Fashion industry professionals located in the Chicagoland area gathered to the Chicago Cultural Center to talk fast fashion, slow fashion and how we — as clothing addicts — can change our ways for the better.
THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF COTTON
The environment is taking a huge toll because of the results of fast fashion manufacturing. Madhoolica Dear, a textile designer based in Chicago, discussed how many pollutants are used prior to and during the manufacturing process of the cheap clothing we purchase. Formaldehydes and nonbiodegradable chemicals are used on the alternative fibers of these garments.
"Cotton is one of the most pollutant [fabrics]" Dear said.
Not only are these cotton fibers effecting factory workers and fashion consumers' health, but it's also affecting our environment in the most negative ways. Cotton requires an immense amount of water consumption and according to Dear, in Sudan which is one of the largest countries for growing cotton in the world, over 7,660 gallons of water is used to produce a little over two pounds of cotton. While alternatives to cotton include hemp, viscose and linens that are naturally colored, many small countries which manufacture our fast fashion clothing cannot afford to purchase these textiles, and even if they could, it would increase the cost of our cheap clothing significantly.
However, Dear states that the best way to prevent harms to our environment is to start reading labels and purchasing clothing that uses either 100% organic cotton (which can be purchased from People Tree) or pieces which use more environmentally friendly materials such as hemp or viscose.
What's more important? The health and wellbeing of yourself and others or the price tag?
MORALLY DISTRAUGHT FAST FASHION
While looking at the labels on your clothing is easy to do, many won't. Why? Maybe it's because they forget or are too selfish to care. But the only way that we can really make a difference in the fashion industry to is change ourselves first.
Abigail Glaum-Lathbury, a designer and teacher at the Art Institute of Chicago, touches on how fast fashion clothing isn't designed to last more than 10 washes. She states that many fast fashion companies make over one million garments a day that follow the "cheap fashion sells" motto. She continues by saying that the fast fashion clothing we buy is "ultimately discarded" because fads change so quickly and our interest in our old pieces quickly dissipates.
We, as consumers, are better off donating our old clothing instead of throwing it out, or better yet, not purchasing "fad" clothing which is only worn a few times — for a day. As consumers of fast fashion, we have this mindset that it's okay if we purchase cheap clothing because as long as it's not harming our wallets it doesn't matter. But, in the grand scheme of things, while our wallets may not be suffering or paying a hefty price for the clothing we purchase, the people who grow our cotton and construct our clothing are suffering an inconceivable amount. As humans, we are supposed to care about the lives of others and put them over our greedy wants.
"We change ourselves by buying something more," said Glaum-Lathbury.
Buy purchasing ethical clothing, not only are we buying quality (in our clothing) but we're also bettering our planet as well as improving the lives of others around the world.
SLOW FASHION OVER FAST FASHION
Fast fashion has been making headlines in the news for quite some time now, especially recently with all that has been going on in third world countries with factory crisis'. But slow fashion (which can be defined as a philosophy of attentiveness which is mindful of its various stakeholders and the impact that producing fashion has on its workers, consumers and ecosystem) is becoming more of a discussed topic as the fast fashion companies have been becoming more exposed for their harmful ways. Dieter Kirkwood, a fashion professor at Columbia College Chicago, talks about our culture and how we need to start reconnecting with things that really matter.
According to Kirkwood, 75 percent of women would rather wear something else, rather than what they already have in their closets. This number is incredibly huge and shows just how little women care about the fad clothing that they have purchased in the past.
"We need to try to find intrinsic value and then we will find deeper meaning."
Once we start embracing the wardrobes that we already have and start embracing the concept of longevity in our fashion, we will inherently live richer lives. Slowing down and embracing slow fashion for the quality and craftsmanship is one of the best ways we can defeat this clothing crisis.
"We shouldn't do it because we know it's good," said Kirkwood.
As an outcome of changing our ways and starting to appreciate slow fashion and the clothing we already have, we will become happier with the lives we are living.
Educating yourself on fast fashion is important not only for the humanity of others but to also show the bigger picture that the cheap clothing you purchase really does impact the world negatively. So, the next time you're tempted to go on a shopping spree at Forever 21, just remember who and what you're really effecting. Think about others before you think about your wallet.