Friday, 8 March 2019

A Fashion Fit!

I just read a great article CBC's Passionate Eye titled Fashion's Dirty Secrets: Our fast fashion habit is killing the planet which references a documentary to be available March 9, 2019

The article refers to the poor working conditions in third world countries that were exposed in the  Rana Plaza collapse in 2013. Six years ago, we were all abhorred by the media pictures and the brands that were using these sources to provide the lines of clothing many of us championed. Joe Fresh, The Gap and others rushed to try and figure out how to address the problem and their own image and made efforts to introduce ways to control their supply chain.  

It also references Sarah Lazarovic's “The Buyerarchy of Needs” and her book A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy.

I was introduced to the term "fast fashion" for the first time back in 2012 when preparing for a class I was teaching at SAIT about consumerism. Fast fashion - multiple seasonal changes of cheaply made clothes manufactured at the expense of the workers and then offered to me, the average consumer. I questioned what I was doing to contribute to this problem. 

In coming to terms with this overload of guilt, I flashed back to other times - and other generations. My shopping habits were dramatically different from my mother's generation and my grandmother's, too. 

My British paternal grandmother would buy quality clothing from a dressmaker and specialty shop but she wore these items until she died. Her hats were amazing concoctions that must have been searched out by her British-born heart! My mother, on the other hand, had Mennonite roots and  lived through the Great Depression. agriculture poverty and the shortages experienced through World War 2. She sewed her own clothes, made cheap cotton house dresses and shorts and tops and pajamas for me and my sisters. The scraps were crafted into quilts by both of my grandmothers with a few awesome doll clothes at Christmas time. 

From the age of fifteen, I was fascinated with the Sears catalogue offerings and ordered my first store bought dress with my own money - a shockingly-priced $15 sweater dress. I morphed into city living eventually and invested in a wardrobe of well made coats, dresses and, yes, pant suits. I still held on to my homemade versions but enjoyed my newly acquired purchases each time I hopped on the bus dressed in a real leather mini length coat over my polyester pant suit. But that had to end. I couldn't continue to shop that way as a stay-at-home mom in the 70's. I discovered Walmart and all of the fast and soon to be faster fashion that hit the malls. Never once did I look back. Buying higher end didn't seem reasonable - particularly with children swarming over me all day. And, buying lower end didn't seem irresponsible or unsustainable - then.

I did not research the social basis of the manufacturers in the 1970's or future decades. Perhaps back then, some were still made in North America. The revelation shocked me. It made me question my buying habits. It added guilt to my shopping. But I didn't change much. Budget versus social responsibility - what choices did I have?

I retired, changed my lifestyle, and started researching information for a story (in the book, Childhood Regained) I was writing about the children sent to the cotton fields in India who work longer hours than the adults for less money while suffering from the hard physical labour and frequent chemical poisoning. Again, I asked: What is the alternative to buying the cheap, fast clothing that many average consumers purchase?

It is a difficult thing to stop buying cheap cotton from Walmart and Joe Fresh and switch to more sustainable (and more expensive) products. Of course, once retired, my need for new is diminished and I know quite a few seniors who shop thrift stores and consignment for their fashion purchases. There are some good ideas in this documentary that warrant exploration: buy clothing made from hemp; search out used clothing (websites as well a shops); and, thrift or share clothing with others.

Anyone out there have some tips or know of an innovative business/website? I would be so interested in hearing from you.

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