"There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness" – Mahatma Gandhi.
There’s no doubt that fashion and style are more important to some than others, and yet we can be sure that we all want to be comfortable and feel good. And beyond basics like food, clothing and shelter, bonuses like feeling safe and happy and healthy come a close second. It’s certainly a privileged position to assume that sustainability and fashion are on the minds of the masses especially with all that’s going on in the world today. There’s still a pandemic with new variants popping up all over the place, there are countries at war, there’s famine, inequality, human rights violations, mental illness and homelessness….just to name a few. So is it superficial to have a conversation about sustainable fashion? Maybe a little. But it’s bigger than fashion and it is important. The ripple effect that rapid production, quick trends, cheaply made clothes signature to many large retailers involved in fast fashion is about so much more. It’s actually about sweat shops, dangerous work conditions, unfair wages, poor quality apparel that ends up in landfill for millennia, chemical dumping and leaching toxins into our soil and waterways. It’s about micro plastics that are in the air and in our lungs. It’s about our oceans and all the lifeforms that inhabit it. It’s about a lot more than fashion.
Every generation should be smarter than the next, and it can feel like we’re playing catch up a little bit from our great grandparents and generations gone before. Things that would make you laugh (or cry) in awe that we now think are obvious and ‘they’ should have known better. From dirty coal and cigarette smoke….to polyester pants! But here we are now and we do know better. So, why is sustainable fashion important? Because it encompasses all of the above. It’s about human beings who deserve fair wages, it’s about clean air, clean water and it’s about the next generation not having to clean up our mess.
Starting with human rights first and foremost, Sustainable fashion is important because it doesn’t endorse child labour. While many of us are fortunate to live in a world where our children are free to be just that….children. Playing, learning, growing…..not sewing the clothes on trendy North American’s backs!
Check this heartbreaking news out. "Around 260 million children are in employment around the world, according to the International Labour Organisation. Of them, the ILO estimates that 170 million are engaged in child labour, defined by the UN as ‘work for which the child is either too young- work done below the required minimum age- or work which, because of its detrimental nature or conditions, is altogether considered unacceptable for children is prohibited’. Child labour is forbidden by law in most countries but continues to be rife in some of the poorest parts of the world. The situation is improving. ILO estimates suggest child labour declined by 30% between 2000 and 2012, but still 11% of the world’s children are in situations that deprive them of their right to go to school without interference from work. Many of these child labourers work within the fashion supply chain, making the textiles and garments to satisfy the demand of consumers in Europe, the US, and beyond." – labs.theguardian.com/unicef-child-labour
Wow….and no thank you. If that isn’t enough reason to question, where your clothes are coming from, and who’s making them, maybe this will help convince you.
"Workers’ rights violations are commonplace in these off-shore factories for fast fashion garment workers. And while extreme poverty certainly affects both men and women, women experience many more obstacles in escaping poverty. They often feel unable to organise and advocate for themselves as a group, either due to cultural norms or strict anti-union policies within the workplace. Stories coming out of factories in Bangladesh tell us about women with bladder infections due to a lack of bathroom breaks and managers forcing women to take the contraceptive pill. The lack of a living wage amplifies issues like denial of maternity leave, inadequate sanitation, and sexual harassment in the workplace". – goodonyou.eco
Sustainability needs to be more than a buzzword or just plain lip service! And it’s a good thing that in the world of trends….eco friendly, slow and fair fashion is now, at least a part of the conversation!! With more and more sustainable fashion brands popping up in Canada, as consumers, we now have more options than ever. We don’t have to feed the machine of fast fashion, unfair and unjust work environments. We can do so much better. The toll to produce cheap trendy clothes, with quick turnaround and profit just isn’t worth the detrimental effects on our planet and our health.
"In most of the countries in which garments are produced, untreated toxic wastewater from textile factories are dumped directly into the rivers. Wastewater contains toxic substances such as lead, mercury, and arsenic, among others. These are extremely harmful to the aquatic life and the health of millions of people living by those river banks. The contamination also reaches the sea and eventually spreads around the globe. Another major source of water contamination is the use of fertilisers for cotton production, which heavily pollutes runoff waters and evaporation waters." – sustainyourstyle.org
Sadly, it’s a very long list of problems that fast fashion contributes to…..like sapping up clean drinking water for cotton production, in countries where most don’t have it, and really need it! And as we’ve discussed recently, the insane amount of micro fibres and micro plastics released in the air and water, particularly from synthetic clothing.
We certainly don’t have to be perfect, as if there were even such a thing. But to begin with the awareness, that first, these issues exist, and that we have a say in what businesses we support and what we spend our money on. It’s so true that we vote with our dollars, with every purchase we make. As we learn more and more about why sustainable fashion is important, we can make better choices, for ourselves, our families and our precious planet. Maybe it’s not so superficial after all!!