26 Jan 2020
What Should I Do With All My Clothes?: A Study of Fast Fashion and Its Global Impact
With the rise of social media, there has become an increased need for fast fashion brands. Instead of wearing our clothes multiple times, people are more likely to wear a dress once and post a picture in it. Then, because the dress has already been seen, they leave it in their closet collecting dust until its either given away or thrown away. This need for new looks and Instagram’s fancy new ability to buy clothes directly from the app, make consuming cheap clothing easier than ever. But what are the costs of this new form of consumerism? The fast fashion movement has emphasized the customer without regarding the garment being made. Fast fashion companies are under severe scrutiny from both sustainability organizations and human rights protection organizations. While they produce cheap clothes for customers, they make clothes and accessories with fabrics that cannot be recycled, they are made by people who are not paid a living wage, and they are transported internationally unsustainably. This is a hard issue to combat, because to be able to make real change you have to ask consumers to spend more money one clothes and go against fashion norms of wearing the same things more frequently. I believe the general public is not aware of the true environmental and human impact of fast fashion. Thus, my hypothesis is that if more people were aware of the true negative impacts of the fast fashion industry, sustainable fashion brands would be more popular, and people would be more willing to be sustainable consumers. My goal is to create an interactive project that brings awareness to the need for the sustainable fashion industry. I will do this by creating an interactive world map. A user will be able to select one of four garments or accessories, and then starting with the production of the textiles, the user will be able to follow the creation, transportation, and selling of the garment across a world map. With each step there will be a small explanation of what is wrong for the environment or the people making the item to bring awareness to the issues. At the end of the cycle the user will be asked on average how long someone keeps that garment and what they do with it when they decide to remove it from their closet. Hopefully the information from this interactive map will help users understand the importance of supporting sustainable fashion brands and the sustainability movement in general.
Recently, many scholars have been writing about the benefits of sustainable fashion and social entrepreneurship as ways to combat this issue. I will be mainly pulling from sources found in academic journals or books, accessed through the Davidson library. Many companies fear moving to a “values-driven industry” comes from their worry of “financial uncertainty” (Batist). But many companies are starting in employ intrapreneurs, people who work within a company to bring change (like a sustainability initiative, for example), rather than starting a new company from scratch. Scholars like Henninger study the success of the slow fashion movement, the response to the unsustainable growth of the fast fashion market. Henninger finds that the concept of sustainable fashion is subjective to both the brand and the buyer, making it hard to define but also broad enough to apply to a vast audience. Niinimaki explores the ethical foundations of sustainable fashion, asking what ethics all brands must follow and what ethics are up to interpretation. There is enough scholarly research on this topic to be able to put together a comprehensive research project.
This is not an easy project proposal. I do not have vast experience with web design or interactive website creation, making the work more extensive because there will be a research component too. There is a possibility that this project will not attract many viewers on its own, but if I feel it is a successful project, I will send it to organizations like the Fashion Transparency Index and Good on You (in hopes that they will promote it!). Both of those organizations judge the sustainability of fashion brands, but their grading systems are very different. They both have large social media followings, showing that there is an interested group who cares about this issue as much as I do. This is a problem worth working on, I feel the project will be finished when it helps change people’s fashion consumption habits, even if that just means making someone think twice before purchasing something from Forever21, for example. I am interested because I, a fashion-conscious college student addicted to social media, am the perfect target for the fast fashion industry, and I know how truly easy it is to get suck. But, there is a point where we as humans need to take responsibility and acknowledge that there are more ways that we can help save the environment than just using metal straws. Time to practice what we preach!
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