Fashion’s Hazardous Footprint

Have you ever thought much about the process that goes into making your clothes? Or what happens to them once you’ve given them away? How about what both of those things are doing to the environment? The fashion industry is one of the biggest perpetrators of pollution and waste today. I personally work in sourcing and production so I have a front row seat in seeing how these things are hurting our world. For a long time, I was ignorant; however, as I’ve been learning, it’s getting harder and harder to look the other way. So where do you, as a consumer, start in understanding sustainable clothing?

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If you are curious, you’re not alone. Many consumers have started caring more about these things; in recent years, searching for the words ‘sustainable fashion’ has tripled online, but many people still remain largely uneducated about how important sustainable fashion is, in a world that is being destroyed by the current fashion industry. There are reasons why countries like China and India are some of the highest polluted nations in the world. Water and electrical waste, along with fashion’s large carbon footprint are the biggest reasons why sustainable fashion is a must if we ever want to save the planet.

Let’s take the shirt you’re wearing right now; it started as millions of fibers that were spun into yarns and those yarns were woven or knit into a material. That material, and in some case the yarns before the material, were dyed in chemicals and water that is often left untreated, being disposed of in local rivers which can create a toxic environment for locals and wildfire in major manufacturing areas. Some dye houses, especially in the world of denim (which use one of the highest amounts of water and dyes), are trying to implement utilizing filtration systems to recycle water that is being used within the dyeing process, but many dye houses still have work to do in making a more sustainable process. New filtration systems are not cheap and take up space, both using resources that could be put towards more machinery that would increase working capacity, lower garment lead times, and increase orders and profit overall.

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The other problem here is that once dyed, materials and garments often are put through multiple washes with softeners or treatments, which as you can guess, use gallons and gallons of water and chemicals, which again, often goes untreated. Some brands are now pushing recycled materials like poly spun yarns from recycled water bottles, which is a great step forward in the industry; however, once those recycled materials go through the normal dyeing and wash processes, how much are they really helping the environment?

The other thing is, think about the energy needed to be generated for all of the above to take place, coupled with the fact that most factories are powered largely by fossil fuels. Some materials can go through three or four washes, after being dyed, all of which needs to run on energy. Not even to mention that after the material is turned into a garment on sewing machines, the final garment can often get additional washes, before going into dryers and getting a final steam or ironing. All before you as the consumer wash and dry the garment dozens of times over.

The final piece of this puzzle is the fashion industry’s carbon footprint. So you have found a clothing company who uses recycled yarns, filters and recycles their dye water, and use natural dyes. But where are they manufacturing their garments? If being made in Asia, the brand has to ship their goods on a large shipping freight which can take upwards of 40 days to sail halfway around the world. That means right now, a very large ship is generating energy through petroleum and emitting harmful gases into the air, all while carrying the shirt you’re going to buy in a few weeks time.

In an ideal world, companies would look for materials that are of recycled yarns, dye houses that filter and recycle water, plus use natural, chemical-free dyes,  and produce with manufacturers that are local so that shipping distance is cut down. All goods would be packaged up in recyclable packaging. So what’s the problem? To me, all that sounds very expensive.

Many material mills and garment manufacturers have left the US in favor of cheaper labor in Asia, driven by consumer demand for cheap, fast fashion. Even if a brand wants to produce domestically in the US or in close Central America, many factories still order fabric and trims from Asia, which again, impacts the carbon footprint. It’s almost next to impossible to find a rare unicorn brand that can meet all these requirements and if you do find one, I bet they’re out of your price range so you are discouraged from purchasing.

These sustainable clothes are expensive because recycled materials, like water bottles, have to go through multiple treatment processes before becoming yarns. Filtration systems and new machinery are expensive so dye houses and factories need to invest, and as a result, charge higher prices to pay off and make money from that investment. Local labor within America is expensive compared to less developed countries where labor might be a small fraction of our $7.25/hour minimum wage.

Beyond production, consumers are not properly recycling their clothing which is increasing the problem. Companies like ThredUp and Poshmark are helping mass consumers in recycling old garments and some brands have pledged to in store recycling programs. Some others, like Adidas, have pledged to 100% be using recycled materials by 2024. As consumers, we can take time to research brands who are trying to reduce their carbon footprint, with the understanding that no brand is going to be able to completely mass produce anything without some side effects.

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As consumers, we need to fall less under the spell of consumerism, taking responsibility and demanding more from the fashion industry. The one industry that might be the most malleable of all, due to the changing trends and seasons. Brands will care if their consumers care. I was once in a meeting where sustainable garments were being discussed within a major clothing brand, and it was said that, ‘the customer doesn’t seem to have sustainability as a priority, nor will they pay more for it, so why should we invest in a collection that is sustainable?’ Consumers need to steer the brands towards sustainability, in the same way we steered fashion companies towards providing for our demand of fast fashion. Again, it seems while with most issues with sustainability, we are the problem, but we can also be the solution.

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

 

Sources:

personal: 4+ years in apparel and home goods production internationally

Sustainable Fashion: Sustainable and Ethical Fashion Explained

C&A Foundation

Adidas Challenges Fashion Industry

Sustainable Fashion Demand Provides New Opportunities In Material Science And Chemistry

The Touch of Fabric

When I was a little girl, I would go shopping with my mom and I would wander through the racks of clothing, touching everything. No, really, everything. Every skirt, dress, top and pair of pants. Every blanket, towel, quilt and duvet had to be felt by my little hands. While I didn’t understand it at the time, I felt drawn to each garment, needing to know the texture and hand feel of the fabric. Tops that were a drape-y knit made me stop in my tracks. I loved the softness of the material, and I was mesmerized how it fell, draping down in an almost fluid-like way. Cashmere made me stop too, but my mom would grab my hand and always say, ‘you have champagne taste on a bologna budget. Come on.’

20 years later and I spend most days doing the same thing. For those of you that don’t know, I work in the retail fashion industry. It’s literally part of my job to locate fabrics that we need for our products. I get fabric swatches in the mail and I feel them, are they soft or too rough? Can a wash be added to make it softer or should we have it brushed? My team wants wool, but I know the cost of wool is going up, and we’ll never get a soft handfeel with only wool. Let’s find a wool blended with nylon or poly. If I need a low price, add in acrylic yarns, as those are among the cheapest of yarns.

There is an entire world of fabrics, yarns and fibers, that the average consumer never even thinks of. When you go shopping and buy a top, you’ll never never know how much thought went into it, down to the very fibers within. The fiber is the smallest component, spun into yarns. Yarns are then woven or knit together to make a fabric. Some fabrics can retain heat as seen in outerwear, while some are made to allow for breathe-ability or moisture wicking, most often found in active wear. But, to me, the most important thing about a fabric will always be how it feels.

via Daily Prompt: Fabric

What’s in My Cart: Fall Edition

As most of you know, I decided to go on a spending fast 2 weeks ago (read about it here). To be honest, I have bought a few things that were probably on the realm of unnecessary. For the most part, I really have been trying to check myself before I wreck myself. Hence, I’ve made this list of things I’m dying to buy for fall (the holiest time of my year) but sadly, I had to leave in these babies in the cart. Hopefully one of you will buy something and love it for me.

In no particular order…

Twill Boyfriend Parka, Abercrombie & Fitch, $140

Hello new fall jacket! Can’t you see it, this jacket, a big plaid scarf and some new heeled booties? (Fine, I bought this. It was 50% off!!! FIFTY PERCENT)

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Boss Babe Cuff, CUFFED BY NANO, $28

These cuffs are my fav; there are a slew of fun sayings like ‘Boss Babe’ and ‘Rose All Day’; perfect arm candy to jazz up any gloomy fall day.

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Floral Embroidered Puff Cuff Sweater, LOFT, $59.50

Embroidery and puff sleeves are literally everywhere and I love that this feminine piece could be worn for fall or again in the spring.

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Jojo Oversized Thermal Button Front Top, Out from Under/Urban Outfitters, $44.00

C-O-Z-Y A-F. I like that this isn’t fully  a thick sweater but it’s thermal so it would still help to keep you warm if needed. But to be clear, I would wear pants with this top. Most of the time.

Slide View: 1: Out From Under Jojo Oversized Thermal Button-Front Top

Asymmetrical Snap Pullover, Abercrombie & Fitch, $68

Two A&F pieces in one post? I know, but A&F is bringing it back around. You really should check them out! This pullover would be great for after the gym, a crisp fall hike, or a long day of Netflix and chill.

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What are your must haves for fall? Let me know in the comments!

Have a great weekend!

Sara

Splurge n’Save: What Clothing Pieces to Buy for How Much

In life, there are few basic necessities that we all must have to fully function as humans in society that have been around for thousands of years. Things like food, water, coffee and clothing are all pretty much required on a day to day basis. Okay, maybe just coffee for me, but you get what I’m saying. While I don’t know much about the other things, I do know about clothes, which to some folks is an overwhelming necessity due to the vast amounts of styles, colors, types and brands. When shopping, one might feel lost or confused by what they should and shouldn’t be buying. While I believe that is something that is based on the individual person, I do believe there are certain ways to buy certain things, especially in regards to how much to spend when buying those things. So I’m writing today to tell you (in my opinion) where you should splurge and where you should save.


Splurge: Denim

Jeans are awful, jeans are wonderful, jeans can be seen in almost any store there is. Every brand has their own version of denim (or really a cotton/poly blend) and each brand is a little different in concerns of fit, wash, and details. For those things I would suggest going into a few different stores and trying on different styles of their jeans just to see how you  personally like the fit and feel. Splurge a bit on jeans because if you buy a decent pair of jeans, they might last you a year or two, especially if you properly take care of them (never place in the dryer!).


Save: Basic Tops and Camis

Old Navy, Aeropostale, American Eagle…these stores all have basic v-neck tees and camisoles for under $20, which is an amount that I probably wouldn’t spend more than for these items. They are worn often and sometimes just with a pair of leggings or jeans to run to the store, so no one is going to notice if your shirt was $8. Some designers have basic tees in their line for upwards of $80, which for a basic white v-neck t-shirt is ridiculous (in my opinion, of course). To each their own, but this is an item where you can most definitely save.


Splurge: Heels

One black and if possible, one nude, at least for job interviews, funerals & weddings. I’m talking over $100. If that’s not in your budget, then wait for a blowout sale where designer shoes are discounted or hit up Nordstrom Rack for a deal. A bad pair of heels will ruin your feet while a good pair of well made heels will take you pretty far in life. Again, if taken care of, these can last you quite sometime, and, unlike your waistline and jeans, your foot’s size doesn’t change all that much so you’ll be safe with that size staying the same.


Splurge: Outerwear

If you’re like me and live in the Northeast, you know the value of a good winter coat and a good rain coat. Again, look for something retailed at over $100. I know it might be a lot to drop on a piece of clothing, but think of the new coat you won’t have to buy for three to five years. Look for something warm and durable and make sure you dry clean it after the season. Do you see my theme with the ‘splurge’ items, it’s all about taking care of the item so as you get the most out of your dollars spent.


Save: Trendy Pieces

Now, when I say ‘save’ I mean, paying upwards of around $100. When I say ‘trendy’ I mean pieces that are only in for this season, and will most likely never be worn much after that.  For example, a wild and fun printed crop top is a great buy right now, but crop tops are at their peak, soon they will be on the decline and out the door. These pieces are worn a few times and eventually end up at a thrift store or stored in your closet until you pull it out 6 years later and take it to the thrift store or out to the garbage. We also call these fast fashion items.

There are many trendy stores, like H&M, A&F, AE, Old Navy, etc. all with trendy pieces that usually aren’t more than $50. Buy, wear twice, and send to ThredUp when done!

So, Reader, is my list complete? Is there anything you would add, or disagree with? Let’s discuss below!

Love, B.

OOTD!

OOTD!

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Here’s my OOTD look for my internship. I’m in love with this Loft blouse and my ankle moto jeggings from American Eagle. I kept it simple with a pair of black flats.I usually wear my hair down, so I was excited to have it styled in a low bun. I definitely felt classy and sophisticated in this OOTD!

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First Week Recap!

Oh my goodie! I cannot believe it’s already LABOR DAY WEEKEND! (gasp!)

What happened this week in my life? Quite a bit actually! For one thing, classes started back up this week and I only have to go to three of them, the other two are online. I have a lot of reading to do, not that I’ve done it yet… oops. I’m taking a textile quality class, a finance class and a class about advertising which I’m so stoked about. I just love both of my majors. Like, my fashion courses are a breeze and my marketing ones are so interesting. It’s like YES I understand this, it excites me and gives me a passion for life! Viva la marketing!

Also, I started my marketing internship this week, and it was pretty awesome! My boss complimented my writing and she said everything I wrote was perfect (I wrote some emails and a letter. oh, and inserted something into a press release). I also started writing some Facebook and Twitter posts, which she didn’t see before I left, so I have no idea if those were good or not. Here’s one of my outfits that I wore to my internship, if you didn’t already see it on the Instagram (Follow Here!). It was so cute and comfy! OOTDDNow I definitely need to go shopping for some more ‘business casual’ outfits. I will definitely be hitting up those Labor Day sales this weekend! 

Finally, I just received a book in the mail about Adobe Illustrator and I’m hoping to teach myself some basics about the program in order to be more prepared for any future jobs. I have a feeling this semester is going to be quite busy. For now, I’m going to dance to ‘Shake It Off’ and enjoy the sunshine.

Reader, enjoy this weekend! I hope it’s full of sunshine and good times and maybe it’ll be so awesome, that you put your phone down for, like, five minutes…

Stay beautiful! Love, B.