fast fashion

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I realise it’s a privilege to be able to cut down on fast fashion, and this isn’t for everyone. I’m still guilty of shopping in these stores sometimes because nobody’s perfect and it’s really hard to quit cold turkey (especially when u got short legs and jeans are so fuckin long all the time.) But the first step towards addressing an issue is making conscious choices where you can. I shop for fast fashion less now than I did before I knew some facts about the industry, so if you’re interested… here ya go!

the mechanism of production, or: why fast fashion sucks, structurally

I had a conversation with a couple of friends about clothing, and how it’s made, earlier this week, and it wandered into territory I thought y'all might find interesting. So here’s what I had to say, more or less.

Basically: there is a reason the clothes you buy at H&M are so shitty, and it’s not exactly that they’re doing it on purpose. Well, it sort of is. But mostly, it’s because they can’t not be shitty. It’s because the entire production chain, start to finish, has become structured in such a way that it is actually quite difficult to produce quality clothing.

When you buy a piece of clothing at a modern retail store, you are probably buying clothing made with dubiously ethical labor, of fabric sourced to cost as little as possible, made of pieces cut on machines designed to cut as many pieces of fabric as quickly, simply, and efficiently as possible. At every step in the chain, every step that can be cut has been cut. The process of clothing manufacturing is, at this point, breathtakingly streamlined, and it results for the most part in a very specific type of clothing.

If you have any familiarity with vintage clothing, you are probably aware that they are usually of significantly higher quality than most modern clothing. When I say “vintage” I mean, in particular, clothes made before about 1965– before the offshoring of our garment industry began. Most clothes worn in the United States before that time were made domestically, by union labor– that is, skilled workers being paid a living wage. This is relevant.

Also relevant is the fact that clothes used to cost more, as a proportion of a person’s income. The average woman in 1950 had one-quarter a modern woman’s wardrobe, and paid a higher percentage of her income for that wardrobe than a modern woman does. That vintage wardrobe, though smaller, was made to a higher standard– sturdier fabrics, better tailoring, sewn from more complex patterns, adorned with more details and better finishing. That wardrobe routinely featured things like deep-pocketed skirts, matching belts, bound buttonholes, pintucks, piping. These are not things we often see in modern fast fashion.

What happened? Well, it starts with labor. When we lost the domestic garment industry, we lost that pool of skilled labor, and switched to a lower-skilled, lower-paid labor pool. We switched to an emphasis on making as many simple garments as possible, as quickly as possible, rather than fewer, more complex pieces. We chose $5 t-shirts over $250 day dresses.

Which is not to imply that I’m judging people who wear fast fashion. It’s a completely rational economic decision to buy the clothes you can afford, and there are other factors at play here, too.

For instance, the price of fabric was once much lower, and home sewing a much more accessible hobby. Due in part to environmental factors and our changing climate, the price of cotton has risen in recent years– why do you think those whisper-thin cotton knits have been the prevailing trend? Why do you think everyone who can get away with it has switched to synthetics?

This is the point I’m trying to make: at every step in the production chain, from the manufacture of fabric to the design and assembly of the clothes themselves, someone has decided to do the least expensive thing.

Shift dresses require less complex cutting than structured ones– and what, coincidentally, has been the most common shape you see in stores? Miniskirts require less fabric than long skirts– and minis are, coincidentally, in vogue. Sheer fabrics require less raw material to manufacture; machine-assisted beading and studding takes less-skilled labor and less time than other forms of embellishment that call for skill and handwork. Garment workers being paid pennies a piece earn more when they don’t have to add pockets or extra finishing, or sew buttons on too securely.

The cutting machines that stamp out pieces to be assembled into clothing? They’re loaded with as thick a stack of fabric as possible, because the more fabric you cut at once, the more clothes you can make in a day. The thicker the fabric, the fewer pieces you can cut at once; the more pieces you cut, the greater the margin for error, so better make those pieces simple. Clothes that fit close to the body need to be cut and sewn more precisely, unless they’re made of stretchy fabric. Boy, leggings sure are popular these days.

We’re seeing the end result of a garment industry that has cut itself to the bone in pursuit of profit. The clothing currently in stores reflects an industry that has streamlined every process it’s capable of. This has actually influenced trends and driven fashion in a direction that calls for cheap-to-manufacture clothing. It’s a process that is fundamentally unsustainable, because there’s only so much you can cut before you’re left with rags. And it’s built on the backs of a labor pool that has begun to protest its treatment, to demand fair wages and attempt to unionize.

If that happens– and I sincerely hope it does– we may begin to see the price of clothing rise again. With it, if we’re lucky, we may see a rise in quality. When the people who make your clothing are paid a living wage, when they have the ability to develop their skills and be fairly compensated for them, there is a ripple effect through the whole production chain.

We might end up with smaller wardrobes. But perhaps the pieces in them will be worth owning.

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To all my plus sized/broke bb’s who know that fast fashion is toxic and wish they didn’t have to contribute to it I feel you. We know damn well the consignment shops don’t have a section that sells anything above size 10 and that the only thrifting we’ll be doing is in the tired ass men’s section–– I feel you. None of these eco brands are checking for us. And though we may want to reject fast fashion, there are people who have jobs they are expected to be presentable for. There are people like me, who have noticeably better temporary mental health when they feel good in what they’re wearing–– it’s not really an option to wear only what is renewable or ethically sourced and that fucking sucks.

But I’m here for you guys. And we do what we can.

How to Minimalize clothing and make a Capsule wardrobe

Since my last post about minimalism got a lot of love I’m going to make more of them. For this you don’t have to have specific number of items in mind, it’s really up to you. If you want 8 pairs of shoes do it. If you want 5 pairs of shoes, also fine. You do you, boo.

  • Get rid of anything you don’t wear
    • I’m talking impulsive buys or those clothes that fit a personality you fantasize about being, but never realistically wear. Clothes that don’t fit anymore, clothes with holes in it, clothes you associate with the past or bad memories, ect. All of that is the first to go.
  • Pick out what colors you want
    • Most capsule wardrobes have neutrals - white, grey, black, beige, and navy are considered neutrals. You don’t have to use all of those if you don’t want to. I’ve heard of some people using just black and grey for neutrals. 
    • For the rest you usually pick out a few other colors to wear that go with your neutrals. I’ve picked olive green and wine red, and light pink, for example. These colors actually mix and match well and of course since neutrals go with everything they match them too. The entire concept of a capsule wardrobe is to have fewer pieces that all go well together.
  • Keep and gather pieces that match.
    • Get the staples for your wardrobe. For me it’s v necks, long knitted shrug cardigans, jeggings, shorts, a little black dress, a blazer, and a jacket. For you it could be a number of other things. Get what works best for you, just make sure it can all go well together.
  • Accessorize
    • The accessories completely change the look by dressing it up or down. You could be wearing a black dress with completely casual jewelry and go on a date or wear the same dress to a wedding/family function if you just wear more formal accessories. This same rule can also apply to shoes.
  • Take care of your clothing
    • This will make your clothes last so much longer! Read clothing labels to figure out how to properly take care of your clothes. Maybe you need to wash it at a certain temperature or let it dry on a hanger instead of in the machine. The label will usually come with symbols but you can use a guide to figure out what they mean.
  • Avoid Fast Fashion
    • Shops that use Fast Fashion like Forever 21, Zara, ect. can seem nice with cheap prices and item that come in lots of colors, but these prices are usually made in sweat shops that don’t treat workers well and they don’t last long.
    • If you’re on a budget, try to thrift or save up for investment pieces that will last longer. Thrifting has saved my life and I’ve saved so much money to look better.
  • Shop with caution
    • An important part about being minimalist and having your capsule wardrobe means upkeep. and sometimes that includes shopping to replace something old. You want to make sure that you don’t throw your capsule wardrobe off by going on a spree. 
    • Just keep a few things in mind. First, ask yourself if this is a staple, if it goes with your color scheme, if it goes with at least 4 other things in your wardrobe, including a pair of shoes, and if you can actually wear it on actual basis/need it. I highly recommend thrift shopping for this. If it survived so long in someone else’s closet, chances are it will survive longer than something from Forever 21 or H&M
  • Donate
    • Now that you’re done playing keep or chunk, don’t throw your clothes in the trash. Donate them to goodwill or sell them to a thrift store. Getting clutter out of your life is important, but clothes are also a major pollutant. Be thoughtful and give it to someone that could make better use of it than a landfill.

Good luck and have fun thrifting!

PSA

I’ve seen quite a few posts going around advertising cheap items from sites like banggood, aliexpress, and other wholesale sites that have really cheap prices and come from Asian countries. I want to let you all know, please please do not buy from there or reblog those posts! I know the items are super cute, but how they were made definitely is not. The workers are mostly women and children, and they are forced to sew and assemble until their hands bleed. The women work such long harsh hours that they either have to make their children work too or send them away and not see them for years. All the while, they get paid next to nothing. There have been several cases where the buildings these people work in have shown visible signs that they are near collapsement such as cracks up the walls, and the workers are forced to contuine working anyway, and the building eventually collapses, killing everyone inside. Not only this, but workers who try to unionize and get better working conditions are killed. This is only part of it, there are huge environmental impacts as well. So please, please, do not buy from these stores!! If you’d like to learn more, watch the documentary the true cost on Netflix. warning, it can be graphic at times.

nowadays it’s easier than ever to make more mindful purchases and reduce your contribution to fast fashion and mass fabric and textile waste. “thrifting” encompasses more than physical stores like goodwill. apps and online shops like poshmark and thredUP have a wide variety gently used clothing. you don’t have to give up style in order to make better choices!

The demand for an ever-replenishing supply of cheap “fast fashion” has been a race to the bottom, in which factories outsource to the lowest bidders, resulting in human rights violations for the workers and unregulated pollution of the environment. In fact, fashion is the second-highest polluting industry behind oil.

just a reminder that fast fashion companies literally kill people and have them working in terrible conditions overseas! 

I’m not saying completely stop shopping at places because i know thats not a viable option for everyone but I’m asking you to think critically and look up where your clothes are actually coming from! Choose stores that aren’t fast fashion if you have the means! Fast fashion IS KILLING people and the enviroment !!!!

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The True Cost Movie

Directed by Andrew Morgan and Executive Produced by Livia Firth, Lucy Siegle and others, The True Cost is a fashion documentary about the human and environmental impact of fast fashion and the clothing industry in general.

Tom Ford attended the London Premiere and said “I was truly moved by it and I think anyone who isn’t moved by it would be callous. It is brilliant.”

Have you seen the film yet and what did you think?

At the back of my narrow closet, squished between a thick sweater that has gone ignored since last winter and a long-retired pair of floral-print jeans, is a dress that I have never worn. I bought it at Zara last April, in a flush of springtime optimism. The dress is 100% cotton, midi length, and belted at the waist. It is also bright yellow, somewhere between ripe banana and free-range egg yolk. In the dressing room, I thought that it made me look cheerful, like a modest yet sexy daffodil. At home, my unsparing mirror told the truth: I was Big Bird with pockets.

Read the full story, “Rent the Runway Wants to Lend You Your Look,” here. 

Do you keep hearing the term ‘fast fashion’ and wonder what it refers to? Ever wonder what impact your shopping habit has on the environment?

Turns out, fashion is the second largest polluter in the world, after oil.

Watch The life cycle of a t-shirt - Angel Chang to follow a t-shirt from cotton fields to the shopping mall into your washing machine - and then, maybe, rethink your shopping habits?

Animation by TED-Ed

If y’all really cared about the Earth then you would help spread the word that fast fashion is killing the environment. Stop buying H&M, Forever21, Zara, Topman, Adidas, and Nike. Instead buy thrifted, buy from second hand apps, and buy from small businesses. Fast fashion is the biggest water polluter after agriculture, uses vast amounts of toxic chemicals harmful to livestock and humans, and contributes to the dumping of tons of textile waste. Millennials are killing industries by the dozens. Make Fast Fashion one of them.

I always feel super embarrassed to say I get my clothes from H&M or F21 because I know they’re not ethical and fast fashion is bad, but I feel it’s inherently classist to shame people who can’t afford to shop elsewhere? There is this idea of “ethical consumerism” where if you spend $50 for an American made t-shirt, you’re a better person than someone who maxes out at $10-20 at Target, but there really is no such thing as ethical shopping under capitalism. So yes, if I wasn’t a recently graduated college student living below the poverty line, then I could afford to shop at less problematic stores. And yes, I know I’m SUPER privileged in comparison to folks who can’t afford clothes at all. But god I hate the narrative of upper class white people who act like they’re better than everyone else because they can pay extra for clothes that are slightly more “ethical”.

Someone told me once that every penny we spend as consumers is a vote. The comodities we are buying is like casting a ballot. You give your money to companies because you stand behind their product, their vision and ethical reasoning. I know it’s not a viable option for some, and I understand that. But why the outrage when I say that once we’ve established the reasoning above, we should stop buying clothes at fast-fashion mega corporations that refuse to have an ounce of corporate social responsiblity? These billion dollar industries refuse their workers decent wages and the right to organize themselves, why is there such a disconnect? It’s like we’re not even aware of the power behind our money. We can make drastic change if we started investing in companies that aren’t just doing lip service and actually have solid sustainable visions and good corporate social responsibilty. Also companies hate being defaced…they’ll do anything to sell themselves as better than they are, because losing consumers is suicide. We should publically shame companies with bad work and sustainability ethics.

I’ll go first: What’s good, H&M?

I watched “The True Cost” on Netflix (it’s also on YT for, I think, $3.99) and it was a very big eye opener. I’ve never really been into “fast fashion” but I will admit that I’ve bought my fair share of unnecessary “witchy” stuff that I really didn’t/don’t need. It really made me think about where I put my money and who’s receiving. I’m proud to say that most of the “witchy” stuff I do buy (at least 95% of it) are from small / handmade businesses or local businesses.

Please, if you’re interested in fashion or just being a decent person who cares about people and mother earth, watch this and learn about where you’re clothing is coming from. Also learn about where it ends up when you don’t want it anymore.

It’s important.

From cotton seed to your closet

In honor of Eli Whitney’s birthday today, we thought we’d take a look at clothing production, starting with the cotton seed. The cotton gin was one of the key inventions of the Industrial Revolution, and is largely responsible for the cotton industry that shaped the American South’s economy. It goes without saying that the cotton industry (and, therefore, the economy) during this time in the U.S. relied predominantly on slave labor and the exploitation of human beings. To this day, the clothing industry employs millions of workers, often with low wages and in poor working conditions. And, clothing production and distribution have an enormous environmental impact. 

We’ll be looking at many of the global effects of the fashion industry in these posts, but today we want to zoom in on the cotton plant and the cotton gin.

Clothing items can vary a lot, but a typical t-shirt begins its life on a farm in America, China, or India where cotton seeds are sown, irrigated and grown for the fluffy bolls they produce. The cotton plants require a huge quantity of water and pesticides. 2,700 liters of water are needed to produce the average t-shirt, enough to fill more than 30 bathtubs. Plus, cotton uses more insecticides and pesticides than any other crop in the world. These pollutants can be carcinogenic, harm the health of field workers, and damage surrounding ecosystems. Some t-shirts are made of organic cotton grown without pesticides and insecticides, but organic cotton makes up less than 1% of the 22.7 million metric tons of cotton produced worldwide.

Self-driving machines carefully harvest these puffs, an industrial cotton gin mechanically separates the fluffy bolls from the seeds.

Then, the cotton lint is pressed into 225-kilogram bales. 

At this point, the cotton bales leave the farm and are shipped to textile mills usually in China or India. 

Next, we’ll take a look at clothing production once it moves to the factory.

Watch The life cycle of a t-shirt - Angel Chang to follow a t-shirt from cotton fields to the shopping mall into your washing machine - and then, maybe, rethink your shopping habits?

Animation by TED-Ed