Naked. It’s how we come into the world, but we are almost immediately socialized to a lifestyle opposite that. For hygiene purposes alone I think this to be a good thing, but the process behind the tag on your shirt can be a bloody one.
I really like fashion. Every academic break I get involves altering/making/designing clothes of some sort. If there weren’t so many pressing problems in the world, I would seriously consider a career in fashion (or rap, or Eastern medicine…I digress). Aware of (some of) the appalling conditions of factories producing most of the clothes we buy, I went on a shopping fast for the year 2011. In that year I decided if I wanted something new, I could renovate something I already had. I learned a lot, and sewed a lot, but I am no seamstress and was eventually (after the fast, of course) in need of some new clothes.
Tansy E. Hoskins, author of Stitched Up, talks about how fashion is represented as an open operation where you can do what you want. Of course art and personal taste are relative, but how much originality is given to consumers?
She says that poor treatment of garment workers (many of which are children), severe environmental degradation, racial and gender discrimination, and a Western culture of over-consumption can all be blamed on capitalization. It dictates what we think we want, what we wear, what we spend to get it. The sick state of the fashion industry is not due to only one issue.
There are only a few corporations governing almost the entire fashion industry. Hoskins believes that they are what control the cultural heritage we have become accustomed to. This stifles the creativity in fashion and (directly or indirectly) destroys everything in its path.
Many retailers have become aware of their consumers’ ethical consciousness and have begun reporting on the ethical practices of their industry. While corporate social responsibility is a good practice, my cynical side believes many retailers use one example of their ethical ways to cover up the many factories that are not operated in a just way. I must acknowledge, however, the complexity of the situation and realize that complete change cannot happen within the span of two reports.
Something I recently learned is that American Eagle has several reports on how they are bring justice to the garment industry. Did you know American Eagle:
•takes your old denim jeans (from any store) and recycles them for housing insulation
•takes new, single shoes for individuals needing only one shoe, or different sizes of shoes
•takes broken jewelry to Materials for the Arts (MFTA) to provide free art material to charitable and educational programs
We all need clothes, I mean, the alternative is unclean and kind of awkward, but next time you think you hear that shirt calling your name ask yourself: do I need it? Maybe you do. If that’s the case, can you justify giving money to the corporation behind the shirt? Maybe you can, there are many ethically inspired retailers out there today, just look them up! And of course, one can always pull a Macklemore and go thrifting, cause $50 for a t-shirt, that’s some ignorant bull, yo.