Amanda Yanchury is the founder of Cause I Run, a Cambridge-based sportswear company devoted to producing high quality, sustainable apparel that allows each runner to give back. I am honored to have her share a guest post on Boston Green Blog today. Enjoy!
The State of Fashion
Recently, I attended a screening of “True Cost,” a documentary that takes an in-depth look at the current state of the fashion industry and the distress it’s imposing upon the planet and poor communities.
From extraordinarily high rates of suicide among Indian cotton farmers, to shocking statistics about Americans’ insatiable appetite for cheap clothing, the message was appalling but clear: When we take out our wallet to buy a $5 scarf, we are contributing to a system in which nobody wins except for major fashion retailers -- and the majority of Americans don’t know it.
They don’t know that the fashion industry is second only to big oil in greenhouse gas emissions that are wreaking havoc on our climate. Old, outdated factories produce garments with cheap materials – that last only a wear or two -- and even cheaper labor, with disregard for the workers’ needs or safety (or anything else, really, besides the bottom line).
And when the bottom line is the only consideration (and not the lives of the workers, or the quality of the product), it makes sense that companies are operating this way. If consumers will only buy cheap clothing, then you must produce and sell more of it to keep up. It’s just business, right?
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a system I want to support. The maddening part, though, is that fast fashion is ubiquitous: Most of us don’t know where our clothes come from, and finding out can be nearly impossible. Companies can write up policies saying that they have a commitment to being environmentally friendly – without actually incorporating any sustainable practices.
When you add in lingering post-recession attitudes toward cutting back and not spending money on items perceived to be unnecessary (such as new/trendy clothing), getting a deal on a cute top or pair of pants is a great feeling – you get the reward of a new item without the guilt of making a major investment. The fashion industry recognizes that it’s in our nature to enjoy getting something new for a low cost.
And even though I personally am equipped with this information, it’s still difficult. I find myself taking the easy route from time to time, because it’s cheap and convenient to do so.
So what can be done?
The best answer is to start with one thing at a time. For me, that has meant simply becoming more conscious about my shopping habits. It means not spending a day at the mall, and instead spending time outdoors. It means thinking ahead to what my next “staple” clothing item should be, and doing the research to see whether there is a local, sustainable, ethically-produced brand that meets that need.
The one thing that everyone can do right now, today, is to educate themselves and spread the word. Change will only come to the fashion industry when consumers demand it. And that requires all of us.