January 24, 2017

Sustainable Fashion For All In 2017?

Sustainable fashion, eco-fashion, ethical fashion. This seems like a good idea in theory, it should be a no-brainer in 2017 with the advancement of technology. The reality is different. Buying sustainable clothing can be expensive, finding a local or accessible brand can be tricky, and knowing what to look for in an eco-friendly brand can be confusing. With the amount of decisions we face on a daily basis, why should we add sustainable fashion to the list? Does it even matter? What are the cons to shopping sustainably? Can consuming less and buying sustainable make a difference? These are all very good questions. Questions that I have been posing to myself lately. Let's investigate, shall we?

What is sustainable, eco, ethical fashion?
Sustainable or eco fashion, is a part of the growing design philosophy and trend of sustainability, the goal of which is to create a system which can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and social responsibility. It can be seen as an alternative to the trend of fast fashion. (Source: Wikipedia)

Two brands who embraced sustainable design models in the late eighties to early nineties are Esprit and Patagonia; both companies made important changes to their supply chain, the types of fibers they used and the methods used to process raw materials. The result was a movement in fashion and sustainability. (Source: Wikipedia)

As I understand it, sustainable fashion is a closed loop system of designing clothing, sourcing fabrics, manufacturing garments and distributing finished products in a manner that is equitable for all parties. It considers the environmental impact at every stage. These companies design a garment for longevity, source fibers that are sustainable or recycled, ensure fair wages and safe working conditions for garment factory employees and have a low carbon footprint in the distribution of their product.

Why is Fast Fashion a problem?
 The list of reasons to be concerned about the Fast Fashion industry is a long one. Let's explore the definition of Fast Fashion; it is a  term used by fashion retailers to describe the process of catwalk designs moving quickly into production and then into retail stores, their aim is to capture current fashion trends and get them into the hands of the consumer. The purpose of this model is to optimize aspects of the supply chain, so that clothing is designed and manufactured in an expedient and cost-effective manner thereby allowing an affordable product for the average consumer. (Source: Wikipedia)

Fast Fashion has also come under criticism as cheap and disposable because its designs focus heavily on trends and the garments are sewn quickly in whichever factory has the lowest bottom line. Another undesirable aspect of this industry is the unfair treatment and poor working conditions of garment factory workers in developing countries. The collapse of factory Rana Plaza in 2013, in which 1,129 Bangladeshi people lost their lives, was a massive tragedy and brought the serious issues caused by the fashion industry to the forefront. (Source: Wikipedia)

This brings us to pollution, but what does that have to do with fashion? Fashion comes in second as the most polluting industry next to Oil. One way the fashion industry pollutes is by the use of chemicals and dyes to process and color raw materials into textiles, this can take the form of air or water pollution. Another is cotton. Unless growing organic cotton, farmers must use pesticides to control crops. This can be harmful to the soil, workers and potentially to the person who wears the garment. Garment production is typically outsourced to developing nations. Fabric comes from one place, is shipped to another for sewing, then shipped back to the country where it will be sold: huge carbon footprint. Another in-direct pollution by the fashion industry is the amount of textile waste that is sitting in our landfills and polluting our oceans. With the rise in clothing consumption in developed countries comes the rise in waste. Natural fibers such as cotton and linen will biodegrade over time but it can take up to 200 years for a polyester shirt to disappear.

What are the cons to shopping sustainably?
Now that we know the differences between the two models of fashion we now have to decide which direction to go in. This decision will depend on a few factors and it doesn't necessarily have to be one or the other. Buying sustainably seems like the obvious decision but for the average consumer, it may not be the desirable one. Here are the problems with making the switch to sustainable:

1. Fast fashion is inexpensive, readily available, and follows the trends that we are constantly exposed to through social media.

2. Fast fashion feeds our desire to consume; we buy, we wear, we tire, we chuck, we repeat.

3. Shopping is cathartic, social and sport. This doesn't need much explanation, if you like to shop, you get it.

4. The mentality of quantity over quality sometimes wins out. We want a deal, we want more for our money and we want lots of options.

5. We are materialistic, we are grown in a society that has us believe that our stuff defines who we are.

6. We care what people think. We have become so consumed with our image, (full face of makeup, designer bags, never wearing the same outfit twice, etc.) fast fashion keeps our ego fed.

What are the pros of shopping sustainably?
There are many benefits to shopping with sustainability in mind, it means that each person is thinking beyond just themselves when making purchases and are looking at the bigger picture. Here are the ways to benefit from shopping in a more eco-friendly manner:

1. Buy locally designed, manufactured garments not only does this support your country's economy, it reduces your carbon footprint and will create more jobs within your community. 

2. Research purchases beforehand,  this ensures the brand aligns with your values, this will prevent impulse buys and  help you to treasure and appreciate each item for years to come. 

3. It's better for the planet. Is buying sustainable fashion going to fix the environmental damage caused by humans? Not very likely, but it's a start. We know there is only one habitable planet in this solar system and if we destroy it then what?  

4. People are people and everyone should be entitled to fair wages benefits and a safe work environment. An industry who supports and values all members in its supply chain deserves recognition.

5. Sustainable fashion may come with a higher price tag when compared with the usual go-to retailers who are forever offering 30% off. However, the decision to part with our hard-earned money over worthy investment pieces will, over time, instill quality and longevity into your wardrobe. 

Will my choice to shop sustainably make a difference?
I believe so but I am new to this puzzle and I don't yet have all the pieces. Alone, one person's decision to change their shopping and consuming habits won't make a dent in the problem. But by leading the way and showing others a possible solution, we can make a larger difference. 

January 15, 2017

The Future Of Fast Fashion? Slooow Down!

ately, I have been thinking about fashion, shopping and the environment. Specifically I have been thinking about the impact "Fast Fashion" has on the environment. I recently watched the documentary Poverty Inc. wherein they discuss the negative impact of North American clothing consumption.  The frequency with which we purchase, wear and discard mostly inexpensive, poorly-made items of clothing affects the local clothing market in countries like Kenya, where second hand clothes that are donated but not suitable to be sold in our local thrift shops is then sold in bulk for a very low cost to many "third world" countries. Watching this, I was dumbfounded.  I had never really considered that my habit of buying cheap clothing, wearing it, and then donating the things I no longer wore could have such an impact on other people.  I never thought my singular habit of running through this same cycle year after year could destroy the earth.  But it isn’t just me, is it?

While researching information for this post, I came across another documentary called The True Cost .  The film exposes the dark side of the fashion industry, specifically who gains (rich brand CEOs), who loses (the garment workers, the people who live in factory cities, the planet, sometimes the consumer) and who is responsible for perpetuating this vicious cycle of disposable consumerism (marketing firms, You Tubers, print media, celebrities, and WE the people who are buying cheap clothing, wearing it only a handful times and then sending it on its way through the donation cycle.)

This is a fairly new topic to me (although I have encountered it over here and there over the last few years particularly when I was investigating minimalism) and it's a broad topic so I have decided to split this into a series of posts covering all aspects of this global problem. This is important because having discovered the horrible things my beloved fashion industry (once held such a sense of magic and whimsy for me) is doing to people and the planet is heartbreaking. As much as I would love to continue buying and consuming, as I have been, I am unable from an ethical and moral standpoint. I think about the women and men who work long hours sewing clothing in a hot, sometimes unsafe, factory; who are paid $3 a day with no benefits, no unions and no sick days;  (pretty sure that we wouldn't stand for this treatment here in Canada) who are sewing thousands of garments a day so I can watch "haul" videos on You Tube or because "I have nothing to wear".  I think about the earth and how the clothing industry is the second most polluting in the world. I think about the babies born with defects in places with dye from that pair of jeans I just had to have running through their drinking water and the people suffering and dying of cancer because they spray or harvest GMO cotton needed to spin the fabric for that next "must-have" trend. I think of my daughters and the shape the earth will be in when they have kids and when their kids have kids.

This is a new topic for me, although I have encountered it here and there over the last few years, particularly when I was researching minimalism. It's a broad topic so I have decided to write a series of posts covering all aspects of this global issue. There are options that are fashionable, sustainable and ethical, but you won't find them for $10 on the sale rack at your local fashion retailer. They are bound to be more costly because the companies are not buying the fabrics that are made from Polyester or GMO cotton.  They are not outsourcing the manufacturing of garments to the factory in Bangladesh, which has the lowest cost per garment. They are not using dyes that pollute the earth and make people sick. They are not encouraging you to buy trendy and essentially disposable clothing. 

I have been an offending consumer for many years -a self-proclaimed shopaholic of epic proportions - so I don't want to seem a hypocrite for delving into this realm of ethical fashion.  Instead, I am admitting ignorance, as well as fault, and am hoping to make 2017 the year I make a change. This may not lead me down a prosperous path as a fashion blogger but I feel that, in the end, I am following my own path paved by many forward-thinking people. That, to me, makes all the difference.  

(All information contained in this post was written by me based on the documentaries Poverty Inc. and The True Cost.  Presently I have no other references but all future posts on this subject will be research-based information and will contain footnotes.)

As always, I would love to hear from you, my readers, what are your thoughts on this topic? Please don't forget to subscribe by email (right sidebar) and follow on social media!

January 08, 2017

New Year, New Handbag

Happy New Year my fav people in the world! Every January 1st I take the opportunity to get a fresh start, a chance to make myself a little bit better. Last year, I tried minimalism, I tried a spending ban and I tried a new business venture. Some worked and some didn't, but I realized that challenging myself to do new tasks (like changing career paths) is easier than trying to stop myself from participating in undesirable behavior (like constantly spending my money). This is frustrating but hey isn't that what life is all about? If it was always a cakewalk it would be so boring.

One of my most loved and treasured Christmas gifts this year (or I guess it's technically last year) was a new handbag from my Lobster (Mike), he knows that I'm not really a shoe person but I love me a good handbag and so he surprised me with a beautiful plum Marc Jacobs Gotham City shoulder bag. The only gift I had asked him for this year was a card wallet from Michael Kors (so that I could use a smaller wallet for my smaller handbags, a no brainer!) but he decided that with my love for all things Marc Jacobs and handbags specifically, that this would be the ideal gift for me, his lovely wife. He was right!

This bag is a small structured shoulder bag (can be easily worn cross body), the bag itself is made from pebbled-leather and features a color-block fabric strap. It is a flap-top with magnetic closure, it has a front zipper pocket and a patch back pocket (also magnetic closure). On the inside of the bag there is one zipper pocket along the back of the bag and two small cloth pockets (for cell phone or cards, lippies, etc.).

I love this bag so much! It is not an exceptionally roomie bag but I have come to appreciate smaller, more structured handbags since I became a mama (if I'm toting baby stuff I put it in a diaper bag and so I prefer a small crossbody purse to schlep around my things as opposed to having two large bags to carry or one massive purse with my things and kid things mixed together) afterall, the only things I really need to carry are my phone, keys, cards and some lip products. This bag fits the bill, it is simple, elegant, classic and convenient (the magnetic closures allow for one-handed access and no zipper means my stuff won't be falling out unbeknownst to me.)

My bag was purchased from Hudson's Bay and the color that Mike chose for me is called iris (a medium plum color) which as a February baby (amethyst birthstone) I have always been a fan of anything purple. I have typically played it safe over the years with regards to the colors I chose for bags; with neutrals being my best friend but lately I have branched out and bought bags in persimmon, navy, and blush as well as a tri-colored bag. There are a few other versions in the Marc Jacobs Gotham City collection; the Gotham Leather Hobo, the Gotham Saddle Bag, the Gotham City Bucket Bag, the Gotham City Small Nomad Crossbody Bag, the Gotham City Wallet Bag and the Gotham Leather Tote, as well as several styles of wallet that match the design of the bags. The bags retail for $355 up to $670 CAD but there are many on sale as this collection has been out since late 2015 to early 2016. This bag collection is also available at Nordstrom, Shopbop and Farfetch.

Let me know what you think of this bag and also tell me what's your fav gift you got for Christmas or any other holiday this year!

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