Shopping used to be my drug of choice. I didn’t have to think about how anything was made – if it ruined the environment, caused child slavery, killed a cow or polluted the waters. In fact, I was shopping as a release from thinking of all that toxicity. In the past, if it was a “bad day” I’d just go buy another pair of “blinged out” flip flops never thinking about how I could recycle them in a month. Or I could drown my sorrows in a H&M rack of polyester blouses that I would toss or wash my car with in 6 months. Shopping was the only real laugh I got amidst a day of bad news. Now, shopping is bad news.
Because of “sustainability” (which I thought was the name of a laxative), I now have to be super conscious and “woke” about my consuming — it is such an exhausting responsibility and frankly no fun. I prefer the old days of “when the going gets tough — the tough go shopping.” If only!
As a result, now the clothes look worse (all basic and dull and “serious”) and even the “one click amazon” charge is no relief. I never wanted to be a “conscious” shopper. I wanted to go “unconscious” and only brutally “woke” when I got my Amex statement! But at least the sport of shopping made me feel good about myself … for an hour. Now I feel the weight of my own giant carbon footprint and hate the world and myself.
Actually, I am now too old to shop with abandon (I don’t go anywhere to “get dressed”) but when I do, I don’t want to have to get “lectured” by a brand “initiative” about how they are helping the world. I want to know how I look and feel in the garment. At least I admit my last hold of narcissism in these days of “woke.” Especially when I read how the manufacturing of cotton and denim (the darling fabrics of the fashion industry) have become the worst culprits in the corporate waste explosion.
I really got depressed recently after reading Cintra Wilson’s New York Review of Books Dana Thomas’ Fashionopolis: The Price of Fashion — and the Future of Clothes. I learned global consumers buy 80 billion articles of clothing a year — 20% of mass-produced clothing does not sell, and those unsold goods end up getting burned or shredded in landfills by the producers.
Fashion production consumes a staggering 25% of all chemicals made on earth and is responsible for nearly 20% of the worldwide water pollution. And wait, there’s more waste to think about: we throw away twice as much clothing as we did 20 years ago (thank you Fast Fashion), the equivalent of each American discarding 80 pounds of clothes a year. This, according to Thomas, is 2.5 billion pounds of FASHION.
And it gets worse! The fashion business still has hideous issues with human rights abuses from horrendous work environments to undocumented enslavement of children and workers in sweatshops. There’s ongoing labor abuses and shady subcontractors and on and on.
The big shock was the production of that holy grail of fabric’s — cotton. In addition to its whole history with slavery, Thomas discloses that cotton is a notoriously “filthy and difficult” crop. More than 10% of the world’s total pesticides are reserved for the production of cotton. And it consumes enormous amounts of water. Over 700 gallons of water to grow the cotton for 1 mass produced shirt.
And as for the most popular fabric of them all — denim! “Jeans are hyper polluting in their creation and afterlife. The industrial dyes that replaced indigo early in denim production now end up as toxic runoff and wastewater. The practice of “finishing” blue jeans — distressing the fabric by sanding and acid washing (all to make your jeans look “rodeo ready”) — is damaging the most amounts of water in Xintang, China.” So, take that all of you — parading around in your designer jeans with rips in your thighs and holes in your knees!
And here’s the biggest deal: to make a product “green” takes a lot of money. So, a sustainable t-shirt might cost $400. And of course, designer Stella McCartney has at least been leading the way and making inroads with her line promoting fur-free and vegan using only non-animal glue. But Stella is expensive. Of course, Thomas recommends buying via Salvation Army, consignment, and Rent-a-Runway. We all already know about “upcycling” wardrobes.
But then there is Amazon and Zara. Frankly even though we are aware that these outlets are environment destroyers, in the end it’s like Fast Food. It’s there, it’s cheap, it looks like Gucci. Screw ethics I gotta have it and NOW. Sorry — budget wins over quality! As Cintra says, “So long as there are severe divisions between the haves and the have-nots and the corporate world is driven by the elimination of competition, fashion’s priorities will continue to sacrifice the planet at the altar of low-cost high-waisted capris.”
So, what and who nowadays isn’t toxic? Why is the best of everything always the worst offenders? Yes, real fur is offensive, but fake fur is plastic, and you can explode wearing it near a flame. And all those Zara rayon midi dresses that look like Celine feel great at $65 on a hot summer day. Call it cheap thrills, but for some of us it’s all we have left as a fast and furious clothing escape valve.
And as for the tops in pops of toxic waste, look what happened to Victoria’s Secret’s recent fall from grace. Too bad VS didn’t last long enough (although 42 years almost makes it vintage) to have a retrospective at The Met. Maybe it’s not too late for Anna Wintour to make it one of those extravagant themes for her irrelevant Met Ball.
Think about it… VS took porn to the streets with its Wonderbra, high-cut thongs and “Pink” glittered bikini asses. They made “Frederick’s of Hollywood” available to every mother and child in Kansas City. VS was THE foundation for many women’s lives for many years. The VS catalogue arrived bi-monthly and more men read it as a cheap alternative to Playboy than women did. The VS “Angel” runway shows ended up on TV’s primetime and debuted many Eastern European superstar models. But most of all, VS gave women the fake boob look before everyone got the REAL fake boobs.
Then time took its course and VS fell out of favor as more women decided Wonderbra’s were too uncomfortable to wear in Pilates, Spinning and Yoga, and thongs caused gynecological problems. Finally, it all ended up in a toxic shock-and-burn when 82-year-old VS CEO Leslie Wexner admitted his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein. In the last 4 years, VS mall stores closed, Wexner stepped down, the company was sold at a bargain rate and Jeffrey Epstein was somehow someway found dead in a jail cell. As I said, remember when retail was fun? Now it is a Netflix docu-drama.
To be honest – how could I possibly adhere to the conscious-raising rules about purchasing an overpriced piece of “greenery” that will last me a lifetime? I will never understand that concept as I myself may not “last a lifetime” and if I did, why would I want to wear the same damn thing for longer than 2 years with my mind and body changing daily? I love the power of “the new” otherwise I am the same boring schlub I have always been and that is FAR too depressing. Even at the sustainable age of 75, women need something more than a new dark chocolate bar to eat and men certainly need a bit more than a new porn to watch.
And the last word on toxicity of course comes with China and the Coronavirus. The luxury brands (and frankly every industry) are now coming to grips with the over-extended China sales that accelerated in the last 4 years.
Many feel that LVMH’s Gucci and Hermès, Balenciega and yes, Chanel can probably take that Karmic hit. Many people have been saying High Fashion is finished (in place of basic clothes) and now it is finally here. Especially with the end of fashion magazines and a lot of Instagram influencers feeling the hit. The world is changing fast in a high-level churn and even Kim Kardashian is now rumored to be going to law school to get her degree and practice in prison reform issues. She’s trading in her “tits and ass” for “sanctions and arbitrations.” These are sobering times!
Wow… what better moment though to take a shopping cart step back. Sustainable is the opening act, but The Virus is the last gasp. I have been reading that the Chinese have turned to a new way of living. As one Chinese analyst put it: “We have re-discovered our basic necessities of life like simple food, and personal staples are our new “luxuries.”
Maybe a real luxury is the ability to have dinner at home with family and friends. When this is all over I hope we can celebrate life in a new way. But we may have to wait a long time.
Hopefully we will be able to love beautiful things again and crave high-end social experiences with deeper appreciation. But for now, we must learn to find meaning and feel good about ourselves in this new era of isolation.”
With this in mind, perhaps the most important purchase nowadays is a decent face mask, though many immunologists say masks don’t work. Or disposable gloves (washing your hands for 30 seconds seems like such a long time — my doctor suggested I sing the Happy Birthday song). And take one oregano capsule a day for immune support.
So, in the end, after all this shop shaming via sustainability and the threat of the virus curtailing travel and shipping (for sure dump the cruise ships), perhaps we have all bought enough and have enough to simply shop “from your own closet.”
Good luck with that!