The Horrors of the Clothes We Wear

Ever heard of sustainable fashion? I hadn’t either until about a year and a half ago. To be honest, I thought it was very strange that it’s not on most people’s radars. This is because every member of society wears some form of clothes (hopefully) and many of us tend to even own too many clothes (guilty). In fact, our skin is the largest pore on our body, so shouldn’t we think about what we’re putting on it? These were the types of questions I was asking myself while I was studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark my junior year. Copenhagen is the hub of forward sustainable initiatives and has taken great strides as a leader in sustainable apparel. Sustainable fashion was everywhere; so much that they honestly just called it fashion. They really put great care into their clothes and treat those that made them with respect. Since I’ve gotten back to the states, I have been working on my senior thesis, focusing on radical transparency in the sustainable fashion industry and companies knowledge and value of the textiles in supply chains. It sounds like a lot and it is! Therefore, I decided to take advantage of this blog post to enhance the minds of our consumers on a very important, but not talked about enough issue. You are the consumer, by the way.

The bigger picture of all of this is that it’s time for fashion to be made with a more sustainable approach. Now, take a look at your hangtag. It’s likely that you’re wearing cotton or polyester, two of the fashion industry’s most popular fibers and the hardest ones to trace. Unfortunately, cotton depends on large amounts of water to grow, and polyester depends on now-declining reserves of oil and gas. Therefore, the idea behind sustainable materials is that they are less damaging to the environment to produce, consuming fewer natural resources and creating less pollution.

If you’re wondering what you can use instead of cotton, I can tell you! Bamboo, linen, hemp, and recycled polyester are great! Although they are being produced in only small amounts, they have great potential. Bamboo is quick to grow and easily renewable, and linen and hemp use less water and pesticides than cotton. Also in the industry is slaughter-free leather, flax, and recycled materials. For a college kid on a budget, I usually get the question of how they can afford to buy sustainable fashion. When you’re first starting to transition to sustainable apparel, I think it is best to start with second-hand clothing. It has already been produced and the beautiful, gently-used items are begging for a new home.

Sustainable fashion has a goal to create a system that can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and social responsibility. The best of both worlds! Luckily, the era of sustainable fashion being ugly and well, un-fashionable has passed. But it is important that sustainability is better communicated so it’s not considered a compromise. If you want to shop more sustainably, it is essential to keep your eye out for sustainable materials and clothes that are made ethically. Popular sustainable brands include Eileen Fisher, H&M Conscious, Stella McCartney, People Tree, Modavanti, ThredUp, and Modern Meadow. Certifications that could be found on tags could include Made in USA, Global Organic Textile Standard, Leaping Bunny Certified, and Fair Trade USA. I can go on and on, but I will stop. I am happy to talk about sustainable fashion anytime, so please email me at jordan.wolfe@furman.edu if you’re interested to learn more!

– Jordan Wolfe

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