During last week post, I shared my start of transitioning my life into living life as a minimalist: only consuming things that served a purpose in my life versus surrounding myself with meaningless items. In doing so, I’ve started going through all that I own, removing all that serve no purpose other than simply taking up space.
At first I thought this transition would be easy, however, I’ve slowly realized that letting go has become more of a psychological battle than I expected. The crazy part of it all is I have yet to move past going through all the clothes I own. Being forced to face my years of consumption head on and the need to buy some of these clothes has been a serious eye opener for me.
Fashion has always been a huge part of my life. In fact, when I first started this blog, my goal was to share a space where people could find fashion inspiration and learn to look good for a fraction of the cost. It was my goal to get away from other blog sites that seemed to highlight fashion at a rate that is unaffordable to the everyday woman. I always viewed myself as a caring individual, concerned with the welfare of others and everyone being treated fairly, but how I purchased clothing or frequenting stores because of cheaper prices never seemed like a problem to me. It wasn’t until about 5 months ago when I stumbled upon a documentary on Netflix titled The True Cost, that my stance on this completely changed. My eyes became wide open on how detrimental my lifestyle was on the rest of the world.
The term “fast fashion” was the highlight of the documentary, a term that I had never been aware of or its effects on the world. Some of the companies that are highlighted in the documentary are companies of which I was an avid shopper.
Fast fashion has had a much graver impact on the environment than I ever expected. We have turned articles of clothing into disposable items, creating landfills of unused textile: 11 million pounds of non-biodegradable waste to be exact; making fashion the 2nd most polluting industry in the world, behind oil companies.
Cotton used to make the clothing we wear is being reengineered to meet the high demands of the fashion industry. The order in which cotton naturally grows changed with the introduction of Genetically Modified Plants, aka GMO’s. According to the National Cotton Council of America, an average of 9.8 million acres are used to produce cotton in the United States. Over the years, there has been in increase in the use of pesticides and Roundup Ready to kill weeds in cotton fields. Ultimately, this means that millions of acres are periodically sprayed with chemicals, which is detrimental to the health of cotton field workers and the environment. As a result of the high chemicals used not only in cotton plants, but also in other toxic materials used to produce cheap leather and other textiles, it has caused a rise in cancer, mental retardation, birth defects and other life-threatening illnesses in the people who live in the surrounding areas where these products are produced.
When you truly look at the effects of this lifestyle we’ve adopted, its more than just an environmental issue. This is another system that encourages the use of people as things. America used to be a country that made 95% of its clothing. Now, about 3% of clothes are made here and the rest is outsourced to other countries in the world, primarily Bangladesh and India. Why? Cheap labor. The more clothing that is outsourced, the cheaper it is to buy, which has created this “fast fashion” system. Some laborers of these goods earn 2-3 dollars a day. If you ask me for the amount of clothing they produce in a day, and the amount of money the fashion industry collects on their behalf, this is the new age of slavery. These companies take no accountability for the unsafe working conditions and propose no resolutions for unfair wages.
American fashion used to have 2 seasons a year, that has now transformed to 52 seasons a year. Every week there seems to be one sale after another, promoting cheap clothes. Honestly, sometimes you can’t really blame the consumer. Every day, we are constantly marketed to everywhere we go, from the apps on our phones to billboards, commercials, websites, magazines, etc. The overall message is to buy more because this product will make you happy or fill some void in your life. However, studies show the more people are focused on materialistic values the less happy they are. This ultimately means that the message being portrayed to us, solve problems in our life through consumption, is completely false.
Now you may be saying to yourself, “Wow this really sucks but I do need clothes to wear. How can I buy clothing and not contribute to this fast fashion industry which we live in?” There are several ways to do this:
1. Shop Fair Trade & Ethical Brands
Upcycling is a great way to combat the millions of pounds of waste which occurs every day. Upcycling is the process of converting old materials into something new. It’s not limited to only clothing, but objects from different materials such as wood, jewelry, and more.
Thrifting is another great way to fight against the fast fashion industry because it helps cut down on the amount of textile waste. One man’s “trash” becomes another man’s treasure. Thrifting also goes hand in hand with upcycling as well. Reuse someone else’s old clothes and turn it into something great for yourself.
4. Make your own clothes.
If you creatively minded, would like a new challenge or hobby or just know how to sew, making your own clothing can be another way to combat fast fashion. If you are strapped for cash and willing to learn a new trade, learning basic sewing skills is a way to invest in yourself. You can use sewing in conjunction with upcycling methods to create something new from something old.
Sewing is something that I’ve recently picked up. Though I’m not very good at this time, I am willing to put in the time to learn a few new tricks versus mindlessly discarding clothing. There are numerous Youtube videos and online tutorials, that will help along the way. Pinterest has also been a great resource and the best part about all of this is it’s all FREE!!!