Street Eco Fashion
How can it possibly be that cheap? Ever wondered about that when you bought a cotton tee-shirt at a flea market? Fashion consciousness is on the rise and so is the demand for ever changing product styles at cheap prices.
These low prices, however come at a cost, usually paid by poor labour working long hours, in terrible conditions in developing and under-developed nations.
More and more consumers are now becoming aware of this and are unwilling to wear clothes, the production of which is exploitative.
What is Street Eco Fashion?
Street Eco Fashion is reasonably priced, fashionable, earth-aware, ecologically conscious and human-sensitive clothing for the not-so-wealthy consumer. Even price-sensitive consumers are increasingly aware and unwilling to wear clothes that exploit. They are also willing to pay a marginal premium for this benefit.
Both high-end fashion designers and consumers all the way down the price scale are becoming sensitised to wearing ecologically conscious garments. What started as a fad in the nineteen-eighties is now being seriously attempted as an alternative way of life. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the ecological impact of their fashion decisions and altering their buying decisions as a result.
Since street fashion is fashion in bulk, it has everything to do with cheaper material and labour.
The ecological impact and human fallout of low priced street fashion
- Fast changing fashions bring something new to shop shelves every 3 weeks.
- Fashion magazines advertise catwalk fashions that can be purchased within as little as 6 weeks after release.
- These clothes are cheap, so people can afford to buy and change them frequently.
- Since labour is cheapest in poor and underdeveloped nations, it is here that these clothes are made by workers who work in terrible conditions, for minimum wage.
- Since the product is required so quickly, workers are forced to work extremely long hours in order to ready the product.
Denim Jeans and the argument for Street Eco fashion
Denim jeans are arguably the most widely worn street fashion item of clothing. In 1992 more than 210 million pairs of jeans were sold worldwide registering sales of $3.5 Billion. And that was 15 years ago! It is believed that 450 million pairs of denim jeans are sold annually in the US market alone. So logically, we can watch the development of Street Eco Fashion, by watching trends in jean wearing.
We can also better understand how our clothing impacts the environment if we follow the journey of a pair of jeans.
The journey of a pair of jeans
- Cotton growing: Since jeans are made of cotton, the first stage in the manufacture of jeans is cotton growing. While cotton is a natural product, it uses enormous amounts of pesticide- 25% of the world’s total annual usage to keep it pest free. This results in environmental damage and damage to farmers and livestock that live in close proximity to this crop.
- Weaving the fabric: Most modern day denim production is undertaken in power loom plants that have a huge carbon footprint.
- Dyeing the fabric: Denim was originally indigo dyed. Indigo is a natural vegetable dye that is no longer used for this purpose. Artificial indigo is a chemical dye and its use involves toxic chemicals harmful both to people and the environment.
- Bleaching and softening: Fabric treatments today ensure that our clothes are softer and have a better feel than earlier. This involves chemical treatment that further impacts our surroundings.
- Tailoring: Since labour is cheapest in the underdeveloped countries, most large chains have manufacturing units in these places. While this employment could actually benefit workers here, the actual pay is poor and work conditions are often terrible. This is a direct result of the demand for low price garments since low prices mean low wages.
- Packaging: Packaging for jeans is often in plastic and other non-biodegradable materials.
- Transportation: The jeans are normally sold far from the point of production. This means that the jeans are transported many thousands of miles, increasing fuel consumption, enlarging carbon footprint and adding to global warming.
- Retailing: Retail prices are low, so much less is paid to labour.
- Discarding: Since prices are so low, we can afford to buy more clothes, actually end up buying more clothes than we need and don’t think twice before discarding a pair of jeans that didn’t cost us much to start with. The discards end up in landfills that are becoming scarce, and contaminate the soil if the clothes are synthetic or if they have been chemically treated during the production process.
Each one of the over 350 million jeans sold last year has most likely taken this journey. This is just an illustration to show that if our purchases were more eco-sensitive, we could make a difference.
What can I do?
- Question extremely low prices
- Buy from producers that are known to be fair employers
- Avoid waste. Favour a few good quality clothes over many cheaper ones
- Choose to buy organic, fair trade, ecologically sensitive and sweat shop free products.
Street Eco Fashion Clothing and Brands
More and more mainstream producers of clothing are now putting eco-fashionable street clothing on their store shelves.
- Jeans: There are many manufacturers that produce eco jeans, organic cotton jeans and so on. Notable amongst them is Levis which launched its Eco jean range in 2006. Materials for the jeans are 100% organic cotton denim, the waist button is made of coconut shell, the fly buttons are metal and the dyes are made out of potato starch, mimosa flowers and Marseille soap. LEVI's Collections
- Jeans –Other brands: Rawganique’s Organic cotton and hemp jeans, Hemp Clothing, Hemp Products, Organic Cotton Linens and Grace and Cello Eco Jeans made of Organic cotton and bamboo fibre are often on sale at thegreenloop
- Tee shirts and tank tops: Gap has started retailing sweat shop free products and organic cotton tee-shirts. Nike has also joined the bandwagon.Read ORGANIC COTTON CLOTHING INDUSTRY BOOMING. The forerunner amongst all of these is American Apparel. There is also which does tops for women Under the Canopy and Turk and Taylor .
Street Eco Fashion site directories
There are several excellent websites that list street Eco fashion suppliers
Is Street Eco Fashion truly "green"?
- Gap and the sweatshop story. In spite of the fact that clothing majors like The Gap along with manufacturers like Nike are attempting to increase their percentage of organic and sweat shop free clothing, they are still dogged by controversy with regard to these issues. See Gap brand
- What about packaging? Packaging continues to be largely non-biodegradable.
- What about the carbon footprint of global eco brands? The economics of production and transportation for mass markets still dictate that products be manufactured in areas that provide cheaper labour. This means that fuel consumption remains high and so does the carbon footprint of these organisations.
Consumer movements for organic and fair trade produce
More and more ordinary consumers are banding together to demand that the fashion products they are offered for purchase are in keeping with an earth-aware and human-sensitive philosophy. Clothes for a Change Campaign
- The Organic Exchange Annual Conference in Monterey CA was held in Monterey, California in October/ November, 2007.