22 Apr Clothing brands & our responsibility for a sustainable planet
Starting the 24th of April, Fashion Revolution Week is dedicated to get more transparancy in the clothing industry. Fast fashion, as it is right now, is not only destroying our environment and the people inhabiting it – the industry is not transparant enough. This lack of transparancy is one of the main problems currently inhabiting the clothing industry, and it effects us all.
‘We don’t know enough about the impact
our clothing has on people and planet.’
If I were to ask you, who do you think made your clothes? H&M or Zara? Nope. One of the people who made this is Shima. I came to learn the story of Shima, a young mother being seperated from her children due to her inhumae work environment and how it affected her health.
This is where the first problems with transparency show. There is still so much we don’t know about the people who make our clothes, from farm to retail. Why aren’t major brands telling their consumers where our clothes are made and more importantly, in what type of circumstaces?
Getting to know the story behind your clothes
I know the story of Shima now, ever since I’ve seen The True Cost, a documentary which shows an indepth view of the clothing industry. Not only does it assess the ‘invisible’ people who make our clothes, it shows the economy of fast fashion that is unstoppable due to prices going extremely low and mass consumption being at an all-time high.
The lack of transparency is creating a second problem: the public being unable to help hold the industry account for bad practices and encourage good practices. The documentary made me question my own knowledge, which before this, stretched out to these three primary things:
- If a t-shirt costs 5 dollars instore, there is very little chance it is made in a fair way
- Stretch out the life of any piece of clothing to prevent waste, donate if it’s broken
- Poor conditions in clothing factories exist, but surely most big brands pay their staff an affordable fee and regulations prevent a dangerous environment
Boy, was I wrong. And so are many of us. There is so much more wrong in the clothing industry.
For example, 14 million tons (!) of clothes are thrown away each year. And that’s only in America. This doesn’t only mean the current life of a piece of clothing is incredibly short, it also means more waste is created which is not possible to recycle. On top of this, a lot of charity causes don’t always end up sending clothes towards those who need it and end up on the waste pile.
One of the most gut wrenching ‘wrong’ things I heard in the documentary involved a news anchor saying:
‘Well, yes, they work in poor conditions in Bangladesh, but we are providing them with jobs, aren’t we?’
So if what we ‘think’ is happening in the clothing industry is not actually what -is- happening, this means we need to pressure the industry to gain transparancy to solve these massive problems.
What can you do?
Now I’m happy to see the subject coming alive amongst like-minded ‘green’ people – and yet, we can’t achieve enough if the masses don’t change their mind. A good start is to reconsider your own shopping behaviour.
- Ask your favorite brand #whomademyclothes. This provides massive transparency, as many brands are still not open enough about this.
- Consider what you need vs. what you buy. Do you really need 3 white t-shirts? 6 pairs of black jeans?
- Learn what it is you love about the clothes you already own.
- Donate broken/wasted clothes where they are properly recycled or given a second life.
- Take a step further and find the brands who sell sustainable or second-hand/vintage.
- Educate yourself and those around you about the damage of fast fashion.
The bonus out of is not only lowering the extensive demand on clothes on a global level, it also means you can minimize your wardrobe back to the things you love to wear and it’ll cost you less in the end.
For example, one of the first steps I took after realizing my personal responsibility is way more important than I originally assumed, was making sure to stop buying anything I absolutely don’t need. Secondly, make sure all of my ‘clothing waste’ ends up in a good place, which I create by thinning out my closet with things I don’t use frequently or is torn apart from use. My cause of choice is Stichting Dierenlot. A positive upside to this foundation, is they are transparant about what will happen to the clothes: either resold as second hand clothing or used as cloths for the animals to stay warm.
For each three items disposed, I’m allowing myself to purchase one back. If I need it – which I don’t. This is a good start to put a stop stimulating fast fashion and impulse purchases.
Preventing waste is a global responsibility
If you consider what matters to you, as a person, it is your loved ones, your family, a healthy life. Right? So if these answers resonate with you, how come we are massively purchasing clothes which are made by people in horrible conditions we wouldn’t allow for ourselves? Aren’t we all guilty of creating this environment, for someone just like us?
Ultimately, everybody needs to play a part in holding the industry to account for its business practices and impacts — the public, NGOs, certification bodies, industry associations, trade unions, producers, suppliers, communities and even brands themselves. Because Shima is someone’s mom, sister and daughter, and she deserves the same things we do.
So, in light of all this – my next step is to ask brands where my clothes are made. During Fashion Revolution week we are reminded once more to join forces in holding ourselves and the industry responsible for fair and sustainable fashion. One of my favorite clothing suppliers is C&A, and I’m hoping they will answer my question. So C&A: who made my clothes?
I’m hoping they will open up the doors in the near future and am curious to know who is responsible for the clothes I’ve learned to love! In the meantime, consider for yourself to ask brands #whomademyclothes on social media to show your support in the next steps towards a transparant and fair industry.
Does your sustainable or fair brand need help spreading the message through social media? Let’s talk!