Sustainable fashion and conscientious consumerism are two movements that I would personally like to engage with more -- both thinking about how we produce fabrics and textiles, and how clothing is manufactured and consumed.
If you are anything like me, you love a deal and a new trend. We live in a world of fast fashion. Historically speaking, we consume clothing at unprecedented rates, especially here in the U.S. I will never forget the first time I noticed an Italian friend wearing the same article of clothing three times in one week. I was actually shocked by this, but as I noticed it abroad more and more, I began to question the rate in which I consumed and wore clothing.
I am a product of my fast-fashion and consumer based society. I love buying and wearing new clothes. I do not consume a new trend every year, or every couple of years. I consume new trends, and discard the old, every season (and I am sure that having a blog only encourages this). This rate of consumption means that, like most Americans, I want to spend less on more clothing. Reciprocally, fast rates of consumption are reinforced and encouraged by increased production.
If there is one thing that I learned from sewing, it is the expense and time needed to produce a quality garment. But a society based on fast-fashion demands a constant stream of cheap, readily available, and trendy items instead of quality pieces at higher price points. The worst part is that the demands of fast-fashion can only be met with the exploitation of labor and dangerous environmental practices.
Like so many problems facing the world today, I feel pretty powerless to make any real changes to a billion-dollar industry. How can I even tell if my favorite retailers exploit factory workers or use materials that are not sustainably made and sourced (unless of course they make the news)?
A great place to start is by readjusting our expectations when it comes to price point. Basically there is no way you can have a $15 blouse without human and/or environmental exploitation (this obviously brings up other issues in our society in terms of income inequality and what people can or should be able to afford). In a perfect world, we have to start spending more on fewer items. I already have the spending more part down, I am naturally drawn to expensive items. Of course, while a low price point is definitely an indicator of production practices, a high price point is not.
In addition to readjusting my expectations on price and steering clear of discount retailers known for their poor practices, like H&M and Walmart, I can also support companies who are attempting to address these issues -- companies like Veerah that are committed to conscientious production practices.
Emily is really the person who has challenged me the most to think about and confront these issues. She is also the one who introduced me to Veerah. As a sustainable fashion major, Emily is very knowledgeable on the ethical issues facing the fashion industry and she has been a wealth of information on the topic. You can read more one her blog here.
The good news is that conscientious and sustainable fashion can also be stylish. Case in point, Veerah heels are designed for women who want to be conscientious consumers and still be fashionable. Veerah heels come in fun patterns in colors with various interchangeable accessories. Not to mention they are insanely padded and comfortable. I had a little fun with my orchid print heels and paired them with this Ann Taylor reed print dress for a little out-of-the-box pattern play.
And if you are curious, Ann Taylor does state that they encourage the use of sustainable fabrics and promote positive factory conditions. This company statement, however, has not been verified independently for all their factories and suppliers. That's the issue with trying to be more contentious. Like in life, it is never black and white. But, at least I can attempt to educate myself and make changes on how I consume clothing.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue and sustainable/contentious companies you love!