For a More Sustainable Fashion Industry

Originally posted on February 7th, 2016.

Beware, here comes a rant about the illogicality of the fashion industry and about how they could be doing things so much better. If you don’t want to be depressed, I’ve taken pictures of some of my second-hand winter clothes for you to enjoy. The pictures have nothing to do with this post otherwise, but if you’re just here for the pictures anyway, then you’ll never know, so it doesn’t really matter.

First of all, because I’m a positive person and for some reason I still have faith in humanity (though this faith is continually challenged by some people’s stupidity and evil), I want to talk about the potential that clothing companies have in making the world a more equal place. A lot of clothing companies are important employers in countries such as Bangladesh: imagine the sort of humanitarian potential they have as employers. If they were to give their workers decent pay and decent rights, they would be empowering a large class of people. Just think about what that could achieve. I’m quite annoyed that clothing companies aren’t using this potential. So imagine how infuriated I am about the fact that they’re actually abusing these people who they could so easily be empowering.

A lot of people say that factory work is better than being unemployed or having to work as a prostitute. Well yeah, but shouldn’t it be much better than that? If you think about it, garment workers are extremely skilled and deserve to be appreciated for that! Think about how quickly they’re able to make clothes and how much skill it requires to sew clothes under the sort of pressure they have to sustain. Wouldn’t the quality of clothes also get better if the workers were able to have proper breaks during their work day and have short enough days so they can actually get some sleep between shifts?

winter pink
No humans were harmed in the purchase of these clothes. This shirt is my super lazy day shirt: it’s so big I could live in it, but that’s exactly the sort of clothing I want to wear during depressing winter days. Shirt 3€ from UFF, pants 50 cents from Kierrätyskeskus. Hah, I bet you’ve never bought pants for only 50 cents!

 

Most people in the Western world are appalled by human rights violations, but if we’re so appalled by these violations, how are we so okay with benefiting from them? If the garment workers got decent pay, there would be less shirts for 2€, but I would rather pay more for my clothes knowing that no humans were harmed in the production of those clothes than to be able to buy practically disposable clothes. I hope that some others agree with me on that.

I want to make it clear that I don’t want to bring down the fashion industry or certain clothing companies, because that’s not going to happen. People will always need clothes and there’s nothing wrong with clothes: it’s just how they’re made now that makes me sick. But that can be changed. And until that’s done, I won’t be buying my clothes from them.

winter long
I am pretty much in love with this dress. I would wear dresses and skirts all the time if I could, but they’re rarely warm enough for the winter. Luckily this one is! You rarely find dresses that are this thick that are long with long sleeves as well. And for only 3€ from UFF.

 

I definitely think that making more ecological and ethical clothing would benefit these companies financially as well. There’s so much awareness now about the negative sides of the fast fashion industry that it’s bound to have an effect on clothing sales. Imagine a large clothing brand taking a big stand on the matter. Being candid about where their clothes come from, improving their production and salaries: that would be one heck of an ad campaign.

I love fashion and clothes. But it’s because of this that I care about where the clothes come from. And though I love clothes, I care about the lives of people more. Fashion and human rights shouldn’t be contradictory. I want a change to happen in the fashion industry, for the fashion industry to become active in using their potential in empowering their workers instead of abusing those people in need.

winter brown
This is one of my new shirts that I wear on lazy days: it’s comfy, warm and easy to wear. I love the scarf because it’s so colourful (which is a must during Finland’s grey winter days). Shirt 3€ from UFF, scarf 1€ from Kierrätyskeskus.

 

Another thing I find highly illogical in the fashion industry is the price of clothes. Because of this, I’ve come to realise that one of the reasons I love second-hand shopping isn’t valid any more: the low prices of second-hand clothes. I don’t mean that second-hand clothes aren’t cheap, they mostly are. It’s just that regular, new clothes are ridiculously cheap as well. There are almost always sales. Walking around shopping malls nowadays you can’t miss advertisements for 10€, 5€ or even 2€ clothing.

I can’t help but wonder, who actually benefits from these ridiculously low prices? Wouldn’t it be in the clothing companies’ interest to sell their clothes for more? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to sell less pieces of clothing for the same amount of money as selling stacks of under-priced clothing? It would save the environment and it would lessen production costs. I just don’t understand the logic of the clothing companies: my motto is to maximize quality, not quantity, which is clearly the opposite of the current fashion industry.

winter wool
This is another warm dress that I recently found that I have been wearing too much ever since. Long sleeves and wool, perfect for cold days! Also only 3€ from UFF (almost all these clothes in this post I found on the same day at UFF, so that’s why they’re all 3€). The shoes I got from a friend.

 

The obvious beneficiary of cheap clothes is the customer, but what do we even do with huge masses of clothes? Many clothing companies live off impulse shopping. And I don’t find that very sustainable. I know that my wardrobe is full of clothes that I never use, because I somehow always end up wearing pretty much the same thing. Then there’s that pile of clothes in your closet that you think you’re going to wear, but deep down you know you never will. I heard a good tip from a friend once to help in not owning too many clothes: if you don’t feel completely comfortable in it, don’t buy it (or if you already own it, pass it on). Clothes should make you feel good about yourself and if some piece of clothing doesn’t do that for you, then it doesn’t deserve to be owned by you. Even if you could get it for just 2€.

The problem isn’t only cheap clothes, though. Expensive clothes aren’t normally any more ecological or ethical than the cheap ones. That designer shirt that costs 45€ is made in the same sweatshop as the 2€ top being sold in the neighbouring store. So even when companies are making huge profits off their clothes, they don’t seem to be distributing the money very evenly. Once again, I fail to find logic in this. Or to be honest, I know that the logic is that too many people care about money more than other people. And that definitely isn’t logical or sustainable. Not to mention it being just plain wrong.

 

Photos: Valtteri Lehti

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