Clothes Cost Lives

Clothes Cost Lives

Ella Schuellerman, Arts & Life Editor

While studying abroad in London, I was enrolled in multiple courses that revolved around the ever-evolving fashion industry. I also attended many exhibits and shows, witnessing what was once sketched on scraps of paper become reality. While a lot of my passion lies in fashion, I have also become aware of the true cost of the clothing items we use to express ourselves.

Fast fashion is an approach to the design, creation and marketing of clothing that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers. Your two-day fast-track shipping from what are deemed “college affordable companies” is actually adding to the continuous use of child laborers, underpaid workers, factories collapsing, pollution and damage to the earth. 

If you purchase clothes from a brand that sounds eerily similar to fast-fashion, you’re not a bad consumer! Don’t get me wrong, I was not as hyper-sensitive to the idea of fast fashion until my late teenage years. To be honest, most of us don’t even start buying our own clothes until we’re in college, so how would we know what is behind the scenes of Forever21, Calvin Klein or even Hermes? 

On April 24, 2013, Rana Plaza in Bangladesh’s Dhaka District had a catastrophic day. Rana Plaza produced goods for well-known brands including Nike, Ivanka Trump, H&M, Zara, Walmart, Mango and more. Despite the underpaid, overworked laborers reporting cracks in the walls and ceilings, they were told to come to work. Rana Plaza collapsed, taking the lives of over 1,100 people with it. 

According to the non-profit Remake, “Garment workers, primarily women, in Bangladesh make approximately $96 per month.” That is about 3-5 times less than what Bangladesh’s government states is needed to live a “decent life” with “basic facilities.”

In addition to producing unfair working conditions, fast-fashion has serious planetary implications. Did you know that it takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt? That is enough water for someone to hit their daily “goal” for 2.5 years. Also, according to National Geographic, 20% of global industrial water pollution originates from dyeing textiles, which often include chemical mixtures of formaldehyde, chlorine, lead and mercury.

Recently I’ve been researching holistic ways to dye my own clothing and found a unique hack. Avocado toast was a huge trend last decade, so it seems that avocado dyeing would follow. Place avocado skins in boiling water, then soak the clothes you want colored in the water for one to two hours. It is peculiar that avocado remnants produce a beautiful, mauvey pink, but it works very well.

While fast fashion gives people the ability to have an extensive collection of garments and expressive wardrobe, people must realize that fast consumerism is hurting people, the earth and even hurting the future of fashion as we know it. 

When you realize you may have contributed to the fast fashion industry, it can be frustrating to  alter your current shopping habits. To start try looking at big brand game-changers like Reformation, Everlane, Article22, Veja and Lemlem; all are leading the way in certified eco-friendly fashion and have online shops. According to Bossier, online shopping expends about 30% less energy than in-store retail. 

While some of the leading sustainable brands right now are too expensive for university students, vintage and thrift shopping are strikingly popular in recent years. Stores such as Avalon Exchange, Salvation Army and Eclectic Eccentric are located on the East Side of Cleveland, just a few miles away from John Carroll, and are wildly popular with university students. While it will take decades to create a sustainable fashion industry, changing your shopping habits is a great way to start.