Clothing's Sustainability and Environmental Impacts

Recently for my course I had to do an assignment called "Where do my clothes come from?".  It was essentially an investigation into the processes that brought my clothes to me.  The particular item of clothing I chose to investigate was a coat from Valleygirl which cost me $30.  It was a polyester cotton blended fabric which was made to look like wool felt.

Valleygirl's website talks about how it's a fash fashion chain that strives to bring the latest cutting-edge fashions (from catwalks, magazines, etc.) to the masses quickly and cheaply.  So the design for my coat was probably not even originally Valleygirl, but some copy of a high-end brand's coat.

The jacket was made from cotton/polyester.  Who knows where that was made!  Cotton is known for using a gargantuan amount of water (I'm sure you've heard the old factoid that it takes 2720 litres of water to produce one t-shirt) Actually, reading that article it's kind of horrifying how much water goes into cotton.  Because it's a crop, it also needs pesticides, and then it needs picking and processing, all of which takes a lot of power. 
Polyester is a man-made fibre created from fossil fuels, which are a finite resource. It also requires heavy chemicals and lots of power to create.  The one good thing about this fibre is that it can be recycled - but I wonder how much polyester fabric ends up in the recycling bin.

"Made in China" the label says.  As I wrote in my previous post about my dress comparisons, the wage for Chinese employees is quite low (depending on the province).  After reading "Overdressed", I no longer expect anyone to be paid any more than minimum wage.  Plus, the price was $30 - I don't even think it was marked down.  This is a jacket with a lining, collar, wrist bands, a back band, and a generally nice finish and fit.  

After all my research I was pretty upset with myself.  I don't want to support this kind of brand, even if they do sometimes have things I like.  What I do want to support are local designers, crafters, and sewers, who make their products out of sustainable fabrics.  I want to support higher-end brands that are Australian made and beautifully made, and whose prices reflect the workmanship and care that goes into their pieces.  I think that after this assignment, I'm going to watch what I spend my hard earned money on, and hope that we can keep the local fashion scene alive.

What do you think?  Do you worry about where your clothes come from?


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