Shortly after beginning this blog, I felt myself bumping up against a familiar feeling.
That gnawing sensation that begs you to wonder, "Can I really make a difference ?"
And in the case of a blog: "... with just words?"
What can I really do?
Often we want to effect change, but don't feel we have the power. Of course, words alone are not enough to effect major change. But with conscious action, giving voice to the causes that seed this action yields a strong power to bridge our personal missions to a universal need.
Voice gives the power to unite people around a common cause and impact considerable change.
Nothing makes this need more apparent than glancing at the state of world affairs. To escape the toxic media coverage that filters through most channels, I've been turning to documentaries to quench my thirst to know what's going on in the world. When well done, they present a much more objective view of current events that extends past the American dream bubble typically touted on our news. Seeking entertainment that's highly educational is one way to affect change starting with yourself.
One documentary in particular rocked me so hard, I haven't been able to shake it. Both haunting and hopeful, The True Cost chronicles the Fast Fashion industry that's developed over the past few decades and the insane toll its taking on our environment and people worldwide. It has sincerely stirred SolaVita and resonated with the deep responsibility I feel as a designer to not only empower people, but to make sure that the process of empowerment is beneficial for the Earth.
Two founding values emphasized in the conception of SolaVita are reuse and up-cycling. These values were formed by both a basic knowledge of the clothing industry and a desire to help the environment. But the truth is, I had no idea how deep it really goes and I'm scared no only for the toll the Fast Fashion industry is having, but for the amount of business practices that go unchecked in the name of Capitalism. Naming our fear is one way to conquer it.
No matter who you are you wear clothes. Unless you are a nudist, you owe it to yourself-- and especially to our environment and the millions of people trapped in a system that values profit over the wellbeing of people-- to watch this film. So perhaps even nudists are nonexempt. The True Cost seeds the basic awareness: #whomademyclothes and through this question has formed a movement that seeks to redefine the fashion industry through transparency, sustainability, and social responsibility.
There's far more information in this hour and a half (available on NetFlix) than I could hope to articulate and as poignantly. But, it does feel crucial to highlight a few key facts... because a hard truth is, whether we like hearing it or not , unless you are informed, you are literally wearing blood clothes.
1. Eighty percent of the clothes we buy in the States and in Europe have been created by people (mostly young women ages 18-24) in developing countries who have been targeted by the fashion giants because they do not have the same or any labor laws to protect their rights. Millions of millennials are working in dangerous and toxic conditions that degrade human and natural resources in unthinkable ways.
2. Because so many of these developing economies rely on the fashion industry for jobs and income, the governments keep wages unlivable out of fear of losing business in a competitive market, forcing people into 21st century slavery and showing little regard for production practices whose impact is having an unprecedented negative impact on our ecosystem.
3. We pruchase 400% more clothing than we did 20 years ago. The decreasing consumer costs of fast fashion as a result of globalized production has completely disconnected us from how much our clothes actually cost to make. We buy because we want (to feel rich) not because we need (or necessarily even know if we will wear them). What used to hold a high value (the commodity of human labor) is now becoming trash to us as our disconnections form a pervasive need for material consumption, ultimately making us POORER.
4. The average American discards 82 pounds of textile waste each year, which adds up to 11 million tons from our country alone. Most of these textiles aren’t biodegradable, which means they sit in landfills for centuries releasing harmful gases into the air.
5. Only about 10% of stuff donated to Goodwill and other charities gets sold back into the community. The rest gets shipped to developing countries or the landfill. While we like to think of our donated goods helping those abroad, the influx of this much unused textiles has completely disrupted and in some cases wiped out artisan and craft-based cultures/ economies.
This is really just a small tip of the iceberg and I hope you take it upon yourself to watch this short life-changing movie. I do not outline these issues as something separate from myself, but as a system in deep need of reform and one that I have unknowingly participated in for most of my life. Like you, I was born into it. But by asking simple questions can help build the awareness that is essential for breaking through such cycles of degradation and seeding larger reforms.
So, what can YOU do?
Part of the reason I enjoyed this documentary is because, in addition to the hard truth, it also highlights the importance of our consumer choices. While seemingly small, the impact of where we choose to spend our money- asking where it came from, considering how it was made and by whom- are small actions that can really add up. Also something as simple as checking the tags to see where it was made. Places like India and China have the least restrictive labor laws and are generally (but not always) best to avoid.
Also, really knowing what charities do with the goods you donate. Platforms such as Charity Navigator can help you determine which are the right ones to donate to. There is also a Fashion Transparency Index that rates large fashion brands on their various business practices, so you can be a more informed consumer.
And above all, SolaVita reminds you to never underestimate the power of up-cycling. Old clothes for donation can become pillow cases, new clothes, cleaning rags, and so much more. So, whether you are someone deeply invested in fashion or someone who simply wears clothes because you have to, please give some thought to clothes you are buying and where they came from. And know that the smallest act of reuse can have a tremendous impact when incorporated into a conscious practice.
What more could you ask for?
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