Shopping sustainably and ethically is a relatively new conversation within the fashion industry. A year ago not many were aware about the mistreatment of workers in the textile industry. Fortunately, with many individuals pushing towards transparency, companies have been exposed of their unethical practices. I became interested in the conversation when I discovered the work of Hoda Katebi.
Hoda Katebi is a political fashion activist and blogger in the Chicago area that has had a strong influence on the way I feel about the fashion community.
Growing up I always adored fashion and wanted to be involved in any way that I could. Talking about my interest in fashion always made me insecure because it felt that many saw the work to be vain. I was first introduced to Hoda Katebi during my junior year of college through her article, “On the Political Value of Fashion”. This article changed completely my outlook into the fashion industry, inspired me to get involved and showed me how important fashion can be.
The clothes you wear make a statement to the world and understanding where your clothes came from is important. Although flash sales and on sale items can be beneficial, it is important to take a step back and understand how it can be ethical for a shirt to cost only $5. How were the individuals involved in the process properly paid for their hard work?
“Pictured: Clarissa (right), 13, who, along with her fellow child-laborers, is forced to work rather than attend school, and is verbally and physically abused by her employers. The farm is owned by Burkina Faso "fair trade organic cotton," aka Victoria's Secret's cotton supplier. 2011. (Photo: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)”
Sustainability became important to me because although I enjoyed fashion and finding new pieces for my wardrobe, I knew my environmental impact was growing more and more with every purchase I made. I began to stray away from buying particularly trendy pieces as I knew they would only be recycled out of my closet within a short period of time. When I did want to shop I decided to look for staple pieces I knew would never go out of style or items that were unique.
Everlane is a wonderful example of a brand that continues to push towards transparency. Everlane is a clothing brand based in San Francisco, CA and represents the change needed within the fashion industry. The company will breakdown the exact cost of an item based off the materials, labor, transportation, duties, and hardware to present customers with the true cost and their price. Additionally, Everlane shows video footage of the factories they are partnered with and what conditions their employees are working under. Everlane is one of the largest icons of the sustainable and ethical fashion movement.
(Source: http://www.joojooazad.com/2016/12/on-political-value-of-fashion.html#BlackLivesMatter march, Chicago | July 2016)
Fashion is a political statement. Deciding to support unethical brands is a form of privilege. Brands are so focused on consumption and profit and do not prioritize the means of production and quality of the product. Refusing to support unethical and unsustainable brands is the first step to reshaping the standards of the fashion industry.
Get involved and do not support brands that do not follow proper ethical standards by referring to Katebi’s Boycott List.
By Alia Ansari
Student Bachelor of Arts in International Studies DePaul University