Each new season, fashion chains come up with more collections and trends to follow. However, the clothing function hasn’t changed much : it is still used to cover our bodies. The emergence of fast fashion brands such as Zara or H&M changed our consumption habits. From 2000 to 2010 our clothing consumption has increased by 47%. These companies became profitable by using quick manufacturing at affordable prices. On the other hand, attracted by low prices, we keep on buying more and more clothing soon throw away and replaced. Our consumption habits have a huge environmental prints. I became aware of it a few months ago and I want to talk about this issue yet too unknown.
Fashion retailers, what they forgot to tell
Fashion industry is the second dirtiest industry in the World, next to big oil
Much of the clothes manufactured by fast fashion brands contain substances classified as dangerous for the environment and toxic or very toxic for human health. There are three predominant substances : Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) which can break down to form the toxic, hormone disrupting, Nonylphenols (NPs) when released into the environment as well as toxic phthalates and poly- and per- flourinated chemicals (PFCs). According to Green Peace report, in 2011 those chemicals were in 60% of Mango and Zara clothes, 100% of ONLY, 67% of Tommy Hilfiger and 64% of Levi’s as examples. Used to make plastic more flexible, phthalates are very toxic for humans – small dose disrupts hormone and big dose compromises liver and kidney function. Finally, the azoic dye used to color clothing releases carcinogenic amines. Among many other fast fashion brands, it was found in Zara clothing.
These substances also pollute water : discharged by clothing manufactures they first contaminates surface then ground waters, as well as plants and animals. Searchers found those chemicals in human tissues, blood, maternal milk and urine.
Slave labor in the Fashion industry
Modern slavery is defined as “when one person completely controls another person, using violence or the threat of violence to maintain that control, exploits them economically and they can not walk away”. You have to be conscious that fashion industry is one of the biggest employer of modern day slavery. Behind a brand there are many subcontractors hiding awful work conditions. Employees, sometimes children, work over than 18 hours per day in insalubrious factories with toxic chemicals to earn a salary that doesn’t even allow them to have a decent standard of living. According to the author Lucy Siegle, this concerns up to 60 % of the apparel production.
Unfortunately, we play a role too
It is crucial to be aware of the environmental print of our clothes since we are partly responsible of it. Indeed, substances which pollute water are discharged by clothing manufactures but also by us when we wash our clothes or when we throw it away. Buying our clothes in fast fashion stores make us complicits and victims at the same time of water pollution. What can we do?
Shop more consciously
It’s our responsibility of each of us to think before buying new clothing. We have to learn to differentiate need and whim. Clothes may be cheaper at Zara but the quality is also very bad and they are full of topical substances. In order to save a few euros for a t-shirt, we accept on the modern slavery and the environmental disaster behind it.
By only buying clothes we need in good quality, they last longer and we won’t need to re-buy it anytime soon. Moreover, when we buy conscious and ethical brands who try hard to reduce its environmental footprint and respect their workers, we also use our money for something else than owning something new : we encourage the change and creative people who fight for it. Indeed, don’t forget that fast fashion brands don’t create anything, they only copy designers.
Let’s love our clothes
If you like fashion and clothing as much as I do, you can choose to love the one you already have instead of always purchasing new ones. Personalize the ones you don’t wear much anymore, fix it and you will allow your wardrobe to express who you are.
I hope you like this article, I will soon write new articles with tips to be more conscious about fashion ! I would also share with you some of my favorite conscious brands!
Want to go further ?