Gosh I don’t quite know where to start with this feature. I have just finished watching “The True Cost”, a documentary about the horrific and detrimental effects of “Fast Fashion” on the environment and most importantly on human beings. It was recommended by an inspiring mama Kathryn, who owns the eco-friendly kids fashion label “The Smallest Tribe” and who I wrote about last week in regards to her brilliant Kickstarter campaign.
We are all aware of Fast Fashion and most of us would have a basic understanding of what this means, but did you know that the fashion industry is the 2nd most polluting industry after wait for it, oil. Oil! That statistic shocked me I have to say. With an annual turnover of $3 trillion annually, large corporations are putting profit before the environment and before their workers. There are approximately 40 million garment workers in the world today who earn less than US$3 a day.
I have advocated #madeinthecountryoforigin and #handmade on my blog from pretty much the beginning, not because I want to take wages away from workers in Bangladesh, India, Cambodia or China, but because with the fashion choices we make, we can contribute to a better world by not supporting the big corporations. By supporting small, we know where the money goes. We can use our wallets to provide a voice to these workers and their working conditions where they are subjected to harmful chemicals, long working hours, meagre wages just to name a few, because if we don’t start showing our protests with our wallets, the abhorrent conditions will continue.
However, I am not going to lie, I have in the past on many occasions, bought clothes for myself in particular, but also for the boys, which are cheap, mass produced, seasonal pieces of clothing. It is very hard not to buy these items which usually only last a season before they fall apart, because let’s face it $7 or $10 for a top is great on a budget! But cheap comes at a cost and after watching this film, I will be thinking again about that quick sale, cheap bargain or 2 for 1 discount because ultimately, we need to change our mindset. We need to make this change and we need to do it now.
We need to educate ourselves and think consciously about the next fashion purchase we make. Do we really need another t-shirt, pair of jeans or trainers? Is the item made under fair trade conditions, using Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic cotton or ethical production? Are we supporting small, local and knowing exactly who our money is supporting?
Why is organic cotton so important in the whole scheme of “Fast Fashion” you may ask? I certainly have asked this question, as I have seen GOTS, Oeko-Tex, all in relation to organic cotton. GOTS is the highest certification for organic cotton you can give which is recognised at an international level. They have 18 independent certified bodies globally who determine whether to give that GOTS certificate. However, this certification not only means the cotton is organic but as of 2008, it takes into account the whole manufacturing process ( production, procession, manufacturing, packaging, export, import etc) and looks not only at the environmental impact but the socio- economic one as well. It means that the workers and their facilities must maintain fair conditions and practices, in accordance with the International Labour Organization.
The majority of the GOTS certified organic cotton is produced in India and Bangladesh.
Organic cotton means that there are no harmful chemicals going into the production of the cotton and therefore the farmers and garment workers are not being subjected to harmful chemicals and pesticides, which are causing countless cases of birth defects, cancers and mental health issues. Pesticides and insecticides are also expensive and can cause cotton farmers to go into debt to try to maintain their farms.
Cotton farming uses a HUGE amount of water and that combined with the chemicals used in conventionally grown cotton farming, causes massive detrimental impacts to the environment in these countries.
We talk so much about organic food these days, but I am not sure we think enough about the harmful chemicals that are being used to produce cotton, and in many cases GM cotton, that produces so much of our fast fashion clothing. Our skin is our largest organism in the body and yet we are allowing it to be exposed to damaging pesticides. I have read that you need to wash your clothes 6 times or more before all the pesticides are removed, if you are buying non- organic cotton clothing.
GOTS certified means it must be at least 95% organic. If it is 70% organic, they can only label it “Made with Organic Cotton”. The cotton cannot be GM and it must be processed separately from conventionally grown cotton. The dyes and oils used must be biodegradable and free from phthalates and other synthetic agents.
I have to say I have learnt so much over the past week researching this feature. It has been a real eye opener for me. I thought I knew quite a lot about fashion, the environment, cheap labour and organic cotton production, but to be honest, I think this is only the very beginning. I appreciate you reading this feature as it has been a long one, and, if you take anything out of it, please let us be conscious in our decisions on what we buy for our next clothing purchase. Let’s choose quality over quantity. Where possible, let’s choose organic cotton clothing. And if that isn’t possible due to monetary reasons, then at the very minimum, don’t buy something to only wear it once.
Ask yourself will this be a piece of clothing you would like to hand down to the next generation and not something you will give to charity once the trend or fad has passed, or even worse something you throw in the bin after only a few wears? Are we supporting the consumerist machine or quelling it by supporting small, organic and locally made clothing?
I have started to research and write up companies that I have found that produce ethical, organic kids. Check in now and again as I try to add to it and make it into a comprehensive and useful list for anyone keen on changing the way they view and buy fashion.
Now go and grab a coffee or tea and watch “The True Cost”, you won’t regret it, although you may need a box of tissues to go with it.
All statistics and images used have been taken from “The True Cost”.
100% GOTS certified organic cotton
Anarkid www.anarkid.com.au ( designed and made in Australia)
Baobab www.baobab.com.au ( designed in Australia and made using fair trade conditions in India)
Bondon Organics www.bondonorganics.com (designed and made in Sweden)
Filemon Kids – www.filemonkid.com (designed in Sweden and made ethically in Turkey)
Gardner and the Gang – www.gardnerandthegang.com (designed in Singapore, made ethically in China)
Kira Kids – www.kirakids.com (designed and made in USA)
Sapling Child – www.saplingchild.com ( designed in Australia and made using fair trade conditions in India). Part of their profits go to supporting an orphanage in India, providing essential items and infrastructure for children aged 0 – 16.
Sienna and Me – www.siennaandme.com (designed and made in Australia)
The Smallest Tribe – www.thesmallesttribe.com.au ( designed and made in Australia)
Skra Design Sweden – www.skradesign.se (designed and made in Sweden)
Fabelab www.fabelab.dk ( designed and made in Denmark)
The Good night society www.thegoodnightsociety.com.au ( designed and made in Australia)