When I read that the average woman has $550 of unworn clothing and 20% of her closet has never been worn… I didn’t want to believe it. And I really didn’t want to think that I was one of the women. I am though.
I wanted to feel relieved by discovering I am not the only person who has overlooked the environmental impact of this (not to mention financial), but I certainly was not relieved. There is a reason for this unfortunate norm. Fast fashion companies actually design clothing to fall apart quickly. The industry term (that’s right, industry term) is “planned obsolescence.”
Clothing is purposefully designed to quickly go out of fashion, wear out, fall apart, or - by definition - become useless. This has caused global clothing production to double in the past 15 years.
I find this completely disgusting.
In February 2017, Bridget and Becky were similarly jolted when they learned what “their” industry was all about. The two had been attending industry trade shows to get the hang of owning a clothing company. While at a huge trade show in Las Vegas, where brands from all over the world were selling their garments to buyers and boutique owners, these facts hit them really hard.
Becky and Bridget had chosen to attend a selection of panels specifically on ethical practices and sustainability…
The two exited their selected break out panels with fresh exposure to some pretty harsh realities. And they didn’t have to use their imaginations… because all around them, in two massive convention centers connected by bus, Bridget and Becky saw first hand the cheap fabrics, the “made in...” tags, the poor quality, and the exceptionally short-lived fashion fads.
“We were totally paralyzed and overwhelmed,” Becky says, “The only thing we could think to do was sit down, have a glass of wine and try to re-collect ourselves.”
The two compared their notes, which included disturbing facts like the following:
- Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned.
- Approximately $500 billion in value is lost every year due to rarely worn and/or rarely recycled clothing.
- It takes 20,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of cotton - equivalent to a single t-shirt and pair of jeans (according to the World Wildlife Fund)
- According to a milestone study, 85% of the human-made material on shorelines were microfibers matching those in nylon and acrylic clothing. (Read this article in the Guardian to learn more.)
Bridget and Becky knew they couldn’t continue on like the other brands and actively ignore these facts. NOVAA, they decided, was going to move toward sweatshop free and earth friendly – a sustainably run business needs both of these things.
In the previous blog, I raised a somehow “forgotten” true fact...
Even if we don’t look into these sweatshops each day, they are still there. The workers are still *people* even though we can’t see them because they are in a different location….
How do we still not get this?
The fashion industry is not just about looking “fresh and fun” or having “the perfect fit for the perfect figure”…. (etc), as the ads would like us to think. By ignoring basic facts, they are hurting people’s real lives and actual environments – in a lot of countries.
One truth that deeply disturbs me is a “popular anecdote” in the fashion industry:
“[F]armers living in parts of China joke about being able to tell what colour will be ‘in’ next season – by looking at the shade of their rivers,” reports Refinery29. Learn more in the award winning documentary “RiverBlue.”
But honestly, the following truth is the one I lose sleep over:
“250,000 Indian cotton farmers have killed themselves in the last 15 years due to the stress of debt they accumulated through buying genetically modified cotton seeds to keep up with demand.” – The True Cost
This fast fashion obsession with “staying on trend” has gotten way, way out of control. Just like I hope these facts stay in your mind as a consumer, they stayed in Becky's and Bridget’s minds. And these two ladies acted on their values. In November 2018, they came out with their first sustainable product. Since then, they’ve expanded their collection to include the following:
1. The Lotus Scarf – using natural dyes and made out of natural fibres derived from bamboo (they are OEKO TEX Standard 100 Certified).
2. The Hi-Lo Dolman – handmade in Kansas City out of 100% cotton, the hi-low design makes it perfect for jeans or leggings and the cuffed sleeve gives it a little extra personality.
3. The True Dolman – also handmade in Kansas City, the True Dolman is an elevated basic made out of modal, a buttery soft, ribbed fabric that is a natural fiber, breathable and biodegradable.
These items were such a hit that the NOVAA founders knew the clear way forward…
NOVAA is continuously working to grow their selection of both ethically and sustainably sourced clothing to fulfil their mission. And to do this, they work to know exactly where everything comes from – and all of the details in between.
So let's love the farmers and the workers, and invest in quality fashion we can love too.
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