Ethical & Sustainable Fashion

As I get older I have started to recognize the way the world is changing around me. Maybe its always been this way and I am the one changing. Maybe I am just taking off the rose colored glasses and seeing for the first time.

I watched a documentary a few years back on Netflix called The True Cost. The documentary was about the true cost of fast fashion. You walk into Forever21, H&M, or Zara and pay $15 for a shirt; but was it really $15? We talk about blood diamonds, but we don’t talk about blood fashion. When women, men and children are working for pennies and forced to produce hundreds of pieces a day in unsafe and hazardous conditions, is that shirt worth $15?

I didn’t realize how many hands touch a garment before I take it home until I started studying merchandise product development at FIDM. There are so many puzzle pieces in developing, manufacturing, and ultimately selling a garment. There is the design aspect which entails trend forecasting, then designers who dream it and create the initial prototypes. After the initial design phase the developers conceive how to engineer it and create what the industry refers to as tech packs. These tech packs serves as blue prints and indicate down to the stitching and buttons every little detail of a garment and the measurements for each size produced as determined by the graders and pattern makers. And then finally these packs are sent of to factories for the worker bees to produce it.

In the factories the garment moves from station to station, someone who is piecing seams together, someone who adds buttons, someone who dyes the fabric, someone who sews tags onto it. It is such a collaborative effort. Then it moves on to packaging and ultimately onto a truck to a boutique where you the buyer finally tries it on and purchases it. 

This seems like a lot when you finally break it all down. After you start to understand this, you walk into Forever21 and realize there’s probably over 20,000 items in the store; you realize that this happens over and over and over again, almost robotic like and daily across the world. And how in the world do they produce on such a large scale? The truth is that they cannot do this sustainably, ethically, and even morally without compromising the integrity and quality of the garment and ultimately devaluing the cost of human life.

Somewhere along the lines of mass production things are compromised so that these large companies can sustain their bottom line and profit. To protect profits, people’s safety and health are put on the line, environmental atrocities are committed, and sometimes the lines of what is right and wrong become blurred.

Some might argue that people working in these factories are there by choice, or that the pennies they make are considered prevailing wages for their home countries, but I challenge anyone to make that argument and go live a day in that life. 

We started carrying a brand in store called Groceries Apparel. While no brand is considered perfect I have to give them props for their transparency in the manufacturing process. Besides plastic, textiles are the leading waste contributors in land fills. Groceries Apparel uses organic GMO free cotton mixed with recycled plastic water bottles. It will often use Eucalyptus as well, which is a sustainable fabric. They make 100% of their garments in the USA, and almost exclusively in California. We carry a range of the shirts, sweatshirts, and shorts. They can range anywhere from $38-$79 in our store. While this may seem excessive for a top, is it really? When you consider the quality of the garment, which is excessively soft in my opinion, the locale of manufacturing, and then the peace of mind in knowing that the item is not from a sweatshop.

Watching this documentary and studying manufacturing has opened my eyes to what I put on my body everyday. And while I enjoy getting almost everything for a good deal and as fast as I can, I recognize the harm in doing so at the same time. There is no right answer, we all have means and budgets that we have to live in to survive; but I try and do what I can, when I can. Because ultimately I don’t want to live in a world or support an industry that values profit over the life of a child. With that, be well and live well friends with happy days ahead, XOXO.

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