Fashion at What Cost?

As I type this blog, I have a wonderful view of so many big hardwoods in my own back yard. They provide a canopy of green that shades the house from the late afternoon sun

which makes me glad we both protect and plant trees in Dekalb County. I’m also glad we celebrate Earth Day in America.

Last week I wrote about the negative impact of the fast fashion industry and I continue to research the topic. It’s a ruthless business in developing countries where chemicals and materials are dumped into landfills and rivers creating devastating consequences for the environment and no real regulation to hold companies accountable or responsible. Factories employ poor women and children to work in the factories under substandard conditions at best for very little pay.

April 24 marks the 6-year anniversary of the factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed over 1100 people and injured more than 2500. Many big brands have factories in Bangladesh including Walmart, Gap, H&M and many more. Little has been accomplished in making the factories safer, wages better or working conditions humane. Some brands have stepped up but most have only talked about it.

What I am referring to is called the “supply chain” and though it sounds harmless, it is the least glamorous link in the fashion industry. Think of a high fashion runway show with glitz and glitter, excitement and excess juxtaposed with an over-worked, underpaid poor woman sewing for 12 hours a day to meet her quota in terrible, often dangerous conditions. And, it’s not just cheap, fast fashion brands that are guilty of abuses.

I’m sure when the fashion industry first approached these developing countries, they painted a rosy picture of good jobs with decent wages and economic benefit for all. I’m sure it sounded like a win/win and answer to prayer to help lift a population out of poverty.

Every country wants a stronger economy and more people working usually guarantees a better economy. I don’t fault the developing countries for trying to create more jobs. It sounds noble on both sides but now we know it’s not. Can we live with that?

We are a nation of excess and we waste a lot. We want more for less whether it’s clothing or shoes, furniture or food. To make things cheaply and meet consumer demand, companies look for “cost-effective” places to manufacture, places where labor is cheap and regulations are lax. It costs a lot of money to manufacture responsibly, treat people fairly, and dispose of toxic waste and trash using environmentally sustainable methods.

We had our share of environmental problems from factories for decades in this country but we learned from our mistakes, from court battles fought and won, and from those who became sick or died as a result of corporate greed and sloppy standards. We are cleaning up our own messes but is it at the expense of less regulated countries? All so we can get something for less so we can throw it out more quickly?

What if we chose wisely in the first place and spent more money on a well-made garment made by an environmentally conscious company who also treats their employees with respect? What if we stopped buying from the companies who are guilty of not respecting Mother Earth or the Human Beings that work for them?

We continue to research this topic and are finding it’s complicated and the truth is illusive. We have read that even luxury brands including Chanel, Benetton, and countless others are guilty of using modern day sweatshops and some were implicated in the big factory collapse of 2013.

There are 2 brands that clearly continue to exploit workers and the environment and they are Victoria’s Secret and Forever 21. We will no longer accept these brands on consignment. Our hope is that the fashion industry will own its horrific mistakes and make monumental changes to their supply chains. These changes will cost money and the consumer will ultimately pay more and perhaps buy less. To me, that’s good economics.

Netflix has a documentary called “The True Cost” on the fashion industry’s supply chain horrific practices and the immense toll on the workers and the environment.

In the meantime, in honor of Earth Day 2019, Finders Keepers Fashions and Boutique + Menswear will offer a 20% discount off your total purchase if you bring your own reusable bag for your purchases on Monday April 22, 2019. Buying recycled fashion and home furnishings is a great way to show you care on Earth Day!

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