This was the first Eco Fashion Week I attended. It was a great start with all the seminars on Sunday, I must admit that I did not even read who was speaking or what topics were going to be covered, I was positively surprised and learned a lot. It was a big eye opener as to a life cycle of any product made. We don't think we have a choice in products, but we do. We are often overwhelmed by the amount of labels that are offering deals and brands that we favour, however I never really thought about the whole detailed process, from fibre to fashion (except for what I learned at school) and what and who is all involved. I myself have preferences as to buying mainly natural or animal fibre fabrics or garments but now comes the whole aspect of environmental and social impact my decisions have.
There were two Swiss speakers from Bluesign and OEKO-TEX that were talking about certifications in the industry. They check resource productivity, air emission, occupational health and safety, water emission and consumer safety. For example; chemicals are used in the textile industry and it's a matter of making sure the right chemical and right amount is used.
Another issue is transparency, for example; where is the fibre from, where it is spun into yarn, where it is woven, where it is designed, where it is made, where are finishes added, and so on until it is ultimately sold in a store. One pair of jeans may travel to 7 different countries until it is finally in a store for sale. That means, my choice of jeans may not only affect how much workers are being compensated but also how much carbon footprint that one pair of jeans sets off.
A whole other topic which of course is affected by the billion dollar garment industry is how people are treated in different countries as to their working standards and minimum wages (if any) and child labour. When we purchase an item that is unbelievable inexpensive (so cheap that you cant even buy fabric to make it yourself) than you got to think, how can this be possible? How can the fabric be made into a garment (through labor) and shipped around the world and the store still makes a profit? It means whoever is on the other end doing all the hard work is being paid so little, or nothing, or working in conditions we could never imagine.
One of the issues is marketing, we are being lets say "brainwashed" through so much media as to what we all need and how we should all look like. The large corporations pay spokes people and idols millions for one add and in order for them to turn a profit somewhere else has to give. We think we need a constant changing wardrobe to be more beautiful, more successful or have a bigger influence in society. We are shopaholics/addicts and maybe lost control of what really a piece of garment should mean. We need to educate our children through their school system and tell them that they should express themselves and not follow all the adds and marketing, that they should value quality or embrace something handed down or traded. It is in my opinion important that the next generation of shoppers have a better understanding of quality vs. quantity. Also how we live like Kings & Queens while the majority of the world live in conditions so extremely different than ours.
Occasionally I also buy basic items at an inexpensive store, but mainly I try to buy quality items that will last me for years, I still own several pairs of shoes and pants that are well over 10 years old and still look brand new. I also like second hand stores, it's a great way to shop green as well as clothing swaps (which I haven't attended yet but would love to experience and see).
Another speaker at the seminar was talking about Ford's innovations in recycled materials. I was impressed by Ford's efforts in using recycled material in their cars. 25% - 100% of all fabrics are recycled in every Ford car.
Here is an app that can help you get more information on companies you buy from.
I urge you to check out the following information and links. It seems that the outerwear/sportswear industry is leading with the economic, social and environmental responsibility programs. I sure hope that the fashion/garment industry will follow and start implementing much needed scoring and transparent labelling systems.
Urge your favourite brands to get certified through companies such as bluesign or OEKO-TEX and become members of Sustainable Apparel Coalition SAC.
Timberland Green Index