The fashion industry has been at the top of the headlines these days. With latest fashion trends changing so rapidly the global textile and garment industry (including textile, clothing, footwear and luxury fashion) is currently worth nearly 3000 trillion dollars. There are 7.2 billion people in the world and 40 million work in manufacturing for the garment industry. Today, leading garment manufactures have gotten a lot shadier and better at covering up their secrets and trendy fashion has become so cheap it appears most people don’t seem to care why.
The United States alone is the largest garment importer in the world and what we do affects everybody. In the last two decades the apparel manufacturing industry in the US has declined 80% and China and India have become the leading exporters. People just like you and I are working in horrible conditions for long grueling hours. Many of them are sick or have lost their lives due to work related incidents. These people are not in a position to follow another career path, nor do they have the help of union protection. All of this evil so we can wear something new everyday on the cheap. It’s time for us to wake up and take responsibility. This affects Y-O-U!
Here’s what you can to do make a difference...
1. Demand Transparency.
Ask the company you most purchase from to be transparent about where their garments are manufacted and what the conditions are like for the employees. The next time you decide to make a purchase take a minute to fill out a customer comment card and ask the company to work with their suppliers to make sure that workers are paid a living wage and treated fairly. Or visit the company’s web site and send a message online. Tweet, Instagram, blog, Facebook them whatever you decide. You can find a consumer check list of questions to ask on Green America’s website Ask, ask, ask!
2. Stop buying so much junk!
Somehow we’ve found ourselves in this fast fashion economy where we want quantity over quality on the cheap. The art of fashion is dying and consumerism is at it’s highest. Taking the time to plan your purchases and being conscious of what you truly need and don’t need can really eliminate needless shopping. Be sure that you absolutely love it before you buy it! When we shop when we’re sad or bored we’re acting out of fear and greed. The more we do this the more it affects others and in turn yourself. Our needs are never satisfied or met and we’re constantly left wanting more. Love what you buy and you’ll get better used out of it.
3. Buy used, handmade or vintage clothing.
I admit, I used to be one of those people who very much disliked sifting through vintage racks. The idea of having to individually go through endless amounts of clothing to find one of two pieces used to be daunting task for me but I’ve had a serious change of heart and now don’t mind it.
Check out your local stores vintage stores. Some notable ones I’ve been to in Los Angeles are Jet Rag, American Vintage and for second hand check out Crossroads Trading. Even Goodwill and the Salvation Army have killer finds!
If you don’t have a vintage or consignment store in your town, don’t fret, you’ve got the internet! Shop Etsy for vintage and handmade as well as online consignment stores like Tradesy, Poshmark, Thred up, and Vaunt just to name a few. I’ve personally bought and sold on both Etsy, Tradesy and Poshmark and have had great experiences. (If you’re intersted I’ve got a coupon code for $10 off your first purchase on Poshmark after downloading the app and using the code. Coupon code is: PXKKX) Selling used and buying used is a win-win because not only are you making money on things you may never have but additionally it takes our money away from the companies who are dominating the industry and setting the pace.
Do your research on clothing stores and designers who are committed to sustainability, fair-trade and ethical fashion. Prices are usually a little bit higher but the reality is it takes time, money and effort to produce quality pieces. We’re a bit delusional right now and the shift back into quality and ethical pieces may not feel so great financially. On the bright side, you know these are going to last. My rule is, try buy all trendy stuff handmade or second hand and splurge on piece that I know is going to stick around for a long time. A few ethical brands to mention are Reformation, American Apparel, Everlane, People Tree, Eileen Fisher and the list keeps growing everyday!
Alter your clothes or re-purpose them. A lot of the time, things are not worn because they are too big or need mending. Either learn to sew yourself or make friends with your local tailor and get them on board. Sewing and making clothing is my current obsession! Either way, if you find a sick deal for a vintage dress that is too big, your tailor can make it fit perfectly to you body. Also, when you re-purpose or make your own clothes you can make certain that you won’t be outfit-twins with anyone.
6. Rent your riches.
If all else fails, just rent a piece for your next holiday ball, red carpet event, or wedding. There are loads of websites online that you can rent beautiful and expensive dresses, jewelry and shoes. All for a fraction of the pricing of buying. Rent the Runway, Bag Borrow and Rocksbox are notable options.
To summarize, be a conscious consumer. Be active in knowing where your products are made and what the working conditions are. If you want to learn more check out an incredible documentary on Netflix called The True Cost. If we all make an effort to change the way we shop and view the world we can slowly start to reverse this evil cycle that really won’t relent unless WE make it.