Whether you realise it or not, all of us are participants in the fashion system. Every day, we look into our wardrobes, choose an outfit and get ready to face the world. But have you ever given any thought to where your clothes come from or who made them?
There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in fashion that we don’t see, and much of it isn’t good. The industry — particularly the fast-fashion sector — is not run sustainably and has a huge impact on both people and the planet.
What’s in your clothes?
As it stands, fashion is one of our world’s most polluting industries. Clothing production itself has a lot of negative environmental impact, like polluting rivers with toxic chemicals from cheap dyes. This has rendered large sections of river in countries like Indonesia and China uninhabitable for wildlife, and contaminates drinking sources for local village communities.
What’s more, microplastics from synthetic materials like polyester and nylon are finding their way into our oceans through our washing machines and (eventually) back into the food we eat. So much water has been used for cotton crops (one of fashion’s most popular materials) in certain countries that entire origin sources, like the Aral sea in Central Asia, have dried up.
The current story of our clothes perpetuates an unhealthy cycle of make-wear-dispose. As consumers, we also have a tendency to throw out clothes we buy when we get tired of them, which can end up polluting landfills. Even our local charity shops are overflowing with too much stuff!
Who made your clothes?
Beyond the environment, fashion also employs millions worldwide in developing countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Bangladesh. The industry is fuelled by the labour of mainly female garment workers (it’s estimated roughly 85%) who are, sadly, not paid enough to provide for themselves or their families.
Sweatshop labour still exists in many countries. Since the tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 which killed over 1,000 workers and injured over 2,000 more, not enough has changed. Many workers are still underpaid, working in poor conditions and are exploited by companies squeezing margins to make clothes at the cheapest price possible.
Until today, many brands still refuse to pay living wages — and throughout the Covid-19 period a number have refused to pay up for orders that have already been produced and are waiting to be shipped to stores. For more insights follow Fashion Revolution, a fashion activism movement raising awareness of social justice in the industry.
Change starts with us
The story of our clothes starts with people. Changing today’s narrative begins with both brands and consumers taking steps to make a difference.
For companies, this could mean using more eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, hemp or linen and ensuring factories or workshops are vetted and workers are paid properly.
For consumers, it means holding brands accountable. You can get into the habit of reading labels to discern where things are coming from, and start being more mindful about what you’re bringing into your wardrobe.
The fashion industry’s impact was what inspired us to start a label with more sustainable values. We wanted to make beautiful fashion yet operate with a firm moral compass, putting our workers and Mother Earth first.
We made a commitment to sustainable materials with herbal dyes, our artisans are paid three times the living wages of garment workers in the surrounding area in Jaipur, and we do our part to educate our community about the importance of shopping more sustainably wherever we can.
Follow along with us on our journey to building a better world, one garment at a time on Instagram.
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