Weekly Wear: Spring Transitions

The middle of May is always a tricky part of the season. The mornings are still cool but the afternoons are hotter than ever! It can be tough figuring out what to wear these days. How can you stay comfortable all day when there is such a range in the weather?

We love our Backyard Tunic for its versatility!

 Backyard Jumpsuit in Sage, Dropcloth Shawl in Charcoal

Backyard Jumpsuit in Sage, Dropcloth Shawl in Charcoal

In the morning, pair your jeans with the Backyard Tunic and add a scarf, like our Dropcloth Shawl! It's just the right amount of cozy and comfortable for a cool spring morning. We paired it all with mules to complete the look. Cute and casual, but put together.

 Backyard Tunic in Sage, styled with mules and a sunhat

Backyard Tunic in Sage, styled with mules and a sunhat

In the afternoon when the sun gets stronger, simply take off your jeans and wear the Backyard Tunic as a dress! Keep the mules, ditch the scarf, roll up the sleeves a bit, and add a sunhat! Your look has transformed, you won't overheat, and you can even wear it through the rest of the afternoon and into the evening for a dinner date (but maybe keep your scarf around when the sun goes down!)

Shop Now:

Backyard Tunic
from 150.00

The high price of cheap labor

by Joshua Newman

Fashion Revolution week brought a flurry of debate and discussion about the state of fashion, its processes, and its purpose. Fashion is a key player in the global economy, and staying informed about the global economy helps to make informed purchasing choices. The issues of labor exploitation reach far beyond fashion. Manufacturing jobs have been steadily leaving the US as wages rise, and they’re going wherever businesses can get away with paying as little as possible. As we move into May, International Workers’ Day couldn’t be more appropriate following the call to action of Fashion Revolution.

conscious clothing

Products are designed to cost as little as possible to make, but sell for as much as consumers are willing to spend, often more. Society has a skewed view of physical labor that demeans its worth. In reality, physical labor is the primary skill of a large number of people and they need to be able to live off of their ability just to do work. Our hands are valuable resources and we should be able to capitalize on them in this economy, and so should everyone else. However, an enormous number of people across the world have the motivation to learn and work and are told that somehow, for some reason their hands are worth less than ours.

With a slow rise in corporate transparency, the vulgar effects of cheap production are no longer swept under the rug, but are still largely swept out of mind. It’s difficult to empathize with an individual on the other side of the planet, to envision their life and imagine their feelings, to understand that they’re the exact same kind of unique individual that you are. It’s easier to see a $4 shirt in a store, know human hands were involved in making it, and wonder how $4 pays them for their work, the shipper for the shipment, the designer for the idea, the office manager for writing emails to the supplier, the supplier for making the fabric, and the rest of the supply chain to get the product right in front of you.

  image via inhabitat.com

image via inhabitat.com

"Society has a skewed view of physical labor that demeans its worth."

New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist factory tragedy in 1911 saw a massive fire kill 146 workers who had been locked inside the factory during working hours. The Haymarket Affair in Chicago in 1886 saw a labor demonstration turn violent as a bomb killed 4 protestors and 7 police and resulted in over 100 arrests. These events were the direct result of labor issues at the forefront of America’s collective mind during a time when the Industrial Revolution had been driving large-scale mass production.

In the late 19th century, this awareness led to systemic change that resulted in workers’ unions, workers’ rights and protections, minimum wages and working hours caps. People began to consider things like living wages, reasonable work expectations, and labor ethics. Ethics, however, is different from culture to culture and person to person. One can’t develop and standardize a system for labor ethics based on a quality that can’t be conclusively defined.

However, the issues have shifted from present-day view, only to land on foreign shores and drive market prices down. Many countries where production labor is king are viewed as “poor” countries. It’s not because the people aren’t working, it’s because a vast majority of Americans and Europeans who enjoy cheap products want to keep enjoying cheap products. For this to happen, there has to be cheap labor, and for their to be cheap labor, we just have to pay them next to nothing.
 

"It’s difficult to empathize with an individual on the other side of the planet, to envision their life and imagine their feelings, to understand that they’re the exact same kind of unique individual that you are."

  image via inthesetimes.com

image via inthesetimes.com

It’s not that we couldn’t pay more for things, it’s that we don’t want to. We exist in a culture that constantly convinces us what we have is old and outdated and what we need is new and in stock. Buying new things all the time is expensive so the cheaper, the better. Cheaper for us is worse for everyone else. The people who work these factory jobs still have families to feed, clothe, and house. They don’t have the money for new clothes, hobbies, or drinks with a friend.

While fashion isn’t the only industry to struggle with workers’ rights, it’s slowly become one of the most impactful. Fashion’s role in our lives intimately keeps us in tune with culture and society. Fashion isn’t a product, it’s an extension of our bodies, our “chosen skin.” Fashion is what we use to represent us and it reflects our experience. The human experience is what binds us all together, and we should do whatever possible to make everyones’ collective experience the best it can be. Businesses that strive to do things differently are the cornerstone of what makes capitalism a valuable economic system. These new ideas and solutions are what will ultimately drive us forward.

Every purchase is an investment not only in the use of the product, but everything that went into making it, even if it’s a seemingly small amount like $1.20 for toilet paper or $4 for a shirt. Ultimately, it’s not the individual purchase that’s going to affect any kind of change, but change always starts small, so start with your own purchase and then help your friends and family understand the importance of buying ethically-made products. Eventually, revenue will shift, business will take notice, and changes will result. All of us at Conscious Clothing challenge ourselves not just as a business to produce something that’s better, but as individuals to invest in a positive present (and future) for everyone, and to spread mindful consumer culture to those around us. Purchase better, feel better, live better.

"...it’s not the individual purchase that’s going to affect any kind of change, but change always starts small, so start with your own purchase and then help your friends and family understand the importance of buying ethically-made products."

 Conscious Clothing is proudly made in the USA at our light-filled Michigan studio

Conscious Clothing is proudly made in the USA at our light-filled Michigan studio

Weekly Wear: Mother's Day Weekend

When we thought about a product to highlight for Mother's Day Weekend we had a few things in mind:

+ a dress that would be easy and comfortable to wear for a variety of Mother's Day activities, like a brunch or a day in the park

+a dress that looks great on many different body types, to celebrate mothers and women at every stage (whether that's pregnancy, postpartum, decades of motherhood experience, or even daughters who are not mothers at all)

+a dress that features our signature snap placket for easy nursing!!

 Our Riva Snap Dress shown here in White, Sky, Ginger, and Clay - available in more colors!

Our Riva Snap Dress shown here in White, Sky, Ginger, and Clay - available in more colors!

Voila! The Riva Snap Dress is the perfect dress for Mother's Day Weekend!

We love it for all of the reasons mentioned above, plus it comes in an amazing selection of Organic and European linen that gets softer and better after each wear and wash. Better with age, just like our mamas and grandmamas :)

We've kept the styling simple when it comes to dressing for a Mother's Day get-together. Simple, comfortable flats, and a handful of flowers picked out of the garden! Mother's Day is all about connecting with the women in your life, and this simple outfit keeps the focus on that.

Shop now:

Riva Snap Dress
from 135.00

Weekly Wear: May Flowers

Spring is finally, undoubtedly here!!! It's time to get out into the yard (or community plot) and tend to those flowers (and food, and herbs, oh my!)

We love wearing Conscious Clothing for gardening because linen is the ideal fabric for sweating, moving, and getting dirty. It's highly absorbent and ultra quick-drying, so sweat will evaporate off of the body easily and keep you cool. The fibers are durable but pliable, so you'll never feel constricted in our linen clothing - plus, we design our styles with COMFORT in mind! And linen fibers repel dirt, so your linen garments will be easier to clean, and won't get as dirty to begin with!

 Snap Smock in Ginger, Backyard Jumpsuit in Olive

Snap Smock in Ginger, Backyard Jumpsuit in Olive

What's easier than throwing on your roomiest, comfiest jumpsuit to get ready for a day of digging, weeding, and transplanting? Our Backyard Jumpsuit was aptly named for yardwork! The style itself isn't restricting, but the snap closure and slight scoop neckline stays put so that you won't be bothered when you're bending over your plants. Plus, it's a great style to wear out and about in case you need to take a lunch break, or run out to the garden supply store!

The Snap Smock was designed for gardeners in mind! The big, sturdy pockets are perfect for small tools and all of your seed packets! Plus, it's a handy layer in case the breeze picks up and a cloud moves in front of the sun for a little while..

Pair with your gardening shoes, or your old Birkenstocks, and you have an instant gardening look!

Backyard Jumpsuit
from 185.00
Snap Smock
from 155.00

Weekly Wear: April Showers

Welcome to a new series on Stream of Consciousness!

Every Friday, we'll be posting a Weekly Wear - quick and easy styling guide, highlighting our different products and showing you attainable ways to incorporate these pieces into your wardrobe and your life.

 Industry Trench in Stone, Patio Dress in Lake Stripe

Industry Trench in Stone, Patio Dress in Lake Stripe

This week we thought of an easy outfit for the rainy season: a classic combination of our Industry Trench in Stone and our Patio Dress in Lake Stripe. Both pieces are comfortable, versatile, and fit so many body types. Plus, linen is a great quick-drying fabric for running in and out of the rain all day! Pair with some rain boots (we all wear Blundstones here for comfort and water-resistance!) and your favorite umbrella, and be on your way!

Shop the look:

Industry Trench
from 210.00
Patio Dress
from 135.00

Styles have changed, but fashion hasn't

by Joshua Newman

On April 24, 2013, the city of Savar was shaken by a terrible tragedy that rippled across the planet. A building named Rana Plaza unintentionally collapsed, killing 1,134 people. The building was home to a garment factory where most of the victims were young, female garment workers. Although some 2,500 were rescued from the rubble, the collapse drew attention to the reckless and dangerous methods used by garment producers to cut corners and lower costs. The terrible loss of life that day was a direct result of the garment industry’s efforts to reduce costs for “first-world” consumers.

The garment industry is infamous for its labor practices. Almost all garments require, in large part, human hands to produce. There’s a misconception that everything in the modern era is made in a factory by automated machines, but the fashion industry uses very little automated production. Multiple labor scandals have shaken clothing manufacture involving big brand names like Nike, Walmart, H&M, Uniqlo, and JC Penney. However, there is yet for major changes to be made to the fashion supply chain. Insufficient legislation and regulation allow for businesses to exploit human workers and resources for economic gain. However, a shift in consumer awareness is allowing for demand to push against suppliers and ask questions like: Who Made My Clothes?
 

"There’s a misconception that everything in the modern era is made in a factory by automated machines, but the fashion industry uses very little automated production."

 "Kukdong Worker" via Creative Commons

"Kukdong Worker" via Creative Commons

Fashion Revolution is a UK-based eco-fashion call-to-arms that centralizes around transparency as the primary driver for change. Fashion Revolution holds large companies and industry participants, including consumers, as ethically responsible for all people and resources involved in the production of fashion products. Founded by Carry Somers and Orsola De Castro in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster, Fashion Revolution founded not only a day but a whole week in April to commemorate the disastrous collapse and call upon fashion industry leaders to be transparent and informed about where there products come from.
 

The social media campaign that drives the movement uses the hashtag #whomademyclothes, combined with a photo of a garment label, to instigate a conversation with fashion companies about their supply chain. Companies and even small clothing businesses are invited to respond with a photo of employees and the hashtag #imadeyourclothes. While Fashion Revolution was inspired by the social implications of the growing fast fashion sector, the company’s manifesto also calls attention to the environmental impacts caused by wastefulness and excessiveness throughout the current production model.

"this low-cost, disposable model of consumption is responsible for the social and environmental damage that's being done all over the world"

The not-for-profit outfit sets up events throughout a dedicated week in April to call for change and draw attention to issues within the industry. Of the 60-70 million people employed by the fashion industry, about three-quarters of them are female. Workers can be paid as low as $2 a day in countries like Bangladesh and Jordan, often working far over the typical 8-10 hours many of us are accustomed to. Making clothes cheap is important to an industry that relies on seasonal trend shifts to drive cyclical sales. However, this low-cost, disposable model of consumption is responsible for the social and environmental damage that's being done all over the world.

Movements like Fashion Revolution, Clean Clothes Campaign, and Fair Trade seek accountability by the companies whose only current regulating forces are supply and demand. People all throughout the fashion ecosystem want to see an industry that values people, creativity, and the environment instead of just profit. Fashion Revolution conducted a project called “The €2 T-Shirt” that demonstrated the capacity of consumers to care about the environments their products are made in.

Many shifts are occurring in the fashion world inspired by slow fashion, diversity, and freedom of expression. Hopefully, an increase in emotional attachment to the entire supply chain will contribute tremendously to consumer culture, but there's no telling where the industry will go. Here at Conscious Clothing, we pay a large amount of attention to our responsibilities as a business and do our best to increase the positive impacts we can have on fashion and on our customers. We want all workers to be treated justly and fairly by their employers as wards of their industry.

"Many consumers don’t even realize that the conditions under which their garments were made are so unsavory that they’re illegal in much of the world, including the U.s."

Left behind by the shift toward cheap labor are many American workers whose physical and practical skill is no longer in high demand. As the Industrial Revolution set into place in America, the exploitation of women and children for cheap labor, as well as unsafe working conditions began to inspire legislation that led to a more responsible production sector. However, this also led to a rise in production costs due to the increases in pay and safety compliance.

In response, companies began to shift production overseas to countries without this kind of legislation. This allowed for production houses to resume cutting corners and exploiting workers for the sake of cheap production. This left a large unemployed workforce in America, and an even larger slave-like work force in lesser developed countries. The inhumane treatment of workers didn’t end like our predecessors had hoped, it just moved locations. Many consumers don’t even realize that the conditions under which their garments were made are so unsavory that they’re illegal in much of the world, including the US.

 Our seamstress Megan, in the process of making a garment at our studio

Our seamstress Megan, in the process of making a garment at our studio

"we recognize our responsibility as a business to provide not only the [local] work, but also the conditions of the workplace and wouldn’t treat our crew any differently than we would want to be treated"

All of our products are proudly produced in Grand Rapids, Michigan where we employ Michiganders to dye, cut, print, and sew all of our products and to foster these valuable skills locally. We could outsource our production labor, even to local companies, to reduce costs. However, we recognize our responsibility as a business to provide not only the work, but also the conditions of the workplace and wouldn’t treat our crew any differently than we would want to be treated. You can learn about our studio and some of the people #whomadeyourclothes on our about page and get involved by taking to social media to ask your favorite labels #whomademyclothes?

 Our studio, where all of our products are designed, patterned, cut, sewn, shipped, and worn by people who love what they do

Our studio, where all of our products are designed, patterned, cut, sewn, shipped, and worn by people who love what they do


Sources

https://www.fashionrevolution.org/about/

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/apr/23/rana-plaza-factory-collapse-history-cities-50-buildings

https://qz.com/1042298/nike-is-facing-a-new-wave-of-anti-sweatshop-protests/

http://money.cnn.com/2016/05/31/news/companies/walmart-gap-hm-garment-workers-asia/index.html

https://cleanclothes.org/resources/publications/factsheets/general-factsheet-garment-industry-february-2015.pdf
 


Who Makes These Clothes?

Since we're writing to help spread awareness about the wonderful work that Fashion Revolution is doing to shed more light on who makes your clothes, we thought it would be nice to feature the makers of your Conscious Clothing garments!

conscious clothing studio

from left to right...

Cara - our production manager. She has a hand in cutting the fabric and making sure the studio is organized, plus she sews many of the garments herself.

Liz - our seamstress. She sews the garments from start to finish, and also has a business making hand-dyed silk scarves, accessories, and clothing.

Maeve - our seamstress. She started in the industry as a model, but over the years felt more and more drawn to designing and making clothes instead of wearing them on the catwalk.

Rose - our founder & designer. She founded Conscious Clothing over a decade ago to solve her own problem of not being able to find any sustainable, organic clothing that she liked to wear or would want to dress her children in.

Doug - our resident handyman, cofounder, and Rose's devoted husband. Doug can do anything! Whether that's screenprinting hundreds of yards of fabric, engineering a custom snap press that's hands free and easy to use, or top-stitching leggings and tees for hours on end, Doug will do it with precision and enthusiasm.

Abby - our social media intern. Abby is with us for the summer, completing lots of fun projects to help us get the word out about sustainability and Conscious Clothing!

Alyssa - our creative assistant. Alyssa takes care of a lot of the desk work that's involved with running Conscious Clothing. She's here answering customer emails, chatting with fabric suppliers, creating shot lists for upcoming photoshoots, and helping turn creative ideas into reality.

Megan - our seamstress. Megan is another invaluable member of the sewing team, and also has her own business making handwoven goods and accessories entirely dyed with plants.

Karen - our patternmaker. Karen measures and tweaks again and again to make sure our garments fit and hang properly on all sorts of body types! We couldn't do any of this without her.

The land that fills, but never empties

by Joshua Newman

Earth is the only home humans have ever known. For millennia, humans explored its vast landscapes and traversed its oceans. Until fairly recently, we hadn’t yet begun to understand this planet’s singular importance. As technology has improved, an understanding of Earth’s location in the universe has slowly begun to unfold. In the 60’s, as NASA attempted to touch the moon, a unique perspective of our home came into view: the view of Earth from space.

 the Earth from space, taken by astronauts aboard Apollo 17 in 1972

the Earth from space, taken by astronauts aboard Apollo 17 in 1972

The famous “Blue Marble” photograph depicted the Earth in an unfamiliar context and something unexpected was also in that photograph: an empty, black space in the background. The sheer intensity of this expanse offered more questions than answers: what else is out there? who? In the 60 years since that era, governments and hobbyists have searched the cosmos ceaselessly for other forms of life and other habitable planets. Neither have been found within a flyable distance and the longer the search continues, the more one thing becomes clear: this planet has to last us for a very long time. There is no “Plan B” when it comes to the Earth.

The Apollo missions began a new era of cosmological awareness that was almost too distracting. People wasted so much time peering into telescopes they lost sight of the world all around them. Instead of delving into the theories and possibilities of the unknown, turn your gaze like the astronauts 60 years ago and look at the Earth from your own fresh perspective.

"we’ve begun using clothing the same way we use plastic straws and chip bags: like it’s temporary.

For those in industrialized nations, sweeping forests and babbling streams are speckled here and there with Dasani bottles, McDonald’s lids, and Doritos bags. For the rest of the world, plastic washes up on the shores once it’s journeyed from the bodegas and convenience stores of big cities and small towns alike. These trivial, little items seem temporary because the amount of time they are in use is so short. Then they go in the trash; out of sight, out of mind.

The material that composes these items composes many of the items used on a daily basis: plastic. It’s cheap and easy to produce, so it’s used for the things that need to be cheap and plentiful like straws and packaging. Plastic’s versatility is unprecedented, but so is its durability. Plastic doesn’t wear down like natural materials because it’s highly processed and water-resistive. It can last from a few hundred to a few thousand years. Industries are making so much of it and using it in such a temporary way that it’s building up all around us. It doesn’t just go away, it’s in the oceans and under the soil and it’s changing the Earth in irreversible ways.

"Nylon, Polyester, Lycra, and Rayon are all plastic-based synthetic fabrics and, like other plastic products, they take hundreds to thousands of years to degrade."

Plastic is so versatile, it’s even used in clothing, and we’ve begun using clothing the same way we use plastic straws and chip bags: like it’s temporary. Nylon, Polyester, Lycra, and Rayon are all plastic-based synthetic fabrics and, like other plastic products, they take hundreds to thousands of years to degrade. Fashion trends, however, tend only to last a month to a couple weeks. Why are fashion products made out of a material that lasts so long if the amount of time they’re in style is so short?

Textiles are nearly 100% recyclable, including synthetics, and there’s no reason anything in the textile and apparel industry should be wasted. It’s not that it’s not possible to be zero-waste, it’s just that not enough companies are doing it or even trying. There’s an additional problem to the recycling issue because of the way companies mix different fibers together. In order to make products cheaper, companies mix natural fibers like cotton with synthetic fibers like polyester. This practice makes it very difficult to develop viable recycling solutions because of the complexity of separating the fibers back out.

"Textiles are nearly 100% recyclable, including synthetics, and there’s no reason anything in the textile and apparel industry should be wasted... [but] Of the total 25 billion pounds of textile waste, only 15% is donated or recycled."

Fast-fashion companies have even worked to add additional trend seasons so that the industry as a whole can move more product. More product flying off the shelves is more product flying into the trash. Numerous studies have found that people don’t want to take the time, money, or energy to maintain the garments they own. It’s cheaper and faster to buy a new shirt than to fix a button, remove a stain, or modify a hem. The clothes that aren’t wanted anymore end up in the trash can rather than a recycling plant because the industry isn’t investing in the technology or producing products that are easy to recycle. This carelessness dumps 21 billion pounds of textile waste to municipal, solid-waste landfills. Of the total 25 billion pounds of textile waste, only 15% is donated or recycled. Even then, donated clothing is often exported to Africa and India where its shredded for its fibers because, honestly, we don’t have the space for our own trash.

 linen and hemp back in the ground

linen and hemp back in the ground

" [we use] the fibers that the Earth gave us: cotton, linen, and hemp. The garments we make from these soft, durable fibers will probably still last longer than you, but will break down naturally when you, or your descendants, are finished with it..."

Of the entire apparel industry, 64% of fibers are synthetic and 6% are viscose, which behaves synthetically. The rest is cotton and a bit of linen. Over half of the fashion products used and discarded can’t be naturally broken up and will continue to sit in the landfill for thousands of years, or until someone can figure out what else to do with it.

As a company, we do our best not to contribute to this crucial and growing problem. Our strategy uses the fibers that the Earth gave us: cotton, linen, and hemp. The garments we make from these soft, durable fibers will probably still last longer than you, but will break down naturally when you, or your descendants, are finished with it. Natural fibers don’t need to be treated or finished with chemicals and are made of nutrient-rich components that can be returned to the soil for growing new plants and making new garments. Our yoga line uses the minimum amount of synthetic fiber necessary for optimal stretch totaling only 4% lycra while most major athletic brands are 100% synthetic. We aim to create clothes that follow a classic, timeless trend that avoids becoming outdated or obsolete as quickly as mainstream fast fashion because the more time it spends in your closet, the less space it takes up in the ocean or landfill. Currently we are tackling our pattern-cutting methods to reduce the amount of fabric scraps created by production. Any scraps we do end up with are saved from the landfill until we find use for them.

 Linen Mesa Tops paired with our Yoga Shorts

Linen Mesa Tops paired with our Yoga Shorts

"We aim to create clothes that follow a classic, timeless trend that avoids becoming outdated or obsolete... because the more time it spends in your closet, the less space it takes up in the ocean or landfill."

As an individual, you can reduce your waste by buying less, mending and caring for what you already own, and supporting brands and companies that are mindful of the way that their practices effect the world around them. Choosing to do the right thing, no matter how small, is important because even though we are just a small company and you are just an individual, it’s the little things that add up to make a big impact. Millions of Americans who see using a plastic straw as just a little thing adds up to millions of plastic straws in the trash, so choose to do that little thing that makes a positive impact instead of a negative one.

Sources

Joung, Hyun-Mee. “Fast-Fashion Consumers’ Post-Purchase Behaviours.” International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management 42, no. 8 (2014): 688–97. 2014.

Morgan, Andrew. The True Cost . CMV-Laservision, 2016.

Quantis. Measuring Fashion. https://quantis-intl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/measuring_fashion_report_quantis.pdf Quantis International, 2018.

Wang, Youjiang, ed. Recycling in Textiles. Woodhead Publishing in Textiles. Cambridge : Boca Raton, Fla: Woodhead ; CRC Press, 2006.

Water you really paying for?

by Joshua Newman

As March settles in, we Michiganders have already experienced one of the mythical “early spring” days: 60 degrees, snow melted, bit of warm sun gleaning your cheeks. This kind of day comes with a flood of excitement and a tiny adrenaline rush that convinces us: winter is finally over. Images of beaches, kayaks, and campsites fill our heads, only to get crushed by the first tiny snowflake on the following 28-degree day. These brief warm days are bittersweet, but they remind us of the summer fun on its way and give us all something to look forward to.

DSC_0503.JPG

To many of us in Michigan, “summer fun” translates to long summer days in the many rivers and inland lakes of our great state, including the majestic Great Lakes that line our borders. In Michigan, you’re never more than six miles away from a body of water. In fact, we have more than 11,000 inland lakes and 1,300 boat launches. Water skiing, tubing, boating, fishing, swimming, and kayaking are just a few of the things we get up to during our warmer months. This intimate relationship with water makes water quality an issue of significant importance to our work and our lifestyle.

Globally, our oceans are full of plastic and are drastically over-fished. Locally, our rivers are full of pesticides, fertilizers, and any number of industrial production chemicals. In an effort to draw attention to water crises, the United Nations named March 22 “World Water Day.” For 2018, the World Water Day theme is “Nature for Water” which seeks to find solutions to our water problems by turning to nature for answers.

The fashion industry finds itself at the center of environmental issues, especially where water is concerned.

Currently, we have the largest water pollution crisis in the history of our species. One would think this might cause mass panic, but in reality something much worse has happened: nothing. Industries continue to dump water waste that trickles down into virtually every ecosystem on the planet. Rain is supposed to carry fresh water and perpetuate the water cycle, but rain is just water that evaporates from the very lakes and oceans that are polluted and acid rain is the result of air and water pollution that makes its way to the clouds.

223A3680.JPG

Water is a precious resource, and after a run or demanding yoga class, we can’t get enough. The rest of the time, water runs through garden hoses, faucets, showers, and toilets in a seemingly limitless cycle of consumption. The misconception that water is unlimited allows us to blissfully and guiltlessly use whatever copious amount we deem necessary. The truth is that fresh water is a finite, valuable resource and we’re making a mess of it.

In 2015, it was found that 20% of all freshwater pollution comes from textile treatment and dyeing.

The fashion industry finds itself at the center of environmental issues, especially where water is concerned. Garments are the final product of a long, resource-rich supply chain. First, fibers are created either naturally with agriculture, or synthetically with petroleum. Most fiber plants like flax and cotton require large amounts of water to cultivate, while synthetic fibers are extruded into water-heavy chemical solutions. Water is used to wash the resulting fabric, to bleach it, and to dye it. Then, fabrics are often treated with a variety of solutions or chemicals to achieve various properties such as stain- or water-resistance, luster, or prints and patterns. 

Annually, we use 16 trillion gallons of water in our fiber production processes and 15 trillion gallons of water for dyeing and finishing. Collectively, this is enough water to fill 50 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. Even though water covers 80% of the planet’s surface, most of these processes use fresh water. Since the oceans are saltwater, the water used in production comes from rivers, lakes, and aquifers way faster than it can be replaced by the rain. However, water going in isn’t the only problem: the fashion industry contributes to the pollution and waste being dumped back into the environment after it’s used.

 Lake Michigan, Grand Haven MI

Lake Michigan, Grand Haven MI

In 2015, it was found that 20% of all freshwater pollution comes from textile treatment and dyeing. In addition, a large amount of freshwater is required to wash and maintain our clothes once they’re in our closets. Moral of the story: all the clean water goes in, and all the dirty water comes out. Many experts are researching and working on what can be done differently, but as with any problem of this scale: it will take a number of solutions to affect the necessary change.

Would you rather your new jacket cost you more money, or cost someone else their drinking water?

At Conscious Clothing, we do our best to use fabrics like organic cotton which help reduce the amount of pesticides and other chemicals washed into our water sheds and rivers. We are also aware that it takes roughly 2,400 gallons of water to grow just a single pound of cotton so we also use water-conservative natural fabrics like hemp that use only 50 gallons of water per pound. Our yoga line is only 4% elastane, which allows for the necessary give and stretch required for smooth and natural movement, but without the harmful plastic microfibers washed out into the environment. When it comes to dyeing, we make sure to use quality mordants like soda ash and low-impact dyes. Soda ash increases the rate at which dye adheres to fabric, so less dye is wasted and washed out into the environment. For printing, we make sure to use water-based inks, which will degrade naturally over time and won’t result in synthetic particles in our water sheds.

We do as much as we can to reduce our impacts as a company, but it’s difficult to figure out what you can do as an individual to contribute to solutions rather than the problem. There are little things like: take shorter showers, don’t water your lawn, wash more clothes in one load. However, these behavioral changes don’t effect the economic issue behind wasteful clothing production. To effect that, you have to be mindful of where your clothes come from, and which companies you choose to support. You could buy a new shirt for $5 at your favorite fast fashion store, but that reduced financial cost comes at a much larger environmental one. Would you rather your new jacket cost you more money, or cost someone else their drinking water?

 

Sources

Mathews, Brett. Closing the Loop: An Essential Guide for the Global Textile Supply Chain. Normanton, England: MCL Global, 2015.

Bingham, Emily. 8 Amazing Water Facts Only Michiganders Can Brag About. Michigan, USA: MLive, 2017. http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2017/05/michigan_water_facts.html

Wicker, Alden. Now We Know! Fashion Is the 5th Most Polluting Industry, Equal to Livestock, Ecocult, 2017. https://ecocult.com/now-know-fashion-5th-polluting-industry-equal-livestock/

https://quantis-intl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/measuring_fashion_report_quantis.pdf

http://worldwaterday.org/app/uploads/2018/02/fact_sheet_WWD2017_EN_2.pdf