Tag Archives: clothing industry

Fixing Fashion: A Framework to Make Sustainable Fashion the Industry Standard

Sustainable Fashion As the Industry Standard needs Action on All Levels

Sustainable Fashion: It Needs Action on All Levels

Often I am part of discussions on the best way to ‘fix fashion’. How do we move such a massive industry from the unethical, environment destroying beast that it is, to one in which sustainable fashion is just the industry standard? You know the drill – clean and clever and kind business.

People feel quite strongly that their own area of expertise offers THE best solution. This is an enduring reality of any specialty area, and why evidenced based decision making was introduced into medicine & healthcare in the 1970’s (more on how this relates later).  Recently questions have been raised about the actual impact of hashtag activism (notably #whomademyclothes). While the development of sustainable fashion brands and the rise of ethical consumerism have been critiqued (and counter critiqued) as an approach that will not work because it fails to address the complex global politics that are involved in making the industry what it is. Continue Reading →

Why Gender Neutral & Unisex Kid’s Clothes Can Actually Harm Girls

Why Gender Neutral Clothing is Harming Girls

Why Gender Neutral Clothing is Harming Girls

With an explosion of gender neutral lines for kids & babies* have you ever wondered who these clothes are really benefiting? There is it turns out a dirty truth in the supply chain of some ‘gender neutral’ clothing: the empowerment of girls in the west on the back of the misery of the world’s poorest women and girls.

 

Clothing is, at its Heart, a Business Propelled by Women & Girls Continue Reading →

3 Ways to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Your Wardrobe Without the Costs

150709 3 ways to green your wardrobe

When we think about problems in the way clothes are made we think mainly about the ethics – the people who make them and how they are treated. This is a really serious concern, but just as serious, is the environmental footprint of our clothing. 

Recently Sam Judd from Sustainable Coastlines, highlighted the problems with plastic (polyester) in clothing – the pollution their production creates and the plastic fibers they shed into the environment  when they are washed.

It is true that plastic based fabrics are pretty horrid, they can be made from recycled plastics, which has some benefits over new polyester fabric in terms of the environmental footprint – but this does not prevent micro plastics being shed into the ocean. Frankly, given the environmental problems with plastic generally, why buy something with plastic in it if you can buy something that is just as functional, if not more functional, without it?

Natural fibres like cotton and wool, hemp etc are often touted as being preferable: there are some buts. Non organically grown cotton uses a huge amount of water in production, a lot of pesticides on the crop (which ends up in the soil, and eventually the bodies of farmers and their children) and the fabric dying process creates a vast amount of toxic water waste, which in countries without strict regulation is pumped directly into waterways untreated, creating a toxic soup in local water supplies and eventually the sea.

Wool (a supposedly natural and environmental friendly fibre) has to be cleaned (a sheep wore it through bushes and pooed on it before you got it you know). Such cleaning (called scouring) is mostly done with harsh chemicals to dissolve the dirt, chemicals which again end up in local waterways in China, India, Bangladesh and other textile producing developing countries.

HOWEVER, not all is lost! There three main ways to ensure that the clothing in your wardrobe has as little impact on the environment as possible (apart from producing it all yourself that is!)

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All Worn Out. Where Do Donated Clothes Really Go?

Where do your used clothes go? The Kids might have something to say about this!

Where do your donated clothes go? The kids might have something to say about this!

If you donate clothes to charity – where do they really end up? Sophie Bond (1) considers fashion’s second life.

There’s a green t-shirt that lives bundled on our bedroom floor. It has been my husband’s second skin for years. It is faded and threadbare, its hem wavy and stretched, the logo cracked, peeling and split by a gaping hole. When worn, it literally provides a window into his soul.

It is a shirt that causes wives to despair, grandmas to blush and supermarket cashiers to enquire as to whether he’s living rough (yes, really).

One day he’ll give in, and it will be torn up for rags. It will have truly done its dash.

Few garments are worth keeping forever: perhaps a delicate christening gown or a commemorative sports jersey will make the cut. Some faithful clothes will give us years of service. Others end up in the bin much sooner.

Tastes and bodies change, drawers and wardrobes overflow and eventually, it’s time to have a clear-out.

In our household, this involves me going room to room, rummaging out the tired, unworn and too small and filling bags for the local opportunity shop*.

My problem is that I leave the shop bearing just as many goods as I donated, but that’s another story.

 The mystery of the big blue clothing bin

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I’ve Got a Golden Ticket. What I Learnt About Fair trade & Women’s Education in India

I love Charlie and the Chocolate factory; Roald Dahl’s stories infuse my memories of childhood. His world was filled with irrigable grown-ups, clever but terribly misunderstood children, fantastical gob-stopping sweets and great miracles, and when I was small they appealed immeasurably to my understanding of how life worked – when the only time that mattered was how long until I was finally big. The dream of getting a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory, that land of childhood fantasy (and nightmares) is something that has never quite left me. To this day I wistfully hope for a little glimpse of the shiny golden stuff whenever I open a bar of chocolate (fairtrade naturally).

In November 2014 we headed to India to trace the journey of muka kids fairtrade organic cotton, from cotton seed to garment. That journey started in rural India, in the state of Orissa and in the villages of the cotton farmers who are part of the Pratima Agro fairtrade cooperative there. I want to tell you a little bit of the story of the women & girls I met  in those villages, and why I left there feeling like Charlie Bucket – like I may have already got the golden ticket.

Rural Orissa. North East India

Rural Orissa. North East India

It was hot in Orissa, not dripping, searing heat, as this was India in winter, but still 30c or so, and dry, so dry. In this dry warm winter, India has an intriguing colour pallet. The earth and dust is brick red, and the sky is a wash of colour, gentle and soft, the green of the rice crops is iridescent, and birds alight like tiny shimmering jewels on the trees. Rural India is an achingly beautiful place, but its beauty belies its harsh reality. Continue Reading →

The Great Indian Journey

In one week we are off to India on our producer journey. A journey that has been made possible by those super people who supported our spark my potential crowdfunding campaign. The generosity of people during (and following) just blew me away, and made something that looked a long way away (and was kind of an abstract idea), utterly possible. So let me just say again thank you to you all for both your resources and your positive messages about muka kids attempts to do things a new way.

So what is this trip all about? It is about two things:

Ready to tell the story

Ready to tell the story

1) Documenting the footsteps of muka kids clothing production chain, from the growing of the cotton in fairtrade organic farming cooperatives right through to the making of the clothing in ethical factories at both ends of the country (and everything in between).

AND more importantly

2) Giving you the opportunity to really see how a social enterprise like muka kids can have a significant impact on real women, their families and their lives. We hope to show you that by supporting muka kids you are not just a part of some abstract solution for some imagined people on the other side of the world, but the key to creating a new story for real people (women and their families) in India. That is the good stuff we are there to get. Continue Reading →

Why are ethical kids clothes so expensive?

Why are most kids clothes that you buy so costly and especially ethical kids clothes?

Well a lot of it is to do with the way they are made. Lets start with standard kids clothing. There are A LOT of stages in the long journey from a cotton seed to garment (most kids clothing is made of cotton or cotton mix) and for every step in that journey there is a cost. Here is a pictogram neatly summarizing all the steps in how cotton clothing gets made. Needless to say it is long, with lots of people involved and lots of processing. It is kind of interesting in a ‘how stuff works’ way.

Anyway, what exactly are all these costs and at what points in the chain do they apply? The following infographic sums up the costs nicely….

 

 non ethical kids clothes are costly is many ways

costly huh?

So, at every step there are some serious costs in production. Costs borne mainly by women, by children and by the environment.

So I know you get that I am being ironic to make a point, and that I am kind of beating you over the head with my lack of subtlety. I cannot disagree. But for all my lack of subtlety the point is, I think, an important one. We often talk about the cost of kids clothes (standard AND ethical kids clothes), only in relation to our immediate cash flow, what is in our bank account at the time we are needing to re-dress whatever particular child has worn a hole, grown 2cm, or beaten a piece of clothing into submission. Continue Reading →

The Production of Cotton Clothing (A Lot of Ethical & Environmental Craziness): Part 2 of 3

Last week I posted an infographic outlining the basic process of cotton clothing production (Where Does your Cotton Tee Come From?). Understanding where our goods come from is interesting stuff just from a ‘how cool is that?” perspective, anyone seen how online supermarket stores operate? What understanding the production chain also does is lift the veil on HOW the stuff we buy is made, and so helps us decide how comfortable we are with what those processes mean for people and the environment.

So, further to the basics of the cotton clothes production process I want to draw attention to where things seem to have gone pretty pear shaped. I want to show (using additions to the original infographic) where in the process costs are cut and how. These are cuts that enable us to buy seriously cheap clothes (and lets face it some not so cheap because even high end fashion producers use the same process), and ensure some large textile & fashion businesses bring in handsome profits.

I have worked to verify all claims with valid evidence & reports , and for the interested reader there is a pretty extensive reference list (yeah yeah do an eye roll, I am a geek). If anyone sees any gaping holes, or has some evidence they think is more substantial or valid do swing it my way!

PS. I will follow this blog up with a final instalment on tangible solutions. So all is not lost, despair not people…..

 

Infographic: Environmental & Ethical Craziness in Cotton Clothing Production

Infographic: Environmental & Ethical Craziness in Cotton Clothing Production

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Where Does your Cotton Tee Come From? Part 1 of 3

Cotton clothing production is complex. Cotton clothing production involves many people. Cotton clothing production is resource intensive. There is room for improvement. Significant room.

In an earlier blog I discussed what buying certified fair trade cotton clothing actually means. In that blog I skipped over the complexities of the cotton production process for the purposes of brevity. Now I want to lay out exactly what the supply chain for cotton clothing in India (where muka kids clothes will be made) looks like. The purpose being to help highlight the complexity of the process, the huge numbers of workers involved and to lay the ground work for talking about where exactly in that chain ethical and environmental issues crop up and how they can best be countered. Right, no further words, just a picture (all be it with lots of words!).

 

Infographic. Cotton Production in India.

Infographic. Cotton Production in India.