Fast Fashion’s Effect on People, The Planet, & You
Posted by FAMI LANE
So I start today with a couple of questions for you and, first off with a request, I'd like for you to take a look at the clothes and maybe the shoes that you're wearing right now or at least think about them for a second. Do you know who made these clothes? Do you know what that person was paid? Do you know what country they were made in if you're anything like me, the answer to that question is likely. No, this is the reality of the fashion industry. Today, an industry that has been completely defined by a lack of connection between the original producer of our goods and thus is the end consumer, but it wasn't always this way. In fact, a hundred years ago you knew the name of the shoe maker in town or the tailor seamstress. You probably knew him quite well in as late as the 1960s, 95 % of our clothes were made right here in the United States today. That figure is less than 3 % and as the distance from the production location to the purchase location of our products has grown. What is decreased is the amount of accountability and transparency in our supply chains. As you might imagine, this has had disastrous implications for people. The planet, and even us as the end consumer, what I'm curious to know is, does it have to be this way in order to dig into these issues and understand a bit further? The first thing we have to do is understand what exactly's happened and over the past several decades is. The world has continued to globalize trade barriers have softened, which is enabled major brands to jump from one country to the next, in pursuit of cheaper and cheaper materials and cheaper and cheaper labor. The result, as this chart depicts on the top line. This is a Consumer Price Index chart the price for all consumer goods combined, has grown by 70 % since the mid-1990s. Yet the price of our clothing, with the acceleration of fast fashion being introduced in the early 90s, has actually decreased by six percent and for any of you that ever have ever walked into one of these big-box retailers, with bright lights and booming music. And seeing these obnoxious price tags 15 dollars for a pair of pants twenty-five dollars for a sweater, we felt this change and for the industry cheaper, faster higher volume has meant great success as today. The fashion industry is a three trillion dollar industry, reaching its most profitable moment in history. Yet is my good friend Andrew Morgan asks in his film the true cost, who is bearing the brunt of the success of this industry? Well, that is the people making our products. The planet that we live in and ultimately us is the end consumer when it comes to you and me, the concept of fast fashion and these cheap prices make us believe that we're actually saving money that it's good for our wallets, but actually all that's happening is That we're buying more since the early 1990s average consumption has increased by 500 % and what's interesting about this, is that, while our closets may have gotten a little bit bigger since the early 90s, I don't think that they're physically five or six times the square footage That they once were, are they and I'd like to suggest that that is because the value of the products that we're buying the quality of the products we're buying, has gone right down with the cost, and this is one of the ways that fast fashion is fooled. Us again into believing that we're saving money when, in reality all we're doing, is buying more of a lower quality product but much more importantly, fast fashion today is destroying people in the planet and the fact is, we've been left completely unaware. Yet we are half of this equation: consumers when it comes to the planet what's going on breaks down into where our products are made, how they're made and where they ultimately end up. Regarding where they're made, while in the US we've established much more sustainable forms of energy, the vast majority of our products are made in the developing world in countries that are still largely dependent on the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. Coal, additionally, as depicted here by Zara's supply chain, the largest fashion retailer in the world oftentimes, our products are cut in one location assembled in another and have to cross multiple oceans before they end up in our hands. Comes to no surprise, then, that it's been estimated that the fashion industry is responsible by itself for 10 % of the world's carbon footprint. Next up how our products are made in order to get the textures and the colors that we love in our clothing requires a lot of chemicals and with very little regulation. These chemicals have gotten uglier and uglier over time and throughout the dyeing process a tremendous amount of fresh water is used and wasted, and often times as depicted here, these chemicals end up right back into our freshwater systems and regarding the materials being used. These have gotten worse and worse. Over time. I wish I could spend all day telling you about the woes of genetic, genetically modified cotton, but I'll focus on a fiber, that's man-made! That doesn't get quite as much attention and that's polyester. Polyester is now used four times as much as cotton. This is a man-made energy-intensive fiber. That'S made up of micro plastics that continue to find their way into our oceans and into our food systems. All of this adds up to the reality that the fashion industry is now the second highest polluter of fresh water and now another problem with polyester, as it's made up of micro plastics. What that's meant is that every single piece of polyester, that's ever been made, is still in existence today, which is how we end up with mountains of clothing like this in landfill fills, and if you think back on that five hundred percent consumption stat and the fact That our closets aren't much bigger. Maybe it's not that big of surprise, then that estimates range 50 to 85 pounds as being the amount of product that consumers throw out the door throw away each year and globally, 4 billion pounds of textile waste is put into landfills. Each year, so we think about how our products are made where they're made and where they end up. The grave reality is that it's estimated that the fashion industry is the second most polluted industry in the entire world. Today, behind only oil and when it comes to people, as I mentioned earlier, this search for cheaper and cheaper labor moving from one country to the next has created a race to the bottom. That'S now full of abuse in the supply chain. It'S created a natural house of cards that could literally collapse at any moment and to give an example of this I'd like to talk briefly about the country of Bangladesh. This is a government who has strategically kept their minimum wage at a low place so as to attract foreign investment for major apparel companies and from a capitalistic perspective. While this has been great because they're now enjoying one of the fastest growing economies in the world, the reality is that this house of cards actually did collapse on a world stage just a few years ago. If you recall the rana factory collapse, the Olly enterprises fire. They killed over 2,000 people and injured thousands, more all of whom were garment workers, making the clothes that we wear every day. Apart from these tragedies, a similar reality exists in the rest of the world. This is an industry where child labor and forced labor abound, and in countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka in India government's are legalizing a $ 70 wage minimum wage per month, which means that if you break that down, that's less just over $ 2 a day for the Producer thus systematically holding people in a cycle of extreme poverty. We, when we think about what's going on in our planet, what's going on the people in this supply chain, it begs an obvious question: could there be a better way? My co-founder Zoe and I started me solo not only to make beautiful products to compete with top names in the industry, but also to start a brand that would care for the producer and the end consumer, as well as the planet, by offering beyond Fairtrade wages, health Care and a healthy working environment, and by investing deeply in the well-being of our producers every day in the factory that we've built from the ground up, our team is trying to turn this vision of a different way into reality, rather than offering wages that are holding People in a cycle of extreme poverty on average new solar producers receive 30 % higher than Fairtrade and requirements rather than offering a working environment. That'S referred to today as modern-day slavery. We'Re investing deeply into the livelihoods of our producers in their families, offering things like financial literacy, training savings programs, professional development, training, skills, training, nutrition classes, health classes, English classes. The list goes on, and what we want to know is what would happen if this is what the rest of the industry looked like. A few results that are important to note are on average, these solo producers are receiving 140 percent higher annual income than what they received before they worked with me, solo and four women in our factory. That figure is a hundred and seventy three percent. What I'd like to know is what would happen in the rest of this industry? If this is the way things work, what would happen to future generations if this is what the industry looked like in another compelling stat? Is that, whereas for our shoe makers, 50 percent of them in their younger years had to leave, they could not graduate from a public high school because they had to leave and help put food on the table for their families. 100 percent of our shoe makers. Children are in school today, and 13 % of them are studying at university. All of them will be first time college graduates, not just in the history of their families, but in their communities as well - and I know what some of you might be thinking. It sounds great, fair trade, ethical fashion. We get it go ahead and show us some pictures of maybe some some crafty, looking sandals or perhaps if these products do look good, they must be obnoxiously expensive. These are the stereotypes we have to get rid of. These are pictures of me solo products. Every day our team is investing time into the quality and design of these products, knowing that only by competing with the top brands in the industry who are cutting corners left and right, will we be able to drive the change? That'S necessary and when it comes to our business model, we've cut out all the middlemen along the way we work directly with ethical factories and so directly through our website to you as the end consumer. This way we can offer a competitive price point and maintain healthy margins. The work that we're doing in many brands, like us, are doing right now in the industry, is beginning to challenge the assumption that our values and ethics have to be at odds with our personal style. Our consumption choices, but the reality is that's still the truth. In the most in most parts of the industry, but it doesn't have to be this way, and I'd like to suggest that change is realistic and here's a few reason why, first off, when we think about the labor cost, what would it take to create living wages At the bottom of the supply chain, well, if you think about the shirt you're wearing right now, the reality is that the end price that you're, paying only about one to three percent of that is given to the original producer. So we're not talking about big changes in prices or margins that brands are receiving when it comes to technology. We already have technology for cleaner forms of energy. We already have technology for better fibers than polyester. If I can pull my phone out and press one button and be facetiming with an HR manager in a factory on the other side of the planet, or I can press another button and know exactly how many feet of leather we have in stock thousands of miles Away then, I refuse to believe that we lack the technology to create better accountability in trance nc, all the way down the supply chain. When it comes to governments, we know they have the ability to enforce these change, but what they need is demand from the citizenship, and so what about consumer desire? Well, consumer studies show that 91 % of millennial consumers are willing to give an ethical brand. A try or change their brand loyalty if their sustainability and price and quality are comparable, and so I'd like to ask you a question: would you be willing to give an ethical brand to try if you had comparable price or quality or maybe even taking it a Step further, would you be willing to pay one to three percent more for the cost of your products if it meant the difference between extreme poverty and a living wage, [ Applause ]? The free market has always shown that, where there is demand, supply will be created in the way that we create. This demand is by turning these desires into action and as a consumer you're one of the most important stakeholders in this equation. So I'd like to leave you with a few things all of us can do to create this change first off stay curious and get involved. If there's anything, I've said today that has struck a chord with you. I encourage you to dive deeper into these issues, questioning the brands that you love understanding their methodology and process, and secondly, all of us can consume smarter. This may happen, first and foremost by taking better care of the products that we own, now being so bold as to shop secondhand or if you are going to buy from a new brand or new products, then choose an ethical brand. Look for third-party certification, like B Corp and Fairtrade fine brands. You can trust, and I don't want to hear the excuse that it's too hard to find. I encourage you to type the word sustainable or ethical into this incredible tool called Google and there's a strong chance that maybe the brand isn't perfect, but there's a strong chance that it's better than what you're purchasing today and in closing, maybe you're like me. Maybe you didn't grow up with a passion for the fashion industry at all. Maybe you don't think twice about the clothes that you put on each day, but what I want to encourage you think about is that, if you care about the cost per wear value in the quality of your products, if you care about the environment, if you care About climate change, if you care about poverty alleviation, if you care about women's empowerment or any of the other issues that I've brushed on today, I encourage you to look no further than the clothes you're putting on each morning and the purchases you're making each season and I'D like to close with an invitation knowing all this information, let's begin to work together to return fashion, to what it once was about people about art and valuing the producer and the planet just as much as we value ourselves as the end consumer. Thank you.
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