Hey there! Wow, its been over a year since I wrote on this blog of mine. I have been writing, just not here. Life took a spin, and as of the last post, we moved back to Ohio from El Salvador, and I became a full time student. Writing became required, and constant.
This has always been a creative outlet for me, and a way to share about things I care deeply about. Now that I’m nearing graduation, I hope to revive this space.
Last week a professor assigned the documentary True Cost to us. I watched it once, and sat stunned. Then I watched it again with my teen daughters, and saw them be stunned. I think this video needs to be seen by everyone, and their daughters before the madness of Black Friday hits. This year lets think about our shopping a little differently. Please watch this documentary (Its on Netflix). That’s a good first step. Then have a conversation with your kids. Here is what I wrote for my class, following watching the film.
The documentary True Cost examines the production of clothing and its impact on the world. The changing face of fashion to satiate a materialistic market has had a glaring effect on the people producing the clothes and the environment. The impact of “fast fashion” is not only devastating to the workers and the earth, but ultimately to the people consuming fashion as well.
“Fast Fashion” is a relatively new concept. In years past, new fashion trends and lines came out four times a year, one for each season of the year. Now new styles and designs of clothing are being pushed through the stores as the video says, 52 weeks out of the year. Cheaper, faster clothing are in high demand for retailers seeking to have people in the store, every week. With lower and lower price tags, clothing has become a disposable item that can be tossed without much thought. The realization of this was alarming for me. Clothes are now almost as disposable as paper towels. But clothes are not produced by a human-less machine (like paper towels), nor do they break down in a landfill like a paper towel.
The need for fast, cheap clothing has demanded a globalized market of production. The United States has many regulations on worker safety and salary, so storeowners have taken their factories to the poorest countries, like Bangladesh. Due to the lack of regulation on foreign owned factories, a company can contract for very low prices on production. This was surprising to me. In the past when a news story has broken about a sweatshop and the involvement of a U.S. company, I have heard owners claim ignorance to the conditions, because they don’t own the factory, just the company. This policy seems to serve as a division of culpability. And yet, when an owner of a clothing line wants to stay competitive, and asks for the items at a cheaper cost of production, I find it very hard to believe they do not know the real cost of that lower price. Others will argue (and did in the documentary) that factories are providing jobs, its “safer than coal mining.” It’s a better option than prostitution. A woman in charge of purchasing for the store Joe Fresh, made the safety argument, and yet thousands have died or been injured in factory accidents! Sure, in theory garment work is safer than coal mining and hard labor jobs, but that will never be an excuse for abusing the workers in the garment industry. So its safer, so what? So they need the jobs. Well of course. Its infuriating to think that just because jobs are being provided to people who may have starved to death otherwise, does not mean the conditions should be allowed to be inhumane.
Rana Plaza collapse, Bangladesh. Source: http://www.made.UK.com
Beyond worker conditions in the garment industry, are the impacts to the environment. The fast fashion concept has also taken its toll on landfills. Because clothing is cheap, little thought is given to discarding an item. Whether a shirt is being put in the trash, or donated, the earth is fast filling up with unwanted items that have either been ruined, or simply cast aside for the next new thing. Clothing breaks down very slowly and can sit in landfill for hundreds of years, especially if it is from synthetic materials. In addition, the high demand of clothing has resulted in a need for fast cotton as well. The demand on the earth as a factory, is leading to use of pesticides, which affect the soil, the water, and the health of the farmers. Cotton farmers, and leather workers are paying the price for the pace of fashion consumerism.
In the film True Cost, a psychologist points out the effect materialism has on the consumer. The consumption of fashion has become an addiction to some, to which the advertising industry preys on. Happiness is seen as the possession of a new shirt, dress etc. When an item fails to yield the happiness shown in a commercial, the solution is to buy something else. The temporary high of buying something new does not last long, requiring another purchase. Store owners, like H&M, are counting on this.
The prevalence and success of fast fashion is incredibly sad. Wealthy storeowners are preying on young Americans, mostly young girls I would guess. They are becoming wealthy while garment workers suffer, the earth is devastated, and purchasers become addicts. The encouraging part of the film was the people speaking out, and doing fashion in a sustainable way. Creating job opportunities with fair trade methods, and pushing back on those who are abusing the system. I watched this film with my teenage daughters, and I saw the reactions in their faces. I wonder how much could be achieved if we gave all of our teens a chance to come out of oblivion and understand the cost of fast fashion.
Until next time 🙂 Mari