bySonu BohraApr 26, 2017 #FbTips 2 Likes
I briefly remember reading about the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh 2013 and the stir it created in the world of fashion. Of course at that time, I was more interested in scrolling through street style blogs and shopping the latest trends. Over 1,100 people died due to poor construction, lack of oversight and mostly to ensure an uninterrupted supply to the growing global desire for more cheap fashion. Today, after four years, things haven’t changed much: workers are overextended and underpaid, many of the large chains patronise factories that employ children - and let’s not even get started on the depletion of natural resources. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry (after the oil industry) and it is the constant need to shop and the ‘I have nothing to wear’ syndrome that capitalises on this. We are all guilty of this and we are all complicit – I will be the first to admit it.
Although I understand one can’t permanently go without shopping from high-street brands, here are a few things I aim to practice to do my bit for society:
More than 2 billion pairs of jeans are produced in a year, and typically a pair consumes 7,000 litres of water to produce. Similarly, a t-shirt takes 2,700 litres of water. Just to give you perspective, that’s the amount of water an average person drinks over the course of 900 days! So, the first and most obvious thing to do is shop less.
Yes, I’m aware of how difficult this step is, but we all have enough pairs of jeans to survive the week/month/year – the point is, the earth may not survive. For a shopaholic like me, I’m taking baby steps and re-evaluating my closet to avoid any impulse shopping. Sure, I still scroll through Asos but I’ve decided to ‘sleep over’ every purchase I make. This has certainly helped my perennial purchase problem. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, although it’s only been 4 weeks. As a bonus, currently my bank account is looking healthier than it has in a while.
Before buying your next pair of jeans, go through the brand history and learn a little more about them. Are they using recycled fabrics, where are the garments made and do they promote a safe working environment? If you don’t find answers to these basic questions, try avoiding the brand. Instead look for ethical brands that promote slow fashion and value an honourable production. More importantly, clothes made by workers who are treated fairly, and with materials that have low impact on the environment, are priceless.
Read up on brands like Reformation, Alternate Apparel, Everyone, Eco Edit by Asos and H&M Conscious, which promote recycled fabrics and claim to be transparent about the true costs behind each garment.
Instead of buying that dress from your favourite high-street brand go to your neighbourhood tailor. Custom-make a dress that fits you perfectly. Of course it’s a little more tedious and less “instant gratification” than going to the mall and buying a readymade dress. But remember, fast fashion promotes worker exploitation and child labour. Your local designers also tend to promote an ethical working environment, so shop local. This may take a few more steps to acquire that dress, but it’s for a better cause. Designers like Ka-Sha Khan, Pero by Aneeth Arora and Doodlage to name a few promote up-cycled clothes with local tailors .
If stitching a garment is not possible, visit a vintage store and pick a quality garment from there. By buying vintage clothes at your local thrift store, you expand the lifespan of garments that already exist. After all, there's no need to use energy and water for manufacturing a new pair of Levi's jeans if vintage ones are just as fabulous.
Clothes are more cheaply available than ever, but there are more ethical ways to be stylish without the shopping urge. So I suggest we all keep our eyes and ears open, spread the word and remember that each of us makes a difference. Each conversation and each consciously bought garment makes a difference.
There will be those who say, what about the workers? By shopping less, recycling more and avoiding certain brands, aren’t we impacting the earnings and livelihood of the labourers? This is all they know, and all they have known. To them I say, no: it’s not about punishment and it’s not about denial. It’s about educating ourselves and realizing our power as consumers to influence these businesses – to steer them towards more ethical practices. Fairer employment terms, better working conditions, maybe even ploughing a share of their profits towards educating the children of their workers, instead of employing them at a young age and robbing them of their childhood. Big brands, do you hear me?
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