We rarely sit to think about the clothes we buy. We simply walk into a mall or a store, browse through online stores, we go in, we see, we like, try on, buy and end of story. That needs to change. There are so many wrong things with both the fast-fashion and high-end fashion industry, that we as consumers need to take note of, so we can fight against it. After all, millennials are one of the most powerful consumer groups, and since they are the ones most concerned with issues such as sustainability, the environment, animal cruelty, fair wages and working conditions as well as other socio-political issues, they represent a powerful voice that the industry has no other option but to listen to. However, before we dive into the change, let’s see what the actual issues are and how they can be rectified.
The positive aspect
Under the pressure of both the consumers as well as the Copenhagen Fashion Summit which is dedicated to upholding to the pillars of sustainable fashion, strides have already been taken by certain companies. Although animal cruelty in the fashion industry still exists, there are some shining examples of those who are taking a firm stand against it. Many of our favorite stores have already banned the use of mohair, including Topshop, H&M, Zara, and Gap Inc., as well as Primark, Mango and several others. Many more have vowed to ban it by the year 2020 at the latest. High-end powerhouses and numerous countries have already made steps towards removing fur from their collections, so as far as animal cruelty goes, things are looking up. Although, with such a large industry, there are still many companies that need to join in for the circle to be complete.
Where does it come from
According to a spicy and witty yet highly insightful article published in the BBC, an item you purchased from Zara may have travelled to more countries than you have. This speaks volumes about the lack of transparency when it comes to fabric supply, processing, assembling, shipping and all the steps in between that take from creating the fabric to getting the final product to the consumer. The sad truth is, aside from Zara and a handful of other companies such as Primark, most companies have no idea where their fabrics come from and where the actual garments are made. The truth of the matter is, most companies don’t even know where their materials come from and that needs to change. We need more transparency and ethical garments, and not only in this aspect but several more because as we can see, the chain from the fabric to us is a long and complicated one.
Lack of sustainability
Certain companies such as H&M have started their recycling reward programs a while ago, and they do, as many others, have a ‘section’ of conscientious fashion items. However, there are very few companies that have turned to providing goods from clothing and bedding from such sustainable fabrics. Bamboo, organic cotton, linen, and similar fabrics aren’t only durable and good for one’s health, but also minimize the amount of clothing that ends up on the landfills, not to mention the level of pollution that comes with a production of a single garment. Namely, an average person gets rid of 81 pounds of clothing a year and 73 percent of the world’s clothing ends up in landfills. We as consumers need to take responsibility and purchase ethical garments, from amazing sustainable underwear online to bed linen, clothes and even footwear. As far as the other aspect of pollution goes, the textile industry is responsible for more than 20 percent of industrial water pollution. It takes around 700 gallons of water to produce a single T-shirt, not to mention the chemicals – non-organic cotton alone uses 22.5% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of all pesticides. By consulting the Ethical Fashion Guide we can give our money to responsible companies who aren’t only fighting for our planet but for those who make our clothes as well.
Poor working conditions
Minimum wage, now known as ‘poverty wage’ – the amount of money paid to those who make the clothes – absolutely needs to become an actual living wage – the amount of money that will allow a worker to make a real living and perhaps support their family. The main excuse for the discrepancy between the minimum and living wage given by fashion companies is that they are in fact paying the minimum wage established in the given country, but a human rights lawyer, Jessica Simor, is definitely not having it as she has stated that these companies are in “breach of the UN guiding principles on business and human rights.” Sometimes when the voices of the voiceless or even those among us aren’t heard, there are still those in the position of power who can do something to make things better. Appalling working conditions, some of which we may not even be familiar with until a tragedy like the one in which a garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed and killed over 1100 people, must be stopped. Organizations such as Fashion Revolution have been advocating for more humane and safe working conditions and overall transparency, but so far not much has changed. Hopefully, the pledges made at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit will be upheld and we will see change in this aspect and all others.
When it comes to us, we need to shop more responsibly, turn to vegan, organic, sustainable, ethical garments and stores and when the companies who still don’t listen feel our voice through the lack of revenue, that’s when real change will happen.
Mia Taylor is a fashion and beauty enthusiast from Sydney and writer for www.highstylife.com. She loves writing about her life experiences. Travelling and enjoying other cultures and their food with her husband is a big part of her life. She is always on the lookout for new trends in fashion and beauty, and considers herself an expert when it comes to lifestyle tips.
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