The Health of the Earth is in Your Closet
The Impact of Fast, Dirty Fashion on Human Health
Chances are, if you’re reading this then you live in a part of the world where you are blissfully sheltered from seeing the destruction left in the wake of the fast fashion shopping frenzy that the ‘micro-season’ fashion wardrobe upkeep cycle has become.
The truth is that the reason you can go to the mall and purchase bags and boxes full of ultra-cheap garments on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis is because the true cost of those items is subsidized by the lives of the humans who create them whom you’re sheltered from having to see or be aware of in the much more sheltered and prosperous living conditions of the developed world those cheap wear-and-dump garments are made for.
The destruction of human health and life in the name of cheap shopping sprees is uncomfortable, but it’s the important reality that must be faced and addressed in order to understand the dire need for change on a mass scale across the entire fashion industry, from crop production to end-of-life garment disposal or recycling.
What better day to talk more about how fast fashion impacts human health than on World Health Day?
The Start of Fast Fashion
Here’s how it came to be that you can get a $5 t-shirt, or a dress under $30:
The wide-spread disease that fast, dirty fashion has grown into today is largely rooted in the advent of the industrial revolution with the invention of the mechanical sewing machine. Ready-to-wear clothing became increasingly popular as they were produced in a more efficient, quality manner than hand-sewing the items at home as had been the custom to that time for people in lower to middle income brackets. While home sewing of clothing remained commonplace, ready-made clothing steadily increased in popularity.
Production began to be industrialized into factory-style conveyor belt systems as acceptance of, and demand for, this new way of obtaining apparel grew.
When World War 2 curtailed textile availability, rationed fabrics led to more simplistic styles of apparel and set the stage for a general, wide-spread acceptance of mass-produced clothing.
Hand-in-hand with the early 20th century ramp-up of mass production came, unfortunately, degradation in safety standards for the production workplaces that began to be built. The first large-scale casualty of this insidious global cancer was the New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, which killed 146 workers.
By the 1990s, the vast majority of textile manufacturing and garment production had been moved to developing countries where the cheapest costs in human labour and materials could be obtained, no matter the dire impact it created on the earth or its people. Gradually, too, production became what it is today - hyper-speed collections, with some brands creating a new micro-season release on a weekly basis.
This speed is dizzying madness that cuts corners and costs wherever possible and dumps the resulting consequences on those who are most vulnerable on the earth we all share.
The Human Impact of Fast Fashion
Approximately 80 billion garment pieces are produced annually, and 90% of that is done in developing countries with no or minimal protections in place or enforced that would safeguard environmental protections or worker safety and well-being.
There are an estimated 40 million garment workers caught up in the supply chain of the fast fashion industry where they endure harsh conditions, brutally long working hours, and are paid paltry wages that in many cases do not even afford them the most basic survival purchases.
In Bangladesh, for example, a garment factory worker will make approximately $96 per month and this does not afford them the luxury of covering even their basic necessities after surviving the long hours of dangerous work that enables mass produced, human-life subsidized, weekly fashion pieces to be hung in the closets of insatiably frenzied first-world consumers.
The majority of the workers trying to work for their survival through employment in these dirty fast fashion production factories are women aged 18-24. However, even today after awareness has begun to grow about the dire straits and realities of human suffering that subsidies the true cost of fashion for privileged consumers, there continue to exist multitudes of factories that engage in forced labour, up to and including child labour.
Factories fast-fashion production is sourced out to create life-threatening and long-term adverse human health effects in that they are not only marginalizing the most poor and vulnerable people in the poverty wages given for excruciating work, but also in the shocking lack of any standards in the workplace itself.
Frequently, the factory is a dilapidated building in dire states of disrepair, no windows, little to no air circulation, or breathing protection for the workers.
The workers spend as long as 16 hours every day in this condition, pressured to meet exorbitant quotas in production in extreme heat, breathing in dust, fibers, and chemicals from the textiles and their production mandates.
These workers develop lung diseases, cancers, and reproductive issues as a result - if they don’t perish in the workplace accidents which are common occurrences.
The most sobering example, which finally served to shine a stronger light on the reality of what we are buying in the cheap, disposable off-the-rack garments in so many shops in the mall, is the Rana Plaza factory collapse on April 24th, 2013. This horrific tragedy killed 1,134 of the disadvantaged workers inside, and injured hundreds more.
Ethical Fashion Movement
Thankfully, these lives lost will not be in vain. The movement for ethical fashion that cares for the humans involved in its production was born in the wake of this shocking tragedy. Among the organized voices for the advocacy of mass reform in fashion industry standards is Fashion Revolution.
In 2015, a sobering documentary, The True Cost, was released, illustrating the breathtaking destruction on both earth and humans the frenzied wear-and-dump apparel industry leaves in its wake.
Today, awareness of the facts and realities are growing and alongside that is an increasing demand for a clean, transparent, conscientious, ethical, human-wellness promoting apparel marketplace. How will this be accomplished? What will it look like, exactly? This is still largely undefined.
It can be difficult to discern the difference between a garment truly ethically sourced and produced, and one that’s been marketing ‘green-washed’. With the growing demand for quality fashion items that don’t carry human- and environment-degrading subsidies to make it an artificially cheap first-world purchase price, there is the practice of dirty marketing to portray an inaccurate clean picture to make a quick buck off of an emerging new market direction.
This is discouraging and deplorable, but with the continued increase in education, and the continued demand for transparency and accountability, the tides are turning and progress is beginning.
Part of the turning tide is the emergence of new labels that are dedicated specifically to progress in shaping the fashion industry into one of integrity from crop to end-of-life garment disposal, working with textiles and manufacturers that adhere to the highest standards in elevating the well-being of the environment, the communities they operate within, and the people they employ.
JORDYN LEAH SWIM is one of these new labels. We are so proud to have a place in this space that growing consumer demand is creating. We are so thrilled to be able to create pieces of beauty that look stunning, feel incredible, last long, support progress toward low-impact on the environment all through the life-cycle of each piece, and elevates the ethos of ‘people before profit’.
When you choose a JORDYN LEAH SWIM piece, you choose to not just look good, but also to feel good, be good, and do good.
JORDYN LEAH SWIM is by women, for women, with love; for every beautiful body and soul.