Happy Saturday Lizteners,
Feeling very excited to share this blog post with you as it’s been a while. Without further ado, happy reading and please feel free to share your thoughts with me!
Fast Fashion. You can’t seem to escape it. When you walk down the Champs-Élysées in Paris or take a stroll down Fifth Ave in Manhattan, chances that you’ll pop into one of the above mentioned retailers is pretty high. As you walk around the store, bump your head to some catchy tune that’s playing in the background, you may find yourself gravitating to a top that highly resembles the one you just saw walking down the runway during Milan Fashion Week. You have an event to attend, the item fits you and even better than all that? The price-tag. It comes in at $35.99. Without thinking much about it, you go to the cash register, purchase the item, walk out and you end up looking oh-so-stylish at your event. Come a year, you find yourself doing a closet clean-out and you find that same top in the back of your closet. You wore it once and it doesn’t seem to be appealing to you anymore so you throw it away. What could be the harm in that right? At least you now made space for new items to grace your over-loaded closet.
Well.. not so fast! While you purchase a top at $35.99, the true cost of that top is actually a lot higher. Did you know that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, right after fossil fuel production. The way in which clothing used to be produced has completely shifted. Instead of four collections a year, fast fashion promotes the launch of a new collection every week or two. I’m not gonna lie. I myself used to storm to Zara every two weeks because I knew they had dropped new merchandise. Once I got a cute new item and got tons of compliments on it in school, I knew no one else was able to get it, as Zara had already gotten in new merchandise and got rid of the old one. But once I took my first sustainability class at FIT and educated myself on the topic, I knew my behavior had to change.
Born and raised in Europe, in a pescetarian household to parents that supported Greenpeace and preferred to go hiking than laying on the beach in order to ‘be more in touch with nature’, sustainability has always been part of my DNA. When we go to the grocery store, we have to bring our own reusable bags and buying anything not in a glass bottle that we were able to recycle, was simple out of question. As I moved to NYC to attend university, I became a vegan for ethical, health and environmental reasons. You cannot claim to be an environmentalist and continue to eat meat, dairy or eggs because once you know how detrimental to our planet and extremely lucrative the animal agriculture business is, the only logical choice is to stop consuming those items. That transition was relatively easy for me and I haven’t craved a single piece of cheese since. However, giving up the temptation of stopping by at Zara was harder, given that I was a fashion student now and ‘needed’ to wear new clothes all the time. However, with my growing interest in sustainability, my desire to go to Zara slowly died out. As an international trade major, we learn so much about not only the logistics side of the fashion industry, but also about the production side: Are the workers being treated fairly? How about their wages? And health care? What strain does the garment industry have on the local population? Or on the environment? What about child labor? How is the political situation in the country of manufacture and how does that impact the working conditions?
All of these questions and more come up in my classroom, almost daily. Being curious, asking questions and informing myself on the topic of sustainability in fashion, which simply isn’t an option anymore if we want our grandkids to experience the same planet we are right now, it turned me off from fast fashion. Did you know for instance that the volume of water consumed by apparel production each year is currently the equivalent to 32 million Olympic swimming pools? Or that approximately 7,000L of water are needed to produce one pair of jeans (the amount of water one individual drinks in 5-6 years)? If your top costs $35.99, the person you made that top probably made under $1 a day, works (and lives) in terrible ‘inhumane’ conditions. The dyes of your favorite pair of jeans runoff into the local drinking water streams, infecting the locals with diseases that can lead to birth defects. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen for instance forces garment workers to vote for him in the election, as they’ll otherwise face life-threatening consequences.
So with keeping all of this in mind. Is your $35.99 top worth it? Does one cost outweigh the other for you or not? I think educating ourselves is the best thing we can do. Once we hold the information, that’s when we can decide to change (or not) our actions, but never forget that knowledge is power. And in my case, once you’ve heard and seen the truth, there’s no more going back. That’s why I haven’t stepped foot into a Zara in the past 6 months, as an ex-Zara addict.
All pictures were taken by @fannyprum