Our Green Gurus

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The flaws of fashion

cheap-clothes-story

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By guest blogger Kelly Elkin, owner/designer for Alas, a certified organic and ethically produced sleepwear label.

Like most twentysomethings, I’m a fashion conscious individual. I take pride in my appearance and I know that most people I pass in the street every day do too. So, why don’t we value our clothes more?

Throughout history, clothing has been an indication of where you sit in society, a sign of your beliefs and a visual representation of your identity. If we are what we wear, why are most of us dressed head to toe in cheap crap that’s drenched in chemicals and made in questionable conditions? How is this attractive?

From an aesthetic and ethical point of view, I don’t want to wear clothing that represents child labour in Uzbekistan. We all know about ‘sweatshops’ and that formaldehyde is evil, but as consumers, fashion lovers and clothing producers alike, we cast a blind eye on the ‘behind the scenes’ production of clothing.

We could blame the glamorous models, the thrills of fashion week and the bombardment of bargains, or take responsibility for our choices and truly appreciate clothing and its origins.

There is no such thing as cheap clothing. Somewhere along the production line, someone pays for it, whether it’s the machinists working 18-hour days for a pittance or the farmers growing the raw products. The price of ‘cost efficiency’ also leaves the environment with a huge bill – even cotton, deemed as a natural fibre, can require 17 teaspoons of pesticides per t-shirt to increase crop yield.

Legislation protects consumers in the U.S. and most European countries, at least limiting the use of harsh chemicals in clothing. Australia, however, is still a dumping ground for irresponsibly made clothing.

Surely the fashion industry, which employs a sixth of the world’s population, knows the widespread damage caused to communities and their eco systems. As a clothing designer, I don’t see anything beautiful about making or wearing a garment tainted by an exploitative industry.

I am not saying we should all pick some cotton and start making clothes from scratch Ghandi-style, but we need to understand the true cost of garments and stop demanding ‘better dollar value’. We must cherish the clothes we already have, buy less and strive to buy organic or ethically produced. Let’s question our beloved mega stores and demand better labour laws. Instead of buying impulsively, make a conscious decision.

We need to wear our hearts on our sleeves and take pride in wearing clothing that rebuilds communities and empowers people. In the end, the customer is always right, and we are lucky enough to have the power to make this change.