The Devil Wears ZARA
More groundbreaking than florals for spring (cue Meryl Streep yawning), sustainable fashion is so much more than just the latest trend.
The fast fashion industry giants like ZARA, H&M, and Topshop have made clothing so affordable, accessible and trendy that we no longer see items of clothing as investments. Instead, we consume.
“It’s so cheap!” we tell ourselves as we purchase another pair of blue denim jeans because the waist is slightly higher than the four other pairs we already own.
“I’ll wear these all the time,” we think, as we mindlessly consume yet another pair of black, strappy heels.
“This will go with everything,” we reason, as we hand over our hard-earned dollars for another item of clothing of which we already own several variations.
Yes – it will go with everything, especially the eight other floral sundresses already hanging in your wardrobe.
We are mindless consumers. Careless customers. We are zombies on Bourke Street. “Shop till you drop” is no longer just an expression. It is a perpetuated, even celebrated and encouraged, way of life. We now shop more than ever before. We buy clothes with their disposability in mind. This is the evolution of fast fashion, and our environment is the collateral damage.
The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, and each year we Aussies throw out $500 million worth of clothing, which was likely made in slave-like conditions by women and children earning less than $3 a day. That means 6000kg of apparel goes into landfill every 10 minutes.
This is why sustainable fashion is not just a cool and trendy buzzword, but an imperative lifestyle choice.
With Fashion Evolution Week fast approaching, there has been a spate of sustainable developments within the Fashion Industry. This includes H&M’s recent commitment to using 100% sustainable materials by 2030, as well as the release of new guidelines on ethical clothing production by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains in the Garment and Footwear Sector is concerned with implementing responsible supply chain management practices. It aims to reduce the fashion industry’s potential human, labour and environmental rights violations. Countries including Australia, France, the UK, the US and more are encouraged, but not forced, to adhere to these new standards.
But while this is a step in the right direction, the fashion industry has still racked up more human, animal and environmental rights violations than a retail shop assistant has pairs of jeans.
For many years, H&M has been the champion of unethical production chains, relying on low-wage production in some of the poorest countries on Earth. This makes this attempt to position themselves as an ethical company rather audacious. While their pledge to only use sustainable materials by 2030 is attractive, do not be distracted from their large-scale human rights atrocities. This is the same company that destroyed and threw away brand new coats and jackets during one of the biggest snow storms in New York’s history. There are 62,435 homeless people in New York City, including 23,764 children. People froze and H&M issued an empty and useless apology.
H&M is not alone in its lack of ethics. Around the world, an estimated 168 million children aged between 5 to 14 are forced to work in developing countries . Nike is celebrated for promoting diversity and equality by using people of colour in their commercials, whereas the people of colour the brand exploits in its production line get ignored. They release a hijab for female Muslim athletes under the pretence of equality, while in reality, they pay their female factory workers in Indonesia – the world’s largest Muslim country – 50 cents an hour. They reap the profits of the ironically named “free” runs while their thousands of workers are forced to exceed 60-hour work weeks and forbidden to take bathroom breaks.
Nike has also been exposed physically and verbally abusing its factory staff, all the while receiving our tick of approval because they are just so comfy. One factory worker claims she was kicked by her boss after making a mistake cutting rubber. Another man described how he was scratched on his arm until he bled, while six female workers were forced to stand in the blaring sun as punishment for failing to make 60 pairs of shoes on time.
These workers told The Associated Press, “We’re powerless. Our only choice is to stay and suffer, or speak out and be fired.”
Still feel comfortable in your Nikes?
Our thirst for cheap clothes often sees us opt for synthetic fibres over authentic cotton – which is the backbone of India’s livelihood. 60 million people in India depend on cotton seed in order to live. And while more than 270,000 cotton farmers have killed themselves in India since 1995 due a plummeting market they have no control over, we continue to seek the cheapest prices available – oblivious and blissful in our blood-soaked polyester. But it’s so cheap, right?
Rivers are literally running blue in China due to the dye used on denim being dumped into the waterways. In some villages, you can even get a sneak peek of the next season’s #ontrend colours by seeing which shades the rivers turn.
The environment is not the only thing distressed by denim. Factory workers are being exposed to harmful toxins and heavy metals including lead and mercury. The chemicals used to distress and dye denim is linked to fertility and reproductive issues, as well as the poor health and even death of factory workers around the world. For a slightly higher cost, you can buy jeans that have been distressed and dyed by machines, so is saving some cash really worth costing someone their life?
Animals are still senselessly being slaughtered for their skin, fur or feathers, despite an abundance of faux fur and faux leather alternatives. The lives of animals in fur farms are short and painful, usually being slaughtered by six months old. If not, they’re kept in tiny confined cages and forced to breed for up to five years. No Federal humane slaughter law currently protects animals in fur farms, meaning their deaths are often painful and gruesome, if they are lucky enough to be slaughtered before being skinned. Ducks and Geese often have their feathers plucked while they are still alive.
And while that mink coat might look on point, is it really worth supporting the trapping, drowning, beating, strangling, electrocution and skinning alive of millions of innocent animals? The solution does not lie in pitchfork wielding or throwing buckets of pig’s blood at celebrities, but if you’re so inclined, Kim Kardashian is an avid wearer of fur.
Sustainable fashion can be a broad, confusing and polarising label, and the allure of cheap clothes may be overpowering, especially on a hobo budget. But the good news is you do not need to spend hundreds of dollars on clothes to shop sustainable. Just be a more mindful consumer. Be conscious. Buy less, and buy better. Buy Australian made, shop at thrift stores, buy from markets or local designers and even up-style or recycle your clothes. And remember – you don’t have to be a killer to be a fashion killa.
Cover via the Telegraph