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Ethical crimes committed in the name of profit,
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This review is from: To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? (Paperback)
Once upon a time “fashion” was only for the upper class. Clothes were custom-made to fit the bodies of rich patrons who could pay for top quality fabric and workmanship. Fashionable patters filtered down slowly, so that the lower class could copy them and produce their own clothes with lesser materials. Dressmaking was slow and expensive, both for the rich and the poor. For this reason quality was important. Clothes and accessories were made to cherish and to last.
When mass-production arrived, it was welcomed as democratic. Besides, it created jobs. Unfortunately, in the course of a few decades, the economic miracle turned into a monster. Nowadays, fast fashion is a fire -spitting dragon destroying the world behind it.
This book illustrates very clearly the environmental and ethical crimes committed in the name of profit. Fashion and elegance do not even enter into the picture. Never before there was such a huge offer of clothes and so many badly dressed women. Females who have no idea whatsoever of what suit their bodies but are just slavishly buying into the never ending heap of crummy clothes that fill the high street.
The author got interested in fast fashion because she writes a column about green living and like most of us, considered only the environmental footprint left by food consumption. She candidly confessed of not even knowing of which fiber most clothes were made of, nor knowing how to take care of them (which I found weird, but unfortunately true for too many people).
Each chapter deals with ordinary items we all own (cotton garments, shoes, leather jackets, etc…) and describes in details their destructive and exploitative nature. For instance, cotton is a crop that grows mostly in Africa. It is bought for a pittance and then moved to Bangladesh where it is processed into clothes by women and children, also paid a pittance and working under constant threat and pressure. Then the finished product is shipped back to Europe (or to the US) to hit the high street.
If you ever wondered how it is possible for high street shops to boast about weekly arrivals, it is because in developing countries a horde of semi-slaves is forced to produce whatever is considered the micro-trend of the moment (the right cut or color). It is not uncommon for these people to work 12 hours shifts assembling low-quality, cheap clothes that will barely last a season.
Cotton, wool and leather are all chemically treated to produce accessories and clothes. Clothing industry includes also tanning, which is a notoriously polluting process. Chemical dies are extremely bad for the environment. To complete this destructive and monstrous process, since fast fashion dictates that items should have a fast rotation - also because most of them would not last longer than a season - there is also the problem of dealing with discarded items. This implies an additional trip of used clothes back to Africa and more pollution, as said clothes are eventually used as poisonous land fillers.
What makes the whole procedure tragic, beside of unethical treatment of humans and animals, exploitation and pollution is the fact that cheap clothes are not even “fashionable”. They are ill fitting, low value garments, which quality is constantly declining. I actually found out myself, as I used to buy my shirts in a Spanish high street store. I still have a couple of shirts I bought ten years ago, but those bought more recently tore within a couple of months of usage. Needles to add, I don’t buy there anymore.
The only saving grace and cheering episode of this gloomy story is the last chapter, where the author gives lots of useful advice on how to break the destructive cycle of buying into fast fashion. Follow her advice. I surely did.