The Problem with Fast Fashion

Story and Photo by: Megan Davis

The planet is deteriorating at an alarming rate, but conscientious consumers can make a difference. Many people don’t think about where their clothes are made, what they’re made from, or the conditions of the workers. Yet, these are important questions to consider.

According to Hawthorne, a clothing brand in the UK, the fashion industry is the second most harmful industry for the environment. The term “fast fashion” is used to describe mass-produced, low-cost clothing. In the production of making this clothing, harsh chemicals and pesticides are used as well as fossil fuels, which are both nonrenewable and harmful to the environment. The main fabric used is polyester, which is made from polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, a plastic derived from crude oil. Polyester is commonly used because it is cheap to produce, and easy to blend with other fabrics. Because it is mainly made from plastic, polyester can also take hundreds of years to biodegrade, adding to the problem of plastic pollution. Thus, even though polyester is cheap, it is costing us the planet.Sustainable fashion is when companies find alternative ways to make clothing that are not detrimental to the planet.

Using cotton is one solution to the problem, but since it is in such high demand, cotton farmers use chemicals such as pesticides and growth enhancers which pollute the water in the area. Organic cotton is sustainable because it does not use any toxic chemicals to increase production. Less irrigation is required and so less water is used in its production. Even though organic cotton is more expensive than polyester, it is better for the environment. By supporting sustainable fashion, you may be paying more, but in the long run your clothes will be better quality and last longer, helping to reduce waste.

In a recent interview with The BCC Voice, Associate Naomi Willow, who works at the clothing store Madewell on Fourth Street, in Berkeley, explained how her store has been doing beach cleanups and partnering with different brands to help the environment. They have a campaign called “Do Well,” where people can donate their used denim to Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization which repurposes jeans as housing insulation. Willow also mentioned, “They recently came out with this jacket that’s made out of plastic bottles, so hopefully they’ll start to make more clothing out of recycled materials.”

Amour Vert, a sustainable clothing store on Fourth Street in Berkeley, is warm and welcoming and nothing looks or smells artificial. A sales associate was happy to talk about what makes their company sustainable. She said that 97 percent of their products are made in the Bay Area and none of their products are mass produced, “Also, we are able to make sure that the factories don’t use any chemicals or harsh dyes. We only use vegetable dyes and a lot of our fabrics are made from beech tree pulp, so the fabric is wood-based.” She went on to explain that the denim they carry is not their own, but they partner with other companies who are sustainable in one way or the other. The leather jackets are from Sweden and made out of recycled leathers. They come from companies that have over-purchased the product or from people who have donated old leather goods that they didn’t want anymore. “They are able to style them in different ways and they all have different stories. They are all broken in, they are all unique in their own way.” Most of the jewelry that they sell is made out of recycled metals. “One of our brands uses recycled marbles from counters that people throw away to make jewelry.

“Everything at Amour Vert is sustainably made, and while Madewell still has steps to take, they are on the right track. If more people start buying sustainably-made clothing or buy second hand, it can help heal the planet.

Links to companies mentioned:

Madewell

Amour Vert

Shop used clothing:

Crossroads

 

 

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