“You bought that t-shirt for 50 dollars, are you crazy?” Nope, I am not, together with all others like me. We are just trying to be better consumers.
I think I am more informed about this topic than the average person, but I’m not an expert at all. That’s why I will leave the word to some experts in the videos below (I highly recommend them).
In the end, this is just my personal idea, which I made from my personal studies (I studied design), informing myself with books, online, and on magazines.
I’ll explain it not-citing some world-known company. So I can be totally open, without being against or in favor of a particular brand, but if you want a suggestion I can give you, reach me on my facebook page or write a comment.
There will be a “cheap scenario”, and an “expensive scenario”. I’ll be very practical and philosophical at the same time.
Fast-fashion clothing (cheap)
You can buy a t-shirt for 10 dollars. Maybe there is some nice printing or funny writing. You like it, you buy it. It’s just 10 dollars. Simple. And easy.
If you buy cheap clothes, probably your wardrobe is full (and you have nothing to wear, right?). But because you bought every piece for 10 dollars, you can have 10 of them and you spent “just” 100 dollars. Usually, a cheap t-shirt is made of non-organic cotton or some kind of cheap polyester (plastic). Behind that t-shirt, there are two particularities which I personally hate, and everybody should hate. Labor exploitation and pollution.
Labor exploitation in the fast-fashion
Just because of this, you shouldn’t buy them. I mean, your 10 dollars are contributing to pay some nice folk who is working really hard, to not be paid enough to survive and have a healthy and happy family. And don’t tell me if you don’t buy even that t-shirt, that person will not even have a meal. If you buy exactly the same t-shirt made by a certified fair trade company, maybe that person will have that meal and even a decent house where to live with the family.
One-to-six people of the world are working on the apparel industry. 80% are women. 98% are not receiving a living wage. Do I need to say anything else?
During my travels, I met a really nice person who was working 12 to 13 hours per day in a clothing factory for 250 dollars per month, and she had a kid to care about, in another country. She was one of the most-smiling person I ever met. But just looking in her eyes, I was able to see the sadness and the disappointing for a world (or better, a society) which is not caring about the people.
Pollution in the fast-fashion
Talking about pollution, every piece of clothing, like everything else, have an impact (a big one, in this case) on the environment, when is made, used and then thrown away. Just to sum up, the apparel industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. It contributes, a lot, to climate change and pollutes our rivers and oceans with toxic chemicals, besides wasting a lot of water to make clothes. Did you ever ask yourself how many liters of water are wasted to make a pair of jeans, or how many chemicals are needed to dye them or which toxic procedure is needed to make them enough soft to wear and where all these toxics are going?
For example, the cheap polyester textile is a very polluting plastic made of fossil fuel and it’s not biodegradable. Another example? Cotton is the fourth largest pesticide consuming of our soil. I think you know how pesticides are bad for our environment and our health.
I will link, at the end of the post, some nice TED talks and videos which explain in the details the impact of the fast-fashion. I really recommend watching them to know how the apparel industry is ruining many lives, including ours, believe it or not.
Pros of fast-fashion
- Cheap, in the short term. If you are a budget traveler, that’s good, you can buy another ticket for another destination. But be aware that, buying cheap, you spend more in the long term.
- Because it’s cheap, you can wear a lot of different styles and be “different” every day (you are still you anyway).
Be aware that this trend is created by the marketing of these companies which want to create a new “need” to live in society. A person who wears the same things all the time can be pointed as a poor, a dirty or a person without taste. So, the average quantity of clothing we own is increased constantly in the last years (guess why and who benefits from it).
If you are a traveler, you don’t really care to have different styles, you are in a city one day with some people and the other day in another city with other people, nobody will know it.
Cons of fast-fashion
- Toxic materials, yep, they use toxic materials;
- Can create skin problems. Nice to have on traveling, right?;
- Deteriorate immediately, especially the seams, so you have to buy more and more, spending more money and polluting more. If you are a traveler, you don’t want your clothes ruined after a week. Do you know that 90% of apparel brands don’t know where the materials of their clothes are coming from?;
- Create microplastics which can pass through your skin, going to your organs, and can even be breathed. There are few scientific research which says that but it’s really difficult to understand the real impact these tiny particles have on us, on the environment and animals, you can deep this argument just googling it. For example, when you wash them, the microplastics are entering in our water systems and in our oceans. And they are consumed by fish, and guess who eat fish?;
- Usually not comfortable. We sweat much more with these cheap textiles and we don’t feel at ease with them, you can’t move comfortably because of not stretchable and stiffness textiles. If you are a traveler, you want to be comfy all the time to be on the move more and don’t be bothered by your own clothes;
- Heaviness, cheap textiles are usually very heavy and to keep you warm they need to be heavier with more quantity of material. If you are a traveler, it means heavier luggage, more pain on your shoulder, more fees to pay to the airlines’ companies;
- The bad tactile feeling;
- Very bad for the environment;
- The bad aesthetics, you can usually see if the cloth is made from a good or bad material;
- They smell immediately, so you have to wash them more which is more expensive in the long-term and environmentally unfriendly. If you are a traveler sometimes you are not able to have a shower every day but you still want to hang out with people you meet around. That nice guy/girl you met after an entire day around in a hot city is going away, guess why? Just kidding 😀 Anyway, maybe you just want to hike without smell too badly.
Thoughtful clothing (expensive)
I’m not saying that expensive is good and cheap is bad. Not at all. I’m saying that thoughtful design, good materials, and a brand with ethical and sustainability in mind have a higher economic cost, necessarily. There are expensive clothes, a lot actually (maybe the most majority of them), which are made with just a better material with a very well and known fashion brand put on it. But they still impact a lot the environment and exploits cheap labor. This should be avoided even more than just cheap clothes.
Ok, so you buy a t-shirt for 50 dollars from an ethical and sustainable brand. You know where it comes from, it impacts the environment as less as possible and pays a fair wage to the people who work in the supply chain. If it’s designed for outdoor or with performance in mind, you can even wear it for more days resulting even more environmentally friendly, and you have to pay less to wash them. Plus it will last longer.
Just try to check where the things you buy are exactly from. Try to search for the companies which explain where and how a product is made, and obviously, search for certifications on fair trade and environment.
Pros of thoughtful clothing
- Built with quality in mind, that means they last longer and you buy less, creating less environmental issues;
- They are comfortable, designed for the people who wear them. You can move freely, very important when you want to reach your backpack at the bottom of the hold of the bus;
- Perform better: lightweight, stretchable, wrinkle-free, dry-fast. You can walk more with less energy. If you don’t believe me try to hike with a cheap cotton t-shirt on, and then do the same hike with merino wool t-shirt which moves away your own moisture. And plus, if it’s wrinkle-free you don’t need to iron that beautiful shirt you bought and have been inside your messy luggage. They dry faster, wash in the evening, and you’ll find them dried in the morning, very useful when you change places all the time;
- Good tactile feeling;
- Aesthetics, you can see a good material when you see one;
- Practical, I have to add something?;
- Versatility, you can wear the same thing with different purposes, extremely important to reduce the (weight of the) stuff you are carrying around the world;
- Having fewer clothes in your wardrobe, because they are more expensive, means that you are actually wearing all of them;
- You really like your clothes, because it’s expensive to buy, you don’t buy just because it costs 10 dollars, you buy because you really like it, and so you will wear it happily;
- Environmental conscious.
Cons of thoughtful clothing
- Pricey, but just in the short term!
I really want to leave to you the conclusions. Everybody is different and think different, but I really hope that people will start to buy less, better and consciously. Because as Mies van der Rohe said…
Less is more
A good short video (5min) to have an overview of what’s going on. Made by TeenVogue.
A long detailed TEDx talk (18min) to understand better the impressive negative impact of the apparel industry. Made by TEDxPiscataquaRiver.
A short video (6min) if you want to see inside a recycling plant, a fashion blogger opinion and an interesting solution (rent clothing). Made by The Economist
Always curious, keep exploring, Wo/a\nder
I believe in credits when I don’t use my things, so here it is. Pictures in order, by: