what and why
Shopping seems simple. You walk into a beautiful store and all of the clothes are displayed perfectly. The colour scheme is exactly what you were looking for and everything in the store is aesthetically pleasing - from the changing rooms to greenery and the art/fashion/culture books scattered throughout the shelves. Amidst this beautiful set up, you find so many amazing pieces! How could it be that a store feels like magic? It’s just so easy. You walk in and pick out the perfect piece for your party/interview/date and you’re on your way.
Did your mind ever wander beyond that perfect top? Beyond how beautiful the store looked and how it made you feel?
That’s okay. Most of ours don’t. In fact, North Americans are the largest consumers of textiles. This means that as a continent we are accounting for the most people who are missing this point.
What we fail to see is that our clothes have an entire journey before they’re being folded on that display table. This journey, although seemingly uninteresting, is what should be the most important factor in our decision to buy and should always lead to question: “where did this come from?”. How is it that we’re missing this incredibly important question?
The answer is pretty simple: most of us genuinely don’t know. The reason why we don’t know is because it really messes with the aesthetic of brands to have their behind-the-scenes processes revealed. It is in their best interest to keep the journey that our clothes make under wraps. This is especially true when it comes to fast fashion empires who depend on keeping their quick and cheap products desirable for consumers.
Things are changing though. Today, due to high demand from consumers, brands are becoming more transparent. This means that we can find out specifics of the journey our clothes are taking to reach that perfect store and the impact that it’s having - namely on our environment and on the people who produce our clothing. We rarely have the opportunity to grasp the unsustainable processes behind the making of our clothes or to put a face to the individuals who are working to get the clothing to the store for us to buy it. We often don’t realize that these textiles don’t just magically appear at our local mall/boutique. There are teams allocated to different stages of the supply chain dedicated to making this happen. We’re just too distracted by millennial pink mirrors and perfectly placed succulents to think of them.
What if we gave you a chance to become informed and also a chance to contribute to change? If it sounds like something you’re into, keep reading!
So at this point you’re probably thinking: why should I care? And to be honest, this answer is something you have to decide for yourself, based on the facts.
For some people it’s about the environment. Between 2000 and 2014 clothing production nearly doubled. If the fashion industry continues to function as it has been, it is estimated that the industry will emit nearly 2.8 billion tons of CO2 per year by 2030. That’s the equivalent of 230 million passenger vehicles. Even more, it takes about 270 gallons of water to produce one T-shirt – this number is the equivalent to the water consumption of an average person over three years. The total amount that the fashion industry uses for production is the equivalent of 32 million Olympic sized swimming pools, or a billion cubic meters. And honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg for the environmental impact that the fashion and textile industries are having on our planet.
For others, it’s about the people who are making our clothes and the ethics that the industry lacks. For starters, over 50% of people working in the fashion industry are not paid minimum wage (this includes but is not limited to the industry in places like India, and the Philippines). Approximately 300 million people who are responsible for producing cotton used for our clothes are living below the poverty line. This hasn’t even touched on the working conditions that those individuals are subjected to and the excruciating schedules they follow.
These facts, although shocking, are so important to take in and digest. They provide context to the way that we consume and allow us the knowledge to make an educated choice about the places that we’re shopping, the clothing that we’re wearing and the values that we’re supporting.
The reason why we care is all of the above and more. This is where north and willow comes in. Shopping sustainably is a no-brainer for us. And growing up thrifting we have a special knack for digging through piles and sifting through rack after rack of second-hand clothes. We truly believe that shopping ethically and sustainably should be accessible for everyone and we know that a lot of amazing ethical and sustainable brands may be out of reach for some of us (especially us students/ recent grads am I right?!). But you still shouldn’t have to sacrifice being creative and wearing what you love for the cause.
The average Canadian throws away 32 kilograms of clothing (68lbs) a year. So we figured why not take this and repurpose it, instead of it finding it’s way to a landfill. We also didn’t want to take away the experience of shopping a beautiful and aesthetically pleasing collection. So we’ve taken that model and created a beautiful website and just filled it with carefully curated thrift pieces instead of newly produced garments. You can still have that dreamy aesthetic and also be doing good.
Change can seem scary but the fashion industry’s impact on our environment and millions of people is even scarier. Follow along on our blog for more on the environmental impacts, interviews with our favourite muses, tips and tricks for keeping your wardrobe sustainable and more.
Our clothes are so good we’ve made the revolution almost irresistible.
The stats provided in this post are just a few carefully chosen from a laundry list (selected from some of the resources below) of shocking statistics regarding the fashion and textile industries. If you want to know more here are some good resources to get educated:
Centre for Sustainable Fashion -London College of Fashion
An interview with activist Sarah Labowitz
Remembering Rana Plaza
GreenPeace – Fashion at a Crossroads
Global Fashion Agenda
World Resource Institute
Movies to Watch and Books to Read:
Overdressed By Elizabeth Cline
https://www.elizabethlcline.com/ (A copy of overdressed is available at the Halifax Public Library)
The True Cost Documentary
https://truecostmovie.com/ (Can be streamed on Netflix)
Made in Bangladesh – The Fifth Estate