Toronto, Canada: My journey uncovering the truths in fashion has truly transformed the way I live my life. It was the catalyst for more awareness all all areas of my life and make me a better, more mindful human being all around.
For the last three years, I have been running Chic Made Consciously (CMC), a sustainable fashion accessory company dedicated to style and sustainability. It all began when I pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone and traveled alone through South East Asia for 3 months. My journey through Ubud, Bali was the birth of my path into sustainable fashion. There, I met artisans who were upcycling tyres into fashion accessories, creating these pieces by hand with so much love and passion. Right in those moments, everything in me shifted as I realized I had never once considered where the things I bought had come from, what they were made of, or their environmental and social impact. I decided then and there that I wanted to work with the artisans and bring their goods to North America. But, more importantly, I wanted to be part of this movement of change, creating a better future for fashion.
As I started to grow CMC, I began to quickly expose more and more truths in the industry. Like any normal human whose being is built on empathy, there were definitely periods of overwhelm, upset and helplessness.
Soon after, I began to shift my perspective and use my business as an outlet to provides others with knowledge and inspiration. Instead of feeling powerless, I channelled my energy to build a community of people who also wanted to be part of a movement. I realized that working in collaboration with others in the industry could bring more awareness to consumers open to changing behavior and together we could create something bigger.
So, last year in 2017, I decided to create an online educational event called Wear The Change. It was a 20+ video lecture series where I interviewed experts in fashion, health, sustainability and wellness in order to bring more mindfulness to the way we consume. One of the inspirational experts I had the pleasure of interviewing was Andrew Morgan, the director of the brilliant fashion documentary, The True Cost.
What is this ‘true cost’ the film title eludes to? In the words of the director Andrew Morgan himself,
“There is a true cost to clothing that goes far beyond the price tag. We are currently at a place where we simply cannot continue to expand and accelerate the rate at which we buy use and throw out clothing without having very serious consequences.”
The reality is that clothing has become a disposable commodity. Historically, we invested in clothing that were worn and maintained for a long time. In the 1960s, for example, more than 90 percent of clothing was manufactured in the USA and now it’s roughly two percent. What we are seeing nowadays are 52-week cycles of trends compared with the traditional two to four seasonal cycles. In some big brand name stores, it’s possible to see new clothing released every day.
This fast fashion cycle has created human rights and environmental abominations of which customers either have no knowledge of or don’t take into consideration when purchasing a cheap garment. If you’re in the dark and want to learn more about these issues, I recommend you read our post, “Ethical Fashion 101: The Top 5 Ethical Issues in the Fashion Industry” which runs through these issues in detail.
Not everyone agrees that this unethical fashion system is problematic. Defenders will argue the following:
“These countries need to offer their people some sort of employment to alleviate poverty. Isn’t it better that they have a job rather than having no job at all? In the end, these business opportunities will help these countries develop and grow.”
That’s crap, in my opinion.
Exploitation like this does not empower people, it’s modern slavery. In our interview, Andrew correctly pointed out that we don’t actually see the wealth created from fashion manufacturing positively sustain these societies. And what of the environmental issues caused by clothing production?
“Where we choose to set the baseline in the fashion industry, is really where we are choosing to set the floor of what it means to be a human being, alive on this planet.” – Andrew Morgan
My interview with Andrew at times felt daunting and overwhelming, but he gave me hope. “I started to realize that not only am I inextricably linked to the world around me, but my choices actually contribute,” he shared. And he’s right. As he spoke of empathy, thoughtfulness and more about his own shift in consumption, he inspired me. When we open our eyes to the bigger picture, we really can make decisions that create a positive impact.
So, here are a few tips before you buy that next item:
1. Ask yourself: Do I really love this? If you love it you will hold onto it for a long time. If it’s something you are only going to wear a few times, then don’t buy it. Borrowing from a friend or from places like Rent the Runway are good options if you’re desperate for a new outfit .
“It isn’t about loving fashion less, it’s about loving it more. It’s that we have settled for fashion that is much less beautiful than it was intended to be.” – Andrew Morgan
2. Question everything. Where did it come from? Who made it? What kind of environment is this company creating? Be curious and do some research to find out more information about how the company operates.
3. Check for sustainable fabrics. Garments today are often made of cheap synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester, that when it hits landfill doesn’t actually biodegrade. This post about eco-friendly textiles and fabrics will help you determine what’s what.
It’s all about doing your best to be a responsible consumer. Andrew said it best when he said, “It’s not how can I make the perfect choice, but how I can make a better choice that is just a little bit closer to the person I say I want to be.”
To watch the full-length interview with Andrew Morgan or the entire educational video series, visit Wear the Change Movement Online Lecture Series.