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Let's talk about fashion :)

First of all, a little disclaimer about this article. I really don't mean to sound self-righteous or to lay a guilt trip on anyone. Above all, I am here to share my points of view on certain subjects that are close to my heart and that I have grown to become very sensitive about over the last few years.

So don't feel offended by my words, because I am not targeting anybody at all. I just aspire to an awakening of consciousness on this particular subject, which may be totally foreign to you. I would also like to point out that this post is not sponsored, I am unfortunately still far from that !

The idea for this post came to me when I purchased this little wonder that I'm wearing in the picture above. It is a People Tree dress that I found on the Asos website, that any good shopper must know (I added a hyperlink to give you direct access to the website where you can see the dress from a better angle than in my picture, because it must be admitted, I'm far from being a professional poser :P).

I really fell in love with the delicacy of the handmade embroideries on the chest and arms. They bring "the right amount of refinement" to this simple little dress.

Don't worry, this article is not going to be an endless rambling about my latest fashion purchases. This dress is the only one I've made in ages, by the way. I'm no longer the compulsive shopper I was a few years ago and I'll explain why. I just wanted to focus on the brand of this dress, People Tree, which I particularly like.

There is a very beautiful ethic behind it. It is a brand of British origin, and a pioneer of "responsible" fashion.

I learnt about it in the documentary "The true cost", that you may or may not know, and that deals with the other side of the fashion and textile industry in the world. The viewing of this documentary was a real shock to me, it totally changed the way I looked at clothes and fashion, and the relationship I had with them in general.

"Fast fashion"

Have you ever heard of it ? As far as I'm concerned, never. At least not before the viewing of this documentary. As you have probably guessed by now, this is basically the topic that is going to be discussed here. But why this term ?

Have you ever noticed that the collections in shops such as Zara, H&M, Mango, Primark... change very regularly ? On average, a collection lasts one to two weeks. It is then replaced by a new one. This obviously encourages you to buy the last piece that came out.

If you are curious and have already looked at the tags on your clothes, you may have noticed that, sure enough, most of them were made in developing countries such as India, China, Bangladesh or Cambodia.

But at what cost ? What are the real issues behind this industry ?

Huge human impacts

This is no longer a secret, the price of clothing has literally dropped in the last few decades, as the majority of companies relocate for cost reasons and profit maximization. The lowest price is the best price.

As a consequence, these subcontractors are put in fierce competition by these companies and are forced to constantly lower their prices.

One can then imagine the inhumane working conditions that workers have to put up with.

In 2013, an insalubrious building, the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, literally collapsed, killing over a thousand. Men, women and children. These employees worked for the large companies mentioned above (Zara, H&M, primark...) and had repeatedly reported the unhealthiness of the premises to their management, without any reaction from them.

The collapse of the Rana Plaza in 2013.

In order not to offend the sensibilities of my readers, I deliberately refrain from showing pictures of dead bodies under the rubble, or of wounded amputees. But these images are available in the documentary, which I strongly invite you to watch.

What is also important to know is that this constant renewal of the textile offer puts enormous pressure on the shoulders of subcontractors in these third world countries. Working more to produce more, so we can buy more. Profit at the expense of the living. Again and again.

Dramatic environmental impacts

Although one might have suspected that the human impacts were catastrophic, I was far from imagining that the ecology was so affected by the textile industry.

The latter is the second most polluting industry in the world after the oil industry :

  • The growing of cotton, the most widely used raw material (which happens to be mainly genetically modified), causes significant soil pollution due to the pesticides that are used in the process ;

  • Leather processing in tanneries in India pollutes water, particularly the Ganges, by pouring chromium into it, among other things.

This pollution itself has disastrous and lethal health impacts on farmers and surrounding populations : cancers, brain tumours, retarded mental development in children, physical disabilities and other horrible things...

A Punjabi lady living not far from a tannery...

To this must be added the staggering amount of clothes that are "thrown" or "given" to associations such as the Salvation Army.

It should be noted that only a very small fraction of these unwanted clothes is sold to second-hand shops or given to the needy. The vast majority is sent to other developing countries, such as Haiti, where they go to landfill in too large quantities, thus contributing to the impoverishment of local culture (and inducing pollution at the same time, because they are not biodegradable !)

What are the alternatives ?

There are many of them, don't worry. The most radical one would be an outright boycott of all fast fashion brands. However, I fully understand that for some budgets, this may not be an option, given the attractive prices they offer.

Then, all you need to do is be more vigilant about the origin of the items.

For example, Zara offers many products that were manufactured in Europe (Portugal, Spain and Eastern Europe), which I would rather buy.

On the other hand, I boycotted any and all products that were made in China, Bangladesh, India, Cambodia and other third world countries. I can no longer bear the idea of wearing the suffering of innocent people.

Turning to second-hand clothing is also an excellent economical and ecological solution.

Finally, there are more and more ethical and eco-responsible brands, such as People Tree, that pay and treat their employees in a decent and honourable fashion. Admittedly, the price is more expensive, but the quality is there.

Also, ask yourself the right questions : do you really need all these clothes ? If your wardrobe is overflowing (as was mine last year), do you wear all your clothes ? Or do you still feel like you have nothing to wear ? Does the compulsive buying of clothes make you happier in the long run ?

We are pushed to over-consume in all aspects of our lives by being promised that material things will bring us happiness. While at the same time, this abyss within us that we are trying to fill continues to deepen...

The final word

Consume in conscience. That's what I'm trying to do, in every aspect of my life. I really like this Native American legend told by Pierre Rabhi :

One day a terrible fire broke out in a forest - a huge woodlands was suddenly engulfed by a raging wild fire. Frightened, all the animals fled their homes and ran out of the forest. Discouraged, they were all bemoaning the destruction of their homes. Every one of them thought there was nothing they could do about the fire, except for one little hummingbird. It swooped into the stream and picked up a few drops of water and went into the forest and put them on the flames. Back and forth it went, over and over, while the larger animals stood around disparaging the little bird’s efforts. Eventually, one of them shouted out and challenged the hummingbird in a mocking voice : "What do you think you can do ? You are too little !" Without pausing, the hummingbird answered :
"I know, but I am doing my share."

Everyone has their share of responsibility.

Thank you for reading me :D

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