fast fashion, truth, industry, hiding

The fast fashion industry gets a lot of flack these days. The excess, the overtly sexual advertising, the humanitarian issues, the waste, the lawsuits, the list goes on.

The industry giants have dedicated millions of dollars to massive PR campaigns, going so far as to launch “conscious collections” and donate proceeds to worthy causes. Yet despite these efforts, the truth remains — fashion is one of the dirtiest industries in the world. Here’s what they don’t want you to know:

1.) The fashion industry is designed to make you feel “out of trend” after one week.

Once upon a time, there were two fashion seasons: Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. Fast forward to 2014 and the fashion industry is churning out 52 “micro-seasons” per year. With new trends coming out every week, the goal of fast fashion is for consumers to buy as many garments as possible, as quickly as possible.

According to Elizabeth Cline in her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, fast-fashion merchandise is typically priced much lower than the competition, operating on a business model of low quality / high volume.

Cline points to the Spanish retailer Zara for pioneering the fast-fashion concept with new deliveries to its stores coming in twice per week. At the time of writing, she says H&M and Forever21 both get daily shipments of new styles, while Topshop introduces 400 styles a week on its website.

With designers creating new looks on a weekly basis, the fashion calendar for these companies is set up to deliberately make the customer feel off-trend after the first wear.

2.) “Discounts” aren’t really discounts.

The thriftiest fashionistas love the idea of going into an outlet store like TJ Maxx or Marshall’s and coming out with designer labels at a fraction of the price. Unfortunately, the “excess” or unsellable items we think we’re buying often have never seen a designer label before.

“Despite common belief, outlet clothing never enters a ‘regular’ store and is most likely produced in an entirely different factory than the ‘regular’ clothing,” writes Jay Hallstein in “The Myth of the Maxxinista.”

The reality is that outlets broker deals with designers so they can put designer labels on the cheaply made clothing manufactured in their own low-quality factories.

An article featured on Jezebel confirms: “The jig is up: Big brands like J. Crew, Gap and Saks’ Off 5th aren't selling you discounted or out of season merchandise at their outlet locations. You’re just buying lower quality cardigans and patterned pants.”

3.) There is lead and hazardous chemicals on your clothing.

According to the Center for Environmental Health, Charlotte Russe, Wet Seal, Forever21 and other popular fast-fashion chains are still selling lead-contaminated purses, belts, and shoes above the legal amount, years after signing a settlement agreeing to limit the use of heavy metals in their products.

An article in The New York Times says the Center for Environmental Health is focusing on reducing the lead content in products marketed to young women because lead accumulation in bones can be released during pregnancy, potentially harming both mother and fetus.

Lead exposure has also been linked to higher rates of infertility in women and increased risks of heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure. Many scientists agree there is no “safe” level of lead exposure for anyone.

The lead contamination is all in addition to the pesticides, insecticides, formaldehyde, flame-retardants and other known carcinogens that reside on the clothes we wear.

4.) Clothing is designed to fall apart.

Fast fashion giants, such as H&M, Zara and Forever21, are concerned with the bottom line and the bottom line alone. Their business models are dependent on the consumers’ desire for new clothing to wear — which is instinctive if the clothing falls apart in one wash.

“A store like H&M produces hundreds of millions of garments per year,” author Elizabeth Cline says on NPR. “They put a small markup on the clothes and earn their profit out of selling an ocean of clothing.”

So why should we care? Because the average American throws away over 68 pounds of textiles per year. We’re not talking about clothing being donated to charity shops or sold to consignment stores, that 68 pounds of clothing is going directly into landfills. Because most of our clothing today is made with synthetic, petroleum-based fibers, it will take decades for these garments to decompose.

“You see some products and it's just garbage. It's just crap,” says Simon Collins, dean of fashion at Parsons The New School for Design, on NPR. “And you sort of fold it up and you think, yeah, you're going to wear it Saturday night to your party — and then it's literally going to fall apart.”

5.) Beading and sequins are an indication of child labor.

Industry estimates suggest that 20 to 60 percent of garment production is sewn at home by informal workers, according author Lucy Siegle in her book, To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?

While there are machines that can apply sequins and beading that look like handiwork, they are very expensive and must be purchased by the garment factory. According to Siegle, it’s highly unlikely that an overseas factory would invest in the equipment, particularly if the clothing being made is for a value-driven fast-fashion label.

Carrying out her own investigation, Siegle learned that millions of desperate home-workers are hidden in some of the poorest regions of the world, “hunched over, stitching and embroidering the contents of the global wardrobe … in slums where a whole family can live in a single room.”

Often with the help of their children, the home workers sew as fast as they can and for as long as daylight allows to embellish and bedazzle the clothes that end up in our closets. Siegle goes on to say, “They live hand to mouth, presided over by middlemen, tyrannical go-betweens who hand over some of the lowest wages in the garment industry.”

So how can you become a more conscious consumer? It starts by educating yourself, buying local, buying less, buying used, and buying from independent designers. You can start by joining a growing movement of fashion changemakers here.

Originally published as a guest post on the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator blog.

[Photo credit: www.theretailnews.fr]

 


Lara Neece is the artist and founder behind Forest and Fin, a line of apparel that is hand-drawn and screen-printed by Lara herself. She uses eco-friendly, water-based inks, sustainable packaging and natural materials, using the environment as a consistent source of inspiration.

Through Factory45, we're working to grow her Etsy sales, launch her own e-commerce site, and debut a biking-friendly wrap skirt that is currently in sample development.

Because the quality of her work can't efficiently be explained in words, I want to introduce her to the Factory45 community through her photos. Enjoy.

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Lara and her husband were recently married on the island of Tortola. They live in Savannah, GA where they're refurbishing a sailboat. Lara carved one of her designs into the deck of the boat.

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Lara screenprints her hand-drawn designs onto t-shirts in her studio. She is also an active part of the maker movement in Savannah's cooperatives and artisan scene.

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Lara is an artist and creative to the core, and she experiments with mixed media when she isn't working on her apparel company. Keep an eye out for her sustainably-made wrap skirt coming soon… In the meantime, you can show Lara some love on Facebook and Instagram.


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This a guest post by Angela Tsai, Factory45'er and co-founder of Mamachic.

There's a lot that changes when you have a baby.

I curse less — at least out loud. I eat better. I scrutinize labels. I forego makeup. I'm alternately more patient with kids, but less patient with other adults. I'm more assertive. I take deeper breaths. I wear yoga pants even when I'm not doing yoga. I ask for help more. I'm grateful for the little things. I've become environmentally-conscious.

Upon having a baby, I suppose I became a grown-up.

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I'm not gonna lie. I often miss the “old” me, or at least parts of me, when I used to have the energy and motivation to be social, dress up and want to look my best. I love being a mom, but I do I miss that confidence that I once had in my pre-baby body.

I once felt I could be amazing, each and every day.

So, mix all of these changes that motherhood brings, with traveling full-time with your kids? When you have to pack and unpack all of your family's worldly possessions every month from a minivan, you realize real quick what it is you want versus what it is you need. Two years ago, when my son Max and I joined my husband Mike on the North American tour of The Lion King, we learned what really constitutes “worldly possessions.” (Here is a photo of Mike in full stage-makeup as “Scar” when I went into labor during a show.)

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As a former TV host and broadcaster, I used to have a revolving rack of clothes to choose from; now, my day-to-day wardrobe has been winnowed down to anything that can be versatile and durable — oh, and nursing friendly. We discovered with Baby Max that we were in need a foolproof burp cloth that could protect our clothes from spit-up and drool. Max was a vomiter, and we were getting tired of changing our shirts what seemed like every hour. Most burp cloths are literally glorified dish towels, and they'd constantly slip off our shoulders or soak through.

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Neither Mike nor I have any experience with garment design, so we sat down with some plain muslin and went to town. What sort of garment shape would not slip off easily and provide enough coverage, while perhaps also doubling as a sort of accessory so we didn't have to pull it out of a bag or hunt around for it? What if it was something we were already wearing, even if we weren't physically holding our baby?

So three years ago, we formed our company Too Cool For Drool, and the “Mamachic” was born — or as we initially called it, “The Barf Scarf.”  In a nutshell, it's a scarf with a neck slit. It allows you to wear the fabric without it slipping off, and covers your shoulders and upper arms, the big baby “splash zone.”

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It's taken some time for our product to get made. Our design is constantly evolving, and with our nonstop traveling and parenting, our business has been a part-time effort at best. On top of it all, I just had another baby a year ago, and Eva's not a vomiter like Max. In fact, with her, what I've needed is more of a nursing cover, so we're playing around with scarf shapes so it can be used easily as such.

I'm hoping the Mamachic can accomplish three things:

1.) Streamline motherhood. Make the task of caring for my baby convenient and seamless with feeling and looking good.

2.) Lighten my travel load and only own items that can accomplish multiple tasks. The Mamachic could be an all-in-one burp cloth / nursing scarf / blanket.

3.) Be made with sustainable materials. If I can be good to the environment so that my kiddos won't have to someday wear hazmat suits out in public, isn't that the proverbial organic icing on the gluten-free cake?

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Through Factory45, we're headed down an educational and supportive road to get our product made. It's daunting and exciting to put real wheels in motion. We're working on an updated sample using deadstock bamboo and organic cotton, and putting numbers together to launch a Kickstarter campaign in the new year to fund our first production-run.

Beautiful. Versatile. Durable. Good to the earth. Confidence-inspiring. I'm talkin' about both the Mamachic and you mamas out there. We are amazing. We deserve to feel it, each and every day.

You can follow Angela and her family on the road here. To stay up-to-date about the launch of the Mamachic, sign up here.


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