project JUST, which works to shift demand towards positive practices and ethical brands, ultimately championing the farmers and workers at the bottom of the supply chain.

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