Hi all, Najah here. Guess what? It’s #FashRev week! In today’s blogpost I’m putting together a list of free online resources you can get your hands on as the world of #fashion crumbles all around us (more on that story later, but mostly because fashion's wealth is built on exploitation of others within its supply chain.)
560 words; 2.5 min read.
We are all here feeling crap together
Side backstory: It’s been a while since I had last posted. I have been working on a number of creative projects towards the end of 2019 and was very much looking forward to lots of #sustainablefashion happenings in the new year. Suffice to say, they were all due to be executed in April 2020 but, of course, #Covid. Since February I have been in Australia to visit family and friends, as well as catch up on business stuff. I was not allowed to fly back to KL in March as originally planned, so here I am, stuck in #Melbourne with my Aussie gang! Not a bad place to be, though: with family. So I consider myself one of the lucky ones.
It’s a difficult time for all of us as I have been doing FaceTime chats with friends all over the world— Italy, Spain, USA (New York, Miami), Malaysia. Everyone is doing it tough in their own ways. I had a friend message me from Sri Lanka, whose income is (or was) from working in retail in the tourism sector. He said he’s down to eating once a day. I’ve read somewhere that the #coronavirus effects in India will literally cause deaths due to starvation as people can’t get on the trains to be with their families in regional towns and will be dying on the streets in the big cities. So grim, and if you have some spare cash to help your mates, I encourage you to do what you can. If you can’t, it’s OK. Everyone’s journeys are different. As long as we are here for each other.
Slowing down due to a global pandemic
One thing is for sure, the world is slowing down in a MAJOR way. I don’t have to repeat what you guys already know — in terms of the good news stories pertaining to our #environment on the other side of this economic so-called crisis (because, #capitalism.) So I feel like I don’t really need to say too much about #SlowFashion anymore. (But if you want to get up-to-date with the news, check out https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200326-covid-19-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-the-environment)
According to trend forecaster Li Edelkoort, the coronavirus pandemic, eventually, will “allow #humanity to reset its values.” She offers this view: “It seems we are massively entering a quarantine of consumption where we will learn how to be happy just with a simple dress, rediscovering old favourites we own, reading a forgotten book and cooking up a storm to make life beautiful.” (Source: https://www.dezeen.com/2020/03/09/li-edelkoort-coronavirus-reset/)
There have been reports (just in the last 24 hours) however that Boohoo has seen a surge in profits and sales in April, compared to March, as the #coronavirus forces more shoppers online. This news story made me happy but sad at the same time. Why? Because on one hand, big brands have stopped paying for their COMPLETED orders in countries like Bangladesh (see how Covid is affecting fashion’s supply chain here: https://www.fashionrevolution.org/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-the-people-who-make-our-clothes/) but on the other, Boohoo’s top sourcing countries include the UK, China, India and Turkey, but we don’t know from which factories. (Source: https://labourbehindthelabel.org/boohoo/). Boohoo workers’ pay and conditions are cloaked in secrecy and I don’t know if buying stock from Boohoo right now to keep them afloat is the right thing to do or not— because pre-Covid, it sure isn’t! Supporting workers to keep their jobs and wages is a good thing (generally, speaking, let’s not go into *what’s a fair wage*), if, and only if— they are keeping people in their jobs (at least I think in the UK, where most of their clothing is sourced from), but Boohoo’s fast fashion business model can’t be a good thing in the long run, you know what I mean? If there is one thing fast fashion companies can learn from this outbreak, it is to review their whole operations and how they make their products.. to ensure healthy profits for the company, planet, and humanity. I sure hope lots of fashion brands are thinking about pivoting right now. #Sustainability is the only way forward to build a resilient and fair fashion industry. But I guess this also applies to all goods being manufactured, right?
Let’s get woke at home!
Without getting into the personal psyche of what motivates an individual to shop at Boohoo.com, I will move on to some healthy ways that you can contribute to your fashion ‘wokeness.’ Best thing about staying at home right now? Is that there are no geographical boundaries for joining online events for FashRev. And they’re all FREE! So here’s the list:
Fashion Revolution USA has a week-long list of activities on their IG Live that anyone can tune into, check ‘em out here https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/18113567992115464/
And finally, of course — please go to fashionrevolution.org for a myriad of educational resources on the state of #WhoMadeMyClothes? and #transparency in fashion.
Fashion Revolution Week is a global campaign that mobilises consumers to ask #whomademyclothes every year in April, which falls on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed 1138 people and injured many more on 24th April 2013. That is the day Fashion Revolution was born. During this week, brands and producers are encouraged to respond with the hashtag #imadeyourclothes and to demonstrate transparency in their supply chain.
#FashionRevolution doesn’t stop Sunday, so keep at it!
In most parts of the world, it’s safe to say that we’ve all survived the last month or so without going shopping for clothes. And did we die? No, we didn’t. I’ve always maintained that humans’ need for clothing had evolved from survival against the elements to complete overstatement of personal wealth: and the sweet spot in the middle is a mixture of function and creative style that enhances your individual personality.
This sweet spot should stay where it belongs, and it should be what we aim for. In a post-Covid19 world, as we incrementally go back to normal, I hope our new normal will see us continuing on the slow patterns we’re currently in.
If you are completely re-thinking of your shopping choices for your wardrobe as part of lessons learnt from this experience, then my main takeaway message is to resist buying anything new, but come out of this pandemic with a renewed outlook on #styling, instead — using the clothes you already own. Perhaps as we start socialising again, we should really get into the clothing swap spirit with our mates. Not buying anything new would ease our financial burdens over the next 12 or so months as the economy recovers to the new normal. However, if you feel that you are financially able to inject some moolah into the economy, I’d say support local and artisanal products, because that’s the only thing that makes sense right now.
Til we meet again soon my darlings! Stay safe, and take care of each other xxxx
Join us in our Slow Fashion movement with the hashtags #ConscientiousFashionista and #wardrobetruths on Instagram, and follow us at @fashinfidelity.
Tags: #fashrev #fashionrevolution #fashionrevolution2020 #fashionrevolutionweek #ethicalfashion #sustainablefashion #ecofashion #greenfashion #responsiblefashion #circularfashion #circularity #conscientiousfashionista #fastfashion #slowfashion #sustainability #wardrobetruths #fashioneducation #fashionisnolongertrendy #fashion #saynotofastfashion #fashionnews #coronavirus #covid19 #stayhome
Do you know that most people launder too much? If you call yourself a subscriber of Slow Fashion, then I’m here to remind you that the way you care for and wash your clothes is the biggest factor in sustaining this lifestyle claim.
So Fashion Revolution Week is here, y’all. It started with Earth Day on Monday (22 April) and the week’s activities will continue until Sunday 28 April.
2091 words; 10 min read
Earth Day is an annual event celebrated to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day now includes events in more than 193 countries which are coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network. Fashion Revolution is concerned with “… (uniting) people and organisations to work together towards radically changing the way our clothes are sourced, produced and consumed.” If you’re reading this then you’ll know Fashion Revolution Week is a movement that took its calling at the back of one of the worst workplace tragedies in modern history – the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in 2013 where over 1000 garment factory workers perished. The catchphrase ‘Who Made My Clothes?” has since been popularised in mainstream media to shed light of the horrible practices against humanity, perpetrated by what we now know as fast fashion.
As a lot of you might know I am an advocate of Slow Fashion and have been writing about ‘going slow’ and appreciating the clothes you already have immensely. I see people who are embracing Slow Fashion movement do these (in no particular order):
There’s a crucial element in the care of your clothes, that is a big factor in making the Slow Fashion lifestyle a success, that many of us possibly are still in the habit of not doing: considering the frequency of washing our clothes.
And herein lies the problem: some of us wash too frequently.
...a big factor in making the Slow Fashion lifestyle a success, that many of us possibly are still in the habit of not doing: considering the frequency of washing our clothes.
I bring this up because washing too frequently is a habit that is very personal. It’s something that is hard to break because it comes from a different place, psychologically. I must say I don’t have a problem with washing too much as my grandma had taught me to be very frugal with resources from a young age, and then as I was studying environmental engineering in my 20’s, I understood early the effects of consuming resources have on our planet. I have since been mindful of packaging, chemicals, resources and the infrastructures to make them available, and waste generation.
But I know some people wash too frequently – I currently live with a person (who shall be unnamed) who claim to only appreciate a minimalist wardrobe – but is obsessed with washing quite regularly.
I understand we can’t all be perfect human beings, and we all have our weaknesses and psychological shortcomings.
But, as I feel so passionate about behaviours that we only have control over, I’m inclined to talk about washing. My conviction about treading lightly on this earth is so strongly reflected in that good ol’ motto of ‘Think Global, Act Local’. Positive action starts with you – a.k.a. myself – and I have always been very clear about that.
The science of clothes washing
So let me remind you to rethink the way we wash our clothes.
In my old job at City West Water (CWW), a water retailer servicing residents and businesses in the inner western suburbs of Melbourne and the Central Business District, one of my colleagues was charged with heading a research project as part of the company’s Sustainability Covenant agreement with EPA Victoria at the time. The year was 2010. The state of Victoria was coming out of a ten-year drought – by purely implementing conservation strategies, no less! – and the company wanted to continue to understand how our residents used water in their homes. So, with the help of a consultant and experts, we embarked on a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) study of domestic clothes washing.
Life-cycle assessment (LCA, also known as life-cycle analysis, ecobalance, and cradle-to-grave analysis) is a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product's life from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling. It is regularly used in product design and in is a tool to measure a product’s impact.
The aim of the LCA for domestic clothes washing was to inform potential future programs designed to assist City West Water’s residential customers to reduce their overall environmental impact when washing and drying clothes. The assessment separated the clothes washing process into three phases: upstream, use, and downstream. The upstream phase established the production and delivery of key products and materials. The use phase concentrated on the regular use of equipment by households, recognising resources consumed. The downstream phase identified the disposal and treatment of materials and wastewater.
Note: this LCA study was focused on the ‘activity’ of washing, as opposed to the making of a ‘product’, its use, and disposal.
The LCA considered CWW customers’ most common approach to domestic clothes washing, per kilogram (kg) of clean dry clothes, referred to as the base case. The assessment then quantified potential environmental benefits and outlined key behavioural actions customers can adopt to improve the environmental performance of clothes washing and drying.
The LCA revealed that many variables affecting the life cycle impacts of clothes washing are directly influenced by customers behaviour. Throughout the everyday use of machines customers can make a significant reduction in embodied impacts by reducing detergent consumption, filling the machine to capacity, ensuring that the machine is switched off when not in use and avoiding the use of a dryer. When a new machine is purchased, customers should allow for careful consideration of the size of the machine as well as the energy and water rating. Detergent manufacturers also have a key role to play in providing detailed guidance about detergent dosing according to machine type and loading. The paper can be found here.
If that sounds a bit technical for you, here’s the breakdown:
Furthermore, here are some more pertinent points made in the Report – just go straight to page 79 for this excerpt.
In summary, the ‘washing’ part, i.e. pertaining to the ‘use’ of the washing machines, instead of the upstream and downstream portions of the activity, has the most impact to the environment. And this is solely attributed to individual behaviour with regards to washing.
The footprint of making clothes
You can’t digest the above information without understanding that making clothes overall has an environmental impact. There are different figures going around, but the consensus is that for most items in your wardrobe, like a basic cotton T-shirt or a pair of jeans, the majority of the impact of the product rests with the wear and wash of the product. There are mainly a lot of life cycle analyses on carbon impact of clothing only that is consistent on the findings of the wear and wash, instead of the whole environmental impact. A Swedish assessment of five garments for environmental impact found laundry only contributed to 3% of the ‘base’ item’s whole lifecycle impact, so this throws a spanner in the works. Having said that, perhaps a lot of studies have focused on carbon impact purely because it takes a major chunk of the total impact areas in Life Cycle Analysis studies. That’s my take on it, anyway.
Here is an example statement that supports the argument that washing and caring for clothes constitutes a big proportion of the clothing’s environmental impact:
According to a study by Ademe, almost half of the environmental impact of a pair of jeans comes from the jean’s use and “end of life.”
Just wash less, okay?
Anyway, you get the gist. Back to too frequent washing. We know there are some things we can do to exert more influence in the way we consume our clothes. If you want to do right by the Slow Fashion movement, then please take note of your washing habits.
This article published on The Conversation provides some interesting research on how washing less is a more sustainable way to go – whether or not you choose to consciously consume your fashion choices.
Overall, changing how you care for your clothes can almost halve the ecological impact of your clothes. Washing jeans less often in cold water, and hanging them out to dry lessens textile waste, considering a dryer consumes five times more energy than a washing machine. Refraining from dry-cleaning a pair of jeans saves the same amount of energy that it takes to heat a home for 387 hours. Don’t forget to use the right amount of detergent and wash on a full load and voíla! – you’re well on your way to be a true Slow Fashion leader.
Easy to do in a temperate climate like Melbourne though. Here are my top tips:
There are some challenges, I agree. I had lived in Kuala Lumpur the whole of 2018 and due to sweat from the humidity some of the items I want to wear in accordance to my rules (see above) just wasn’t happening. I also understand you may have kids, workwear that is exposed to the outdoors, you have an annoying allergy, you're feeding and caring for a newborn, etc.
Here is a good article by 1 Million Women of the 9 ways to lower the carbon impact of laundry day, and here is the most useful thing I’ve found on the internet about tackling the smells of your gross workout gear in the wash.
Don’t worry, you ain’t dirty
Look, at the end of the day, what dirty clothes means to you might be completely different to how I describe mine. If you’re slightly grossed out by my rules on wearing clothes, I completely understand. But I give you this: never have I ever, ever, been described as unhygienic or looking less than ‘fashionable’ when I go meet people. There’s a respectable element to wear clothes that are ‘fresh’, but let’s be honest – most of us ain’t toiling away in cottonfields or working in mines at any given day so there’s a fair chance you can be conscious about the way you wash your everyday clothes. In the name of Slow Fashion, right? Go all the way, brothers and sisters. I’m with you.
Join us in our Slow Fashion movement with the hashtags #ConscientiousFashionista and #wardrobetruths on Instagram, and follow us at @fashinfidelity.
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Fashion Revolution Week is here!
Adding substance to the Conscious Fashion chatter.