People say you are what you eat. Is it fair then to say you are also what you wear? The fashion industry has been gladly taking the spotlight since it first burst on to the scene. It clothes are naturally outrageous on the catwalk, its fashion shows are all about doing the impossible, about pushing boundaries. It loves to shock – sometimes. It certainly does not like when that spotlight is shone behind the scenes, when people get a glimpse of how their high street clothes are really produced, and at what cost.
When people indulge themselves in over processed or fast food, they don’t eat it for the health benefits, they eat it because it’s quick cheap and initially, incredible tasty. Over time of course over consumption can negatively affect their overall health but the fast food industry knows their product will always be attractive because of how inexpensive and quick it is. Few are willing to challenge them because of the money these corporations bring into countries and with their endless appeal, even when they mislead people and are contributing to the overall ill health of a nation they are excused. Some will argue it’s all down free will and companies would certainly encourage that thinking. Really though when we know how addicting that food can be, and the advertising and marketing power these corporations have, it is hard to hold up that argument.
It’s a similar story with the fashion industry, people want clothes cheaply and conveniently, they are most likely aware of the horrors that have occurred for the workers like those in Bangladesh but like all of us, myself included, the convenience and cost out way both the individuals and the environment that suffer as a result. It always amazes me how people who go to restaurants and complain about the food being ready made; then complain when they go to a restaurant where they make meals from scratch about the waiting time and the cost. Their has to be compromises, and the same applies to fashion.
Thankfully, things are changing but people (again I don’t exclude myself) are quick to forget such tragedies when you need to get a pair of jeans and the nearest shop to you is the local Primark or another shop that has dubious suppliers. Though Primark has acknowledged it’s trying to change the way the factories are run it very much made attempts to shift the blame from itself by saying they cannot control the way the government allows the factories to be run (which it a bit of cop-out), and does nothing but deflect the blame.
Some justify that if people protested against the inhumane treatment of the workers, the factories would be closed and the workers would lose their jobs. But it doesn’t have to be done like that. We need governments to put pressure on factories that are ill-run, to state categorically that unless they provide proper health and safety checks and proper working conditions for those making clothes then no shipments will be accepted and that companies will not buy from them. These people will not lose their jobs because the governments in these countries will be forced to demand better conditions both for the individual worker and the environment if they are faced with the prospect with losing the business. If countries and governments do not take a stand then what change can be expected? It may cause disruption in the short term but in the long term it will benefit everyone. The fashion industry also has a role to play – companies like ASOS and Marks & Spencers have somewhat implemented this with their eco-range and environmental stance, but a lot more still needs to be done
It is hard to deny that people will still tend to consider convenience and cost over tragedies and people that are a world away from them. It is harsh and unfortunate but it’s the truth. Which I admit And that mindset needs to be changed too. People cannot expect to go on buying cheap clothes and expecting them to be of sound quality, though that is not to say expensive clothes are made ethically either. Brands are well able to hike up the price and still give just as little for those who make them. Some companies, though there may be a significant price difference, actually get their clothes from the same factories. One merely marks them up more. Ethically produced clothes need to become the norm, just like people balk at using plastic bags in Ireland now or smoking indoors. Change seems impossible and then within a few years people wonder how they ever lived the old way.
Over the last six months or so, I’ve been trying to make that change but it is difficult living in a local town as there are simply not the variety of shops you have in cities, even more so, such eco clothing shops have no real foothold in Ireland and then you are looking at shipping clothes from England or the United States that are made even more expensive with shipping costs added on. Even some garments labelled ‘eco’ can be deceptive for instance it may organic cotton but it may also have elastane and rayon mixed it with it which doesn’t help anyway when looking at the environmental impact. Or bamboo for instance seems to be very popular, and it is good, but if mixed with rayon, its positive effects are often negligible. Hemp seems to be an overall good decision but I find it hard to find British websites that have nice looking eco clothes. Why are some eco clothes so ugly? That’s a whole other post. It’s worth considering buying more locally-made clothes from an environmental standpoint, but I suppose internationally it does provide employment and is a good thing if it’s done correctly and with the workers’ needs highlighted.
But I am trying to make little changes, and I am certainly more conscious of where my clothes come from and how they’re grown. I have a few tips that I try to implement myself if I can, but the biggest one is even if you want to start wearing and buying eco clothes don’t just throw away all your other clothes because they’re not eco-friendly and buy a whole other wardrobe. Use them. It’s as wasteful to throw it all away. Wear them until they are really of no more use and try not to buy clothes you don’t need. Part of me thinks that if the people who made your clothes were right outside your door and not on another continent we wouldn’t be long making noise. Things are much easier to hide when you don’t have to see them on happening in front of you on a daily basis.