CONFRONTING OUR CLOSETS
ALEXIS MALEDY | December 10, 2016
HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE CLOTHES WE WEAR
Like so many women of my generation, my closet is filled with things I purchased on a whim: a sequin skirt I got for parties I don’t go to; a never-worn knit dress I bought for the sole reason that it was on sale; identical white tank tops because, you know, BOGO.
As a credit-card carrying member of the Forever 21 generation, my own closet is a testament to the power of strategic marketing in the age of consumerism.
Like so many men and women I know, I have lived season to season. And when the sweater I bought for $19.99 fell apart or out of style – it went the way of paper plates, one night stands, and used tampons; out of sight and not my problem.
USAgain, a multinational used clothing reseller dedicated to eliminating textile waste, states that Americans annually purchase five times as much clothing as they did two decades ago. Our insatiable appetite for the newest styles impacts every stage of the global-fashion supply chain.
According to a 2014 article in The Atlantic, it’s estimated that Americans alone send 10.5 million tons of textiles to landfills each year – releasing methane gas (a significant contributor to global warming), contaminating water sources, and presenting dire consequences for surrounding communities. Additionally, the Ashridge Centre for Business and Sustainability and Ethical Trading Initiative reports that of the 51 leading brands in the UK alone, 71 percent believe there is a likelihood of modern slavery occurring at some stage of their supply chains.
If we care about standing up for human rights, we can start by looking in the mirror.
Suddenly, that cheap sweater doesn’t look as good when we discover that it’s been stitched with global poverty, famine, environmental degradation, and abusive labour practices.
In order to confront the human rights issues within the fashion industry, we must confront our own closets and begin asking questions about the clothes we wear.
We must ask ourselves why we need it, and what price we are willing to pay. Because the chances are, if that t-shirt is costing you next to nothing, a man, woman, or child is being forced to work in unsafe conditions for less than what you’re willing to throw away.