Fashion through the political lens

In the latest pop culture era, overconsumption of apparel-and-fabric has pushed fashion down the political runway and towards sustainability.

Throwing away clothing and apparel hurts both the environment and the factory workers who work to produce them, said fashion experts at the fashion conference called “Unveiling Fashion: Conversations about fashion and sustainability.”

About 26 billion pounds of clothing and garments end up in landfills each year that pollute water sources when 95 percent of which could be reused or recycled, according to The Savers “2018 State of Reuse Report” conducted for sustainable fashion.

When garments are thrown away, it is not only the item itself going to waste but the natural resources required to create it which generally consist of 700 gallons of water for every T-shirt, and 1,800 gallons of water for each pair of jeans, as stated in the Savers report.

Consumers are suggested to choose more sustainable options when shopping for new clothes, and according to the Savers report, the most sustainable option is to buy clothing that already exists.

Fashion on factory workers and the environment  

As the fashion seasons change, large amounts of fabrics and apparel are being made at the risk of factory worker’s health and disposed of at the expense of our environment, said Sabine Hertveldt, Better Work program leader, to the crowd.

Factory workers are being exposed to the harsh color dye’s and chemical materials that are used to produce garments and when these chemicals get into the soil they often transfer into local water streams leaving behind unsafe water conditions, Hertveldt said to the audience.

When brands lack transparency, it is easy for a shopper to purchase low-price items without considering “who made it, how it was made, and if the item is truly worth the cost”, Hertveldt said in an interview.

Although the consumer drives the fashion market, large retailers are responsible for minimizing their negative environmental footprint, establishing safe environments for their factory workers, and making sure factory workers receive a livable wage for their efforts.

“The quick demand for clothing and textiles result in quick turnarounds and therefore puts more stress on workers,” said Matt Hamilton, FairTrade America’s strategic initiatives manager.

Workers are  pressured to work long hours in less than suitable conditions to create the garments that consumers buy without thinking twice.

“Consumers need to be more thoughtful when making purchases that way we can redefine how we produce,” Hamilton said in an interview.

The damages of overconsumption

Courtesy of Trusted Clothes

Courtesy of Trusted Clothes

In the race of overconsumption, it is the consumer that is being held accountable to enact change said Lauren Fay, Executive Director of Fashion Revolution USA.

If consumers want to see change on a global scale, it will have to start at the grassroots level, Fay said to the crowd. Sustainability should be taught in schools at a young age that way we are changing habits before they begin, Fay said.

When clothing is viewed as an investment and consumers opt for more quality clothing, shoppers will develop a better respect for the value and production of their apparel; This will prompt longer possession of their clothing and slow down the speed in which apparel is disposed, Fay said.

We should “Love our clothes last,” Fay said in an interview, and “If you don’t really love it, you don’t really need it.”

Fashion is comprised of many seasons, with each season giving rise to new trends. The ever-changing seasons push garments to be produced very quickly and sold cheaper than they ever have been before.

Consumers buy, use, and dispose of their clothing sometimes so fast they don’t even get a chance to wear what it is they have bought, Fey Said.

Picture courtesy of EcoWatch: shopping that satisfies a buzz does more damage than good to the environment.

Picture courtesy of EcoWatch: shopping that satisfies a buzz does more damage than good to the environment.

About 46 percent of consumers reported feeling like they possessed “way too much stuff” and 53 percent were driven to give items away because they have accumulated too much clutter,” according to The Savers Report.  

The stresses of overconsumption effect not only consumer closets but also the environment.

The average shopper throws away 81 pounds of used clothing per year, said the Savers report. That equates to 12 million tons of fabric and textiles going to landfills, when 95 percent of which could have been reused or recycled.  

Fashion politics in magazines

Major fashion companies and magazines alike have begun to feel the pressure surrounding the epidemic of fashion as it is the second largest polluter in the environment. Media and magazines are now obliged to continue the conversation buy propelling their target audiences towards more sustainable options.   

Editor-in-chief of the Façon magazine, Janice Wallace said in an interview, after “crying through the documentary ‘The True Cost’” she felt as though “she was contributing to the problem of the fashion epidemic.”

Learning from companies like Fashion Revolution, Wallace said, she decided to switch the narrative of Façon magazine from emerging fashion to sustainable fashion. The new focus would “Spotlight brands who are doing the right thing” and outline where consumers can find more sustainable options for their fashion favorites at price points they could afford, Wallace said.

After the magazine made the switch to highlight sustainability Wallace noticed a decrease in the number of readers. “People don’t want to hear it, because they don't want to change their habits,” Wallace said. “Consumers are simply not concerned with going out of their way.”

Fashion Magazines have been noted to proportionately include more of their brand's political views, as it does its fashion.

In 2018 it is nearly impossible to talk about fashion and not talk about politics, said Whitney Bauck, assistant editor of the Fashionista magazine.

“Fashion is a statement of who we are morally and ethically,” therefore, “if you care about how you present yourself to the world, you’re going to end up talking about politics,” Bauck said.

When you begin the conversation of how, where, and by whom are things made, and draw the lines on what we will and won’t allow in production, it will become apparent that “these are things that are affected by policy so it’s not much of a stretch to see the connection that politics has on fashion and vice versa,” Bauck said.