This statement motivates me now more than ever.
There are a few reasons:
- I am a true lover of fashion
- As I have gotten older, I have been far more aware of who I am, what’s in my wardrobe, and how I want to present myself to the world.
- I am trying to do my small part to help the planet
- I work in the sustainable fashion industry.
I run a digital media company for sustainable lifestyle brands. Through my work, I have had the ability to peek behind the curtain of the sustainable fashion industry and get a better understanding of their mission. I’m 100% behind it.
Did you know the clothing industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world? And that just touches the surfaces of the problem: poor working conditions, toxic and unethical farming practices, and abuse of fair wages are just some of the many reasons I have gone on my own personal mission to find brands that shy away from mainstream practices.
Additionally, despite becoming enthralled with fashion at a young age (I still make it my monthly mission to read Vogue cover to cover), I can no longer ignore the fact that an industry that is supposed to empower women and give them confidence through their clothing treats women so poorly.
Clothing factories are the industry’s biggest problem. In countries like Bangladesh, the factories are not up-to-code for employee safety and fair wages are a foreign notion. The women (not to mention children!) who are responsible for making a majority of our clothing work in toxic, unsafe environments and get paid around $1-$2 dollars a day to do so. Let me break that down for you. Say you purchase a $10 dollar t-shirt from a mainstream company. The woman who made that shirt most likely had a quota of around 50-100 shirts per day. When you purchase that shirt you have paid her, at the most, 4 cents for her hard work.
Those beautiful rainbow hues of colors you find in the store also come at a price. The dying industry dumps waste and tainted water, byproducts from the dying process, in the rivers and lakes that surround villages in poorer communities. This is the water that people drink, bath in, wash their clothes in and cook with. Delicious right? Let’s not forget about the waste. Do you ever wonder what happens to last year’s luxury fashion items that fail to sell? Some companies burn them in giant piles to keep discount retailers from selling them. If the clothes don’t get burned, they sit in a landfill for decades.
Brands are making too many clothes for us to buy, and everyone from the makers, to the consumers, to the communities that live around them, suffers. The only way to change it is to put our dollars behind brands that care about the planet, the people and the consumer.
100 years ago, fashion was a lot different than today. Everyone had to have their clothing made, or they owned a sewing machine. We wore our clothes for a lot longer, and they lasted a lot longer because the quality was there. The customer demanded it. And when something did eventually tear, we mended it. We didn’t get rid of it. I want to own clothing that I love, and that I can continue to love for more than 5 years, and I want to feel good about it, which is why the sustainable industry resonates with me so much.
Sewing is a skill and the sustainable industry is all about empowering the maker. Some of the best companies hire, train and support women in small villages in places like India, Africa, and Nepal to build their own small businesses and then the brands buy their clothing at a higher cost. What does that mean for you? You get a better quality, a more unique item, a piece you can wear for years that still looks good, and the peace of mind to know that the maker created it on her own terms.
I understand that everyone can’t afford to spend 100 dollars on a t-shirt. I know I can’t. But use that extreme example to take a minute and think about all of the clothing that you have purchased for 100 dollars total? How many of those pieces are you still wearing? How many of those items “bring you joy”? Instead of splurging every season on quantity, spend your time finding items that have quality, that have a mission behind them, that empowers the wearer and the maker and that you won’t ignore in your closet next season. Buy less. Wear more. Make it last.
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CanDace Johnson is the owner of Hi CanDace, a Digital Media firm located in Detroit, Mi. Serving as the Creative Director, she focuses on small sustainable, luxury lifestyle brands. When she isn’t drumming away behind her computer, or meeting clients in Detroit & New York, she spends her free time renovating her classic Detroit fixer-upper, obsessing over natural hair care, or hanging out with her partner and two foolish dogs.