The Hunt for an Ethical Wardrobe

Keeping up with the latest styles can be a tricky and expensive
proposition. Here’s another wrinkle: Most mass-produced clothes
carry an environmental price tag of pesticide use and pollution. In
lieu of joining a nudist colony, two eco-warriors in Canada
attempted to minimize their fashion footprints. Inspired by the
100-mile diet, which
challenges participants to only consume food grown within a
specified radius,
Vanessa
Richmond and Dorothy Woodend pledged
to limit their
warm-weather wardrobes to clothes that were ‘locally designed and
manufactured.’.

Since fabric often travels thousands of miles before hitting our
shopping malls and boutiques, the task proved to be challenging and
educational. ‘The more I looked into the ethics of global fashion,
the more I became aware that, even when fabrics are turned into
clothes and sold close to home, they’ve likely been produced far,
far away, with their creation involving a murky soup of pesticides,
dyes, fossil fuels, and wastes,’
writes
Richmond in another piece
for British Columbia’s alternative
daily newspaper, The Tyee.

Among the oft-offending materials is cotton. ‘The fabric of our
lives’ accounts for a quarter of all agricultural pesticides used,
which cause ‘major water pollution, chronic illness in farm
workers, and devastating impacts on wildlife.’

Manufacturers’ unsustainable business practices and consumer
backlash have led hoards of designers and retailers to revamp their
wares. In February of 2005, New York Fashion Week models paraded
down runways decked in glamorous compositions of bamboo, corn-based
fibers, recycled materials, and organic wool.

At the opposite end of the fashion curve is Wal-Mart. The
ubiquitous big-box store’s organic cotton yoga outfits were snapped
up from Sam’s Club stores in 10 weeks. And, in a
Business Week article that Richmond points out, CEO
Lee Scott says the move to organic saved ‘the equivalent of two
jumbo jets of pesticides.’

For consumers looking for a middle ground between
thousand-dollar dresses and sold-out sportswear, the
International Herald Tribune compiled a list of 11
‘eco-names’
that will keep everything from your bum to your
bunions under wraps.

As for Richmond, her journey to dress ethically didn’t end with
the ‘perfect solution’ she was looking for. What she did discover
is that the apparel in her closet that’s silk-screened by a local
artist or knitted by hand is more valuable to her then any
sweatshop-produced garb.

Go there >>
The Soul
of Cloth

Go there too >>
In
Search of Ethical Gladrags

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