How We Can All Be A Part Of The Sustainable Fashion Revolution – SWAAY

We’re all living through unprecedented times. This decade is calling for revolutionary change, and to start the process, all you need to do is make responsible shopping decisions with your next purchase.

As a fashion designer, instructor at The Fashion Institute of Technology, and an eco-conscious thought leader, I aim to shine a light on supercharging ideas into solutions and driving sustainable innovation into our new world.

My goal is to enlighten consumers and help people realize that even though you are “just” one person with your small action you have the ability and power to transform the fashion industry as we know it by opting into sustainable choices.

Because we all, every day, get up and put clothes on our backs. It’s a simple fact of life. And yet, how often do you think about where those clothes came from? Do you know who made them? Do you know what they’re made from? Was their production environmentally conscious?

Over the last decade, the truth behind the food and beauty industries has exposed the harsh reality of the toxicity behind these products. Now, it’s time to reveal the truth behind the fast fashion industry. Fast fashion can be defined as cheap and “trendy” clothing that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture. Have you heard of Fashion Nova, Pretty Little Thing, H&M, NastyGal, Missguided or BooHoo? These brands are under the category of fast-fashion.

Because we all, every day, get up and put clothes on our backs. It’s a simple fact of life. And yet, how often do you think about where those clothes came from?

The fast fashion industry emits 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year, more than air travel and shipping combined. Additionally, it produces 20% of global wastewater, which is contaminating our rivers, oceans, drinking water, and soil. With that comes unfair human health conditions and extremely low wages for workers. The entire fast fashion system is devaluing both the people behind the clothing and the well-being of our planet.

Last December, the New York Times released an article about Fashion-Nova that exposed the life and working conditions of Mercedes Cortes, a seamstress behind the famous Los Angeles-based fast fashion brand. It reports that, “Ms. Cortes worked every day of the week, but her pay varied depending on how quickly her fingers could move. Ms. Cortes was paid for each piece of a shirt she sewed together — about 4 cents to sew on each sleeve, 5 cents for : each of the side seams, 8 cents for the seam on the neckline. On average, she earned $270 in a week, the equivalent of $4.66 an hour, she said.” At this point, she was working in a dusty, old factory amidst cockroaches and rats. After leaving this factory and receiving a small settlement for back wages, “She continued to work in factories sewing Fashion Nova clothes, noticing the $12 price tags on the tops she had stitched together for cents. ‘The clothes are very expensive for what they pay us,’ Ms. Cortes said. ‘Consumers can say, “Well, of course that’s what it’s like in Bangladesh or Vietnam,” but they are developing countries,’ Mr. Weil [the leader of the United States Labor Department from 2014 -2017] said. ‘People just don’t want to believe it’s true in their own backyard.'”

You can learn to be aware and support brands that have transparency within their supply chain. Every item of clothing you’re wearing can be traced back to a manufacturing facility, a shipping facility, and a store… the list goes on and on all the way back to a tuft of cotton to make a single stitch in a pair of jeans. And that’s not even considering the human capital behind it all; who’s shipping, selling, and stitching your clothes? Are they all being fairly paid and ethically treated?

My goal is to enlighten consumers and help people realize that even though you are “just” one person with your small action you have the ability and power to transform the fashion industry as we know it by opting into sustainable choices.

Fast fashion has infected our mindsets, because as a generation we have learned to view clothing as a throw-away article, buying low-quality clothing each season with the intention of throwing it away and buying more next season. In the case of most fast-fashion brands, you can safely assume that somewhere along the line a worker is being mistreated, a natural resource is being abused, and some form of pollution is leaking its way into our ozone.

I’m not asking you to throw out your entire wardrobe and start wearing leaves and loincloths. Any person on an individual level has the ability to look back, ask these questions, and start taking small steps away from buying these toxic brands.

As a fashion designer, I am doing my part by implementing the principles of “slow fashion” into my design process. Slow fashion means designing, creating, and buying garments for quality and longevity. It is about consuming and creating fashion consciously and with integrity by connecting social and environmental awareness with personal responsibility. Slow fashion encourages slower production schedules, fair wages, lower carbon footprints, and (ideally) zero waste. It’s thoughtful, intentional, sustainable, and holistic. In all, the movement works towards creating an industry that benefits the planet and all people.

Are you willing to make the changes necessary to live a sustainable, healthy, and conscious lifestyle for the future of humanity and our planet? It’s about the small ways that you can take yourself out of a problematic, abusive, and unsustainable system.

You can learn to be aware and support brands that have transparency within their supply chain. Every item of clothing you’re wearing can be traced back to a manufacturing facility, a shipping facility, and a store…

Here are some different methods that can put you on the path to a more sustainable lifestyle:

  1. Mindset Check: Have you ever really evaluated your shopping habits? Not just when it comes to finding the best deal. Think about your consumption habits, will the piece you’re buying last you months or a lifetime? Take a step back before you hit “Checkout,” and really consider what you’re doing.
  1. Research Before You Buy: Do you ever research your favorite brands to see where their clothes actually come from? It just takes a simple search to see if your favorite brands are being transparent and accountable for how their clothes are actually being made. If you learn anything you don’t like, simply stop supporting them and put your money towards more sustainable business models.
  1. Get Creative: You may look into your closet one day, feeling uninspired, and get that itch to buy something new. But if you put a little more thought into it, you can re-wear and upcycle your wardrobe. Mix and match pieces to reinvent outfits. Turn a T-shirt into a crop top, and get adventurous with your accessories. You may have a whole new look still yet uncovered in that old closet of yours.
  1. Host a Clothing Swap: A clothing swap is a type of swapmeet wherein friends, family, and co-workers exchange their valued but no longer used clothing for clothing they will use. Clothing swaps are considered not only a good way to refill one’s wardrobe, but also are considered an act of environmentalism. Or, If you rather not leave the comfort of your own home, Global Fashion Exchange offers a Digital Swapping System. Now you can SWAP with others around the world for FREE with the click of a button. The platform offers full traceability for each item, with visible information such as the factory and materials used in its creation. There you can share style tips, renew your wardrobe and extend the life of your clothing which is good for the planet!
  1. Shop Vintage: One sure way to make sure your fashion choices are sustainable is by investing in garments that can stand the test of time.

The world is made up of the changes that we can each make; even the UN is supporting this vision, urging, global, local, and people action. They are calling for “all sectors of society to mobilize for a decade of action.” Eco-conscious Designers and Advocates are doing their part in this as members of the fashion industry, but you are an integral part of closing this loop. As consumers, you are a part of this change with us. We can’t stop until this culture of consumption is changed so that we can accelerate towards a healthier future for our people and planet.

To make a change on a large scale, it comes down to the small steps towards sustainability in our everyday lives that will amass to a positive ripple effect for the entire world.

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