The rise of fast fashion means anyone can afford to buy clothes to fit the latest trend, but what’s the true price of those inexpensive outfits?
A new dress doesn’t always show what lies beyond the fabric when you first try it on. The pesticides hiding between the threads of the garment and the poison in the dye that created the color don’t always jump out to say hello. How often do you think about what went into creating the clothes you put on your body?
Beyond the Reflection: How your clothes go more than fabric-deep
Buying new clothes is always fun. Adding another piece of clothing to your wardrobe to add to your individuality and trendiness is something every girl (and most guys, even if they don’t admit it) enjoys. But when putting on that new piece of clothing and checking yourself out in the mirror, how often do you consider what goes beyond the fabric?
In recent years, the fast fashion trend has brought many issues to light surrounding fair trade fabrics, organic versus non-organic materials, the damage carcinogenic dyes cause, as well as many other controversies. Most people will cringe at the idea of eating a high amount of pesticides that make their way into foods, but what about the pesticides you put onto your body?
Cotton plants use more pesticides per plant than any other crop in the world, causing serious health risks to those who work with the plants. According to the Ethical Fashion Forum, studies have shown that cotton-producing countries, including USA, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Australia, Greece and West Africa, have found pesticides that are used on cotton in the water streams, which is especially dangerous for developing countries where drinking water is seldom monitored or even treated.
Each year, the global textile industry discharges 40,000 – 50,000 tones of dye into the water systems. Although over the last two decades the dye industry has taken strides in improving standards to reduce negative impacts, many companies, particularly “fast fashion” oriented stores, still use carcinogenic dyes on their clothing. When a garment is colored, it only absorbs about 80% of the dye, leaving the remaining 20% to be flushed back into the water system. Natural dyes (made from plant and animal sources) are a carbon neutral, biodegradable alternative, however are not suitable to large-scale production. However, natural dyes tend to be richer in color and bring great benefits at the artisanal level around the world.
Going Beyond Fast Fashion
Fortunately, a paradigm shift is starting to take place in the fashion industry. More designers, as well as consumers, are beginning to turn to ethically created fashion. Parsons the New School for Design has taken lead in the US in producing zero waste fashion. As the trend is shifting, it is important for consumers to educate themselves on what ethical fashion means.
Supporting socially conscious clothing brands and looking for reclaimed clothing are excellent first steps, as well just staying mindful of what you put on your body by avoiding fast fashion’s temptations.
Shopping at Forever 21. Creative Commons photo by LWY
Dress photo by Adeline Nieto