I love H&M and Zara as much as the next girl, but the truth is “fast fashion” brands like these are harming our health and our world. The business model of these fast fashion brands is to deliver on trend fashion at a very low price to consumers. What results is a low quality product (albeit one that looks great), that is affordable in the short run, but has been designed to fall apart quickly in order to be replaced by the next trendy garment. Zara develops a new line every two weeks and produces 850 million garment pieces every year. The cheap price point of these garments make them disposable and they are clogging up our landfills. In general, 80 billion pieces of clothing are manufactured each year. 3 out of 4 of these garments will end up in a landfill or incinerated. Only one quarter will be recycled. What’s worse is that these cheap garments are made with extremely hazardous chemicals that pollute our air and waterways during the manufacturing process. Not to mention you are placing these chemicals directly on your skin! And lest you think I’m being an alarmist, here is a STUDY done by Greenpeace that details the dangers hidden in these clothes. Here are just a few examples:
- NPE’s are a group of chemicals that are considered to be endocrine disruptors and have a negative effect on the immune system. They are HIGHLY toxic to aquatic life.
- Phthalates. If you read my post on PERFUME then you know how dangerous phthalates can be.
- Amines from AZO dyes. These AZO dyes are used to color the fabrics and the amines that they create have been proven to be cancer causing.
- PBDE’s which are chemicals found in flame retardants. I talk about the significant dangers of these in my non-toxic nursery post.
So while I’m not quite ready to completely give up these brands(I’m a girl on a budget), I am focusing on buying brands that are considered conscious brands and have a policy of sustainability and giving back to their communities and the world at large. It costs more money without question, but these are pieces that are made with true craftsmanship and will last you a long time. In the end if I add it all up, the amount I spend on one well made item that I will keep for many years, is probably the same as I might spend in a month at Zara on a few poorly made garments that will last me six months to a year if I’m lucky. And quite frankly, not only is the quality better, but the design is far superior than what you will find at any fast fashion store.
ACE & JIG
Ace & Jig is one of my absolute favorites right now. They are based out of Brooklyn NY, and all of their clothes are made with their yarn dye fabric that is hand-woven in India on ancient wooden hand looms. According to their website, they believe in fair labor practices and the manufacturers provide free childcare for their workers, and they also use reclaimed water to grow organic produce for their employees. These clothes are textured and rich and these are pieces you will keep for years. Love Ace & Jig.
Reformation is having a moment right now. The line designed by Yael Aflalo is being worn by everyone from Rihanna to Olivia wilde. It is the current “it girl” fashion line of choice. Its celebrity following aside, what truly makes this brand amazing is its commitment to sustainability. They use an efficient and eco-friendly factory that minimizes their waste, energy use and carbon footprint. They use what they call “offsets” to further reduce their environmental impact. They look at the lifecycle of a garment from the growing of plant fiber for the material, to the dyeing of the garment, and calculate the emissions and water waste. They then “offset” the impact by planting forests and investing in clean water solutions. They pay their employees above the minimum wage, and half of their employees make above the LA living wage. They provide a garden with organic produce for their employees and use the gray water from washing their garments to water the garden. Doing this recycles 80,000 gallons of water per year. They provide health benefits to full time employees and also encourage community service. Their packaging is made from 100% recycled paper and is plastic free. And when you are done with your Reformation garment you can send it back to the company to be recycled. I could go on and on about this line because there are SO many things that they do to be ethical, conscious and sustainable. Please go to their website to learn more.
Christy Dawn is a line designed by Christy Dawn out of Los Angeles. The line consists of vintage inspired dresses all made with “deadstock” fabrics. Deadstock fabric is fabric left over from other fashion houses who overestimated their needs. Generally this extra fabric ends up in a landfill. Christy Dawn takes this fabric and recycles it into these amazing dresses. They only create a limited number of dresses to avoid overproduction. This also makes their pieces extremely unique which I love. Your not going to see five other women at the party in the same dress. Every dress they make is numbered, and made with love. I want every single one of the dresses below.
FORTRESS OF INCA
Of course we can’t forget shoes! Fortress of Inca is a company based out of Austin Texas, that sells beautiful leather shoes that are hand crafted in Peru using Incan textiles, premium natural materials and sustainable production. They take great care to ensure that their employees are cared for by providing fair wages, healthcare, paid maternity leave, and social security. They personally audit all of their factories to make sure their standards are being upheld. All of the leather is sourced locally and is a by product of the meat industry that might have otherwise been turned into organic waste. These shoes are beautiful and the quality is impeccable.
So in the words of Vivienne Westwood “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everybody’s buying far too many clothes.”