Reblog: What Happens When Fashion Becomes Fast, Disposable And Cheap?

I came across this article on NPR today and thought I’d share it with you – on the realities of our ‘fast’ and cheap clothing, and the cost behind what we pay for it.

When it comes to clothes these days, maybe you should ask: What’s your waste size?

You know you have those clothes sitting in your closet: That shirt you spent less than $10 on because it looked cool for a second, or that skirt you only wore once before it went out of fashion.

Fashion cycles are moving faster than ever. A Quartz article in December revealed how fashion brands like Zara, Gap and Adidas are churning out new styles more frequently, a trend dubbed “fast fashion” by many in the industry. The clothes that are mass-produced also become more affordable, thus attracting consumers to buy more.

“It used to be four seasons in a year; now it may be up to 11 or 15 or more,” says Tasha Lewis, a professor at Cornell University’s Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design.

The top fast fashion retailers grew 9.7 percent per year over the last five years, topping the 6.8 percent of growth of traditional apparel companies, according to financial holding company CIT.

Fashion is big business. Estimates vary, but one report puts the global industry at $1.2 trillion, with more than $250 million spent in the U.S. alone. In 2014, the average household spent an average $1,786 on apparel and related services.

More styles mean more purchases — and that leads to more waste created. Journalist Elizabeth Cline writes in her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion that disposable clothing is damaging to the environment and the economy. We are more likely to dispose of cheaper, mass-produced fashion garments than pricier ones.

“We don’t necessarily have the ability to handle the disposal,” Lewis says. “The rate of disposal is not keeping up with the availability of places to put everything that we’re getting rid of and that’s the problem.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded.

How To Deal With All This Textile Waste?

One way developed nations get rid of their excess clothing is by donating it to developing nations. According to the United Nations, the United States is thebiggest exporter of used clothes, and the top importing countries of used clothing are India, Russia and Pakistan.

But with the strong dollar and availability of cheap clothing from Asia, some are worried that demand for exports of secondhand clothing will decline — thus forcing developed nations to find new ways to deal with post-consumer textile waste.

Fast fashion and the disposable culture also hurt sorting companies that export second-hand clothing.

Adam Baruchowitz, founder of Wearable Collections in New York City, collects second-hand clothing collector and sells it to sorting companies. The companies then sort through the clothes, separating those that will be made into other low-grade fiber products and those that will be exported.

Baruchowitz says the most valuable part of a sorting company’s business is in selling reusable second-hand clothing. But if the quality is questionable, more of the garments collected might have to head to the shredding bin rather than the second-hand clothes market.

“It’s very damaging to the environment, this fast fashion culture, and it also affects the secondhand market because these clothes aren’t meant to be used for so long,” he says. “I can’t say for sure, but the secondhand H&Ms would probably be in less demand than a garment that was produced with more quality. I’m getting all this stuff from fast fashion and I’m hearing from clients that it’s hurting them.”

Do Retailers’ Recycling Programs Encourage Consumerism?

Several clothing retailers have announced take-back programs that collect used garments from customers to be recycled, sold or remade into other clothing. H&M, for example, has allowed customers to bring unwanted garments — which will be transformed to recycled textile fibers for new products — since 2013. The company aims to have “zero garments going to landfill.” Patagonia also recycles and sells used Patagonia products in its stores.

It plays into the concept of extended producer responsibility, which means the manufacturer has to take into consideration the product’s afterlife.

But does it actually encourage more consumerism? For many stores, customers can get store credit and vouchers for sending in used clothing.

“If you bring it back to the store and you see something new and you’re going to give me a discount, I’m having a buying moment I may not have had before because you’re having me back at your store. It’s very smart in terms of business,” Lewis says.

The concept, however, might encourage a different type of thinking: If manufacturers have to think about how they’re going to get the most out of the product after it has been worn, Lewis says, it might spur them to start designing products that can be taken apart easily, have better quality, or might be biodegradable, for example.

H&M introduced new garments made of recycled textile fibers two year ago.

Grassroots Efforts To Counter Fast Fashion

A year ago, a few users began uploading YouTube videos of themselves exchanging clothes with friends. It was either that, or they were showcasing how they made new styles out of their old, scrappy clothes.

“Today is fashion revolution day and I decided to take part in this movement by making a ‘Haulternative’ video,” says CutiePieMarza, a YouTuber from England, in her video. She was exchanging clothes with grav3yardgirl, a YouTuber from Texas.

“It’s part haul, part swap … she asked me about a month ago if I would be part of this awesome project,” says grav3yardgirl in her video. “I think it’s something mainly going on in the UK.”

“Haulternative” is an alternative to the traditional “haul” videos, where users post videos of themselves parading their latest buys.

It was an activity that was part of the larger Fashion Revolutionmovement started in the United Kingdom that aimed to bring awareness to the source of our garments — as well as the waste created by our consumerist habits.

“It’s an alternative haul. It’s looking at how people can do a different kind of haul, how people can refresh their wardrobe without having to buy new clothes,” says Carry Somers, co-founder of the movement. “It’s encouraging people to be more conscious when they’re shopping.”

Instead of constantly buying new clothes, the movement suggested people buy from vintage stores, make new clothes out of old ones or just swap clothes. Fashion Revolution Week will take place April 18-24 and participants are encouraged to upload their “haulternative” videos this year as well.

Some companies are experimenting with new ideas. Rent The Runway, for example, rents out branded clothes to customers who pay a monthly fee. Those concerned about the mounting waste hopped onto an opposing concept: Instead of buying cheap clothes, invest in slightly costly clothes with good quality that might last you longer. The 30-year-sweatshirt by Tom Cridland is an example.

San Francisco was aware of this problem in 2002 — and pledged a goal of reaching zero waste by 2020 by encouraging the recycling of clothes, shoes and linen.

“I think for clothing, because we’re a consumer culture, it’s hard for me to say don’t buy anything,” Lewis says. “We can probably slow down how much we buy.”

8 Women who made the World a better place in 2014 (Reblog)

Happy International Women’s Day! It’s a day we celebrate the women and girls in our lives and also look to others around the world. Today in Budapest, I was out with my boyfriend and was amazed by the sheer number of flower vendors and florists which had just popped up over-night!

As Andrew quipped, the difference between love and lust can really be seen in places like this. We stopped at a florist where I was treated to a beautiful bunch of tulips and he saw a man staggering under the weight of what must have been 30 or 40 long-stemmed red roses. Whereas I was told “not to go too mad and buy the whole shop”!

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But I digress – I want to talk about International Women’s Day, not just my Saturday!

Quite often, news outlets and NGOs are quick to share links about the tragedies faced by girls around the world. Malala Yousafzai’s face and story is all over the internet today, alongside stories about the ongoing global struggle against child marriage, rape, torture and abuse.

But this year, I wanted to look at some positive examples of female empowerment and some cheerier stories.

I found this on the Huffington Post and have shamelessly stolen it. I find this is a much more life-affirming way to celebrate women. Let’s look at what has been achieved and what we have to proud of as a global society, because if we keep looking at all the terrible atrocities faced by women every day, we’ll never want to try fighting the fight. These are the sort of stories which keep me motivated to keep writing about women’s rights so I hope you get something out of it too!

1. Afghanistan’s first female police chief showed the world what courage looks like.

Col. Jamila Bayaz was appointed to run security in the Kabul’s District 1 in January, becoming the first woman in such a senior frontline role. The mother-of-5 is responsible for policing an area of the Afghan capital that includes the presidential palace, government ministries and the central bank. “This is a chance not just for me, but for the women of Afghanistan,” she told NBC. “I will not waste it. I will prove that we can handle this burden.”

Women in Afghanistan have faced a steep battle to reenter the workforce and public life after the end of the Taliban’s restrictive rule. They still face considerable obstacles including discrimination from an ultraconservative society and the threat of militant attacks. Afghan policewomen have been targeted by insurgents and several women in public office were assassinated in 2013, according to the Associated Press. Bayaz is undaunted: “I am ready to serve, I am not scared nor am I afraid,” she told AP.

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Col. Jamila Bayaz talks on the phone at her office in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

2. Xiao Meili put a taboo subject back on the map.

Xiao Meili set off the remarkable journey in late 2013 to walk more than 1,200 miles between her home in China’s capital Beijing and the southern city Guangzhou to raise awareness of sexual abuse in the country. The 24-year-old woman told Time Magazine she hopes the unusual sight of a female backpacker on China’s roads will draw attention to how authorities handle abuse and will break the social stigma victims often face. At each town along the way, Meili and her supporters post letters to local officials urging them to investigate abuse allegations, screen teachers and improve sex education.

Meili’s journey has developed a popular following on social media and she asks women in each town to walk with her or offer her a couch for the night, according to Global Voices. “China’s traditional idea is that it is dangerous for females to travel alone outside. But conversely, so many sexual abuse cases take place in places we thought were safe like schools and buses,” she told China’s Global Times. “This is not an arduous walk. Each step represents a female protest at society.”

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Xiao Meili explains her “feminist walk” in a social media post. (Youku.com/screenshot)

3. Azizah Al-Yousef began a campaign to end Saudi Arabia’s oppressive male guardianship system.

Azizah al-Yousif has been a thorn in the side of Saudi Arabia’s conservative establishment since she launched the October 26 Women’s Driving Campaign last year. In a bid to end the Kingdom’s ban on female drivers, women posted YouTube clips of themselves driving online. “We are sick and tired of waiting to be given our rights,” al-Yousif told CNN at the time. “It’s about time to take our rights.”

Now al-Yousif is pressuring authorities to end the country’s male guardianship system, which forces women to ask the permission of male relatives to travel, work, complete education, get medical treatment or a passport. The Saudi Gazette reports that together with a group of activists, al-Yousif sent a petition to the Kingdom’s Shura council to demand reform. “This petition renews our demands as women. We want our issues to be put on the top of the Council’s priority list,” she said.

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Screenshot of a video posted by the Saudi women driving campaign shows Azizah al-Yousif at the wheel. (YouTube/screenshot)

4. The Central African Republic’s interim president Catherine Samba-Panza gave a violence-stricken nation new hope.

Catherine Samba-Panza, a women’s rights activist and reconciliation advocate who is known in the Central African Republic as “mother courage,” was selected to lead the country in January amid devastating ethnic clashes that forced more than 1 million people to flee their homes. As CAR’s first female president, she pledged to lead the country away from the circle of bloodshed. “At the very heart of the people, I felt this desire to elect a woman who could bring peace and reconciliation,” Samba-Panza said of her presidency, according to The Guardian. She has a formidable task ahead of her. This week the UN warned of “religious cleansing” and immanent danger to civilians trapped amid the fighting, Reuters reported.

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President Catherine Samba-Panza sits in the parliament building before taking the oath of office in Bangui, Central African Republic, Jan. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

5. Ukrainian pop icon Ruslana became a champion of the country’s protest movement.

Ruslana is one of Ukraine’s most famous pop singers and brought the country to victory at the EuroVision song contest in 2004. She is also a passionate social activist, so when protests against President Viktor Yanukovych erupted last November, Ruslana became a nightly fixture on stage at the protest camp in Kiev, according to Newsweek. “A public person, musician or artist should exercise their civic activism to be the voice of the people,” she told the magazine. The Washington Post reported that some of her performances at the EuroMaidan protest hub lasted up to 10 hours.

When the protest movement was met with brutal repression, eventually leading to Yanukovych’s downfall, Ruslana was devastated but defiant. “We no longer sing or dance, despite the severe cold. We understand that today the fate of the country [that has taken] several decades to come hangs in the balance. Instead of singing, we pray,” she wrote in an email to Newsweek in February. With Yankovych now in exile and tensions high as Russian troops flood Crimea, Ruslana called for the country to join together peacefully. “Ukrainians are strong enough to unite, we understand that propaganda is designed to divide us,” she told the BBC.

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Ruslana performs on an anti-government barricade in central Kiev on Feb. 10, 2014. (SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

6. Mehrezia Labidi helped enshrine gender equality in Tunisia’s post-Arab Spring constitution.

As vice-president of Tunisia’s constituent assembly, Mehrezia Labidi led the tumultuous debates over the country’s post-Arab Spring constitution. Labidi is the most senior female politician of the ruling Islamist part, Ennahda, and took a firm line for women’s rights throughout the debates, often to the disappointment of her own party. “It’s like giving birth: painful, but in the end everyone is happy when the child arrives,” she told Deutsche Welle.

The constitution that passed in January was celebrated as a breakthrough for women’s rights. Labidi helped push through key gender quality provisions by allying with secular politicians, the BBC explains. “I have always achieved everything I wanted myself. Sometimes I wonder whether men could compete with me,” she told the network.

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Mehrzia Laabidi speaks during a Tunisian National Constituent Assembly session in Tunis on Jan. 17, 2014. (FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)

7. Lena Klimova gave Russian gay teens a voice online.

Just days before the Sochi Winter Olympics opened in February, young journalist Lena Klimova was charged under Russia’s controversial ban on “gay propaganda.” Authorities targeted Klimova because of her incredibly popular “Youth-404” website (404 designating “page not found”) where gay teens write about their struggles with homophobia in the country.

Faced with a stringent fine, Klimova was most concerned about Russian youth losing access to the forum, according to The Guardian. “If it will be closed, LGBT teenagers will lose the only place where they can openly speak about themselves and receive advice they need to live. It will be a catastrophe,” she wrote on Facebook. But with the world’s attention on Russia during the Olympics in Sochi the case was haltedand Klimova’s website was able to give a voice to outcast teenagers for at least a while longer.

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Lena Klimova pictured in a handout photo. (Elena Klimova)

8. Zainab Bangura pushed countries to recognize that sexual violence in conflict has to stop.

As the U.N. special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Bangura has seen first-hand the devastating effect of rape used as a weapon of war. Bangura, who lived through the 1991-2002 civil war in her native Sierra Leone, told Reuters: “For me, one rape is too many.”

Since she took up the role in 2012, Bangura says she has seen “a political momentum that is unprecedented” to combat sexual violence in conflict, including a U.N. declaration in which 140 member states have committed to ending rape in conflict, Buzzfeed reported. In February, Bangura’s office struck another victory when the U.N. and African Union signed an agreement to prevent and respond to conflict-related violence in Africa.

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Zainab Bangura gives a press conference at the United Nations office in Nairobi on April 4, 2013. (TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)

Second Marriage in India and Tanishq’s Bold Ad

You may have seen this ad which Tanishq produced a few days ago. If not, take some time to have a look:

In case you don’t speak Hindi, the little girl asks the groom if she should now call him Daddy.

Tanishq is a famous, well-known and well-respected Indian jewellery company in India, established in 1994. It has a reputation for producing high quality products with a price tag to match.

So when they make an ad like this, people actually listen.

If you look at what they’re saying, it’s really quite special.

Not only are they celebrating a second (or third!) marriage for a woman, they are insisting we do too. In a society where a woman’s worth is linked to her ability to sustain a single marriage, no matter how disastrous and potentially flawed it might be, this is a very bold step.

Tanishq are of course also appealing to a new consumer set, trying to attract women who are remarrying – for whatever reason. I don’t deny that.

However, for this to air in India, there is also a strong social message.

On the one hand, an arranged marriage doesn’t always lead to wedded bliss. Not all normal, so-called ‘love’ marriages do, either. That’s an important point to make, especially in India where ‘giving up’ to get divorced is a sign of weakness, a lack of femininity on the part of a woman and of course, comes down to how she was as a wife. The husband is rarely, if ever, blamed for any marriage problems.

But I digress.

Tanishq haven’t specified the reasons for her getting married a second (or third!) time. She could have got a divorce because the marriage was unhappy; she could have been widowed; she could have been left for a multitude of reasons. I like that they’ve left it up to us to decide why.

A second bold move is their decision to cast a ‘dark-skinned’ actress. I’m hesitant to enter this debate, and frankly I didn’t even notice her skin colour until I scrolled down and read some YouTube comments.

(Normally a foolish error, I thought I’d give it a go this one time and see what the internet thought!)

Many were lauding this commercial of course, but there were so many who praised the choice of actress as much as they did the message behind the ad itself.

But I won’t go there; here’s the director of the ad, Gauri Shinde, talking about the actress’ skin colour, for India Today:

Was the use of a dusky model deliberate?

Of course not. I don’t even think that way. I don’t see these differences between dusky and fair and frankly I personally don’t even want to be part of that debate because I feel there is a complex at play; against the dusky, against the fair. It’s unnecessary. Everyone’s beautiful.

I don’t like the little girl, or the style of the ad itself, but that’s purely cultural. I think the style is rather juvenile and the actress for the child comes across as a big brat which sort of ruins it all for me!

But I’m really interested in how this ad is being received in India and how people are talking about the idea of women getting married multiple times and celebrating those marriages instead of hiding themselves.

In some areas, widows are told to wear white, to distinguish themselves from other women. In this horrible stigmatisation, it can be really difficult for women to be seen as anything more than the successes, failures or length of their marriages.

I’m going to keep an eye on this one, and I’ll let you know how it pans out!

What do you think? Was this a bold move? Did you like the ad? How about what it’s trying to say? Does Priyanka Bose’s skin colour matter? Let me know!

No Comment: Malala Yousafzai on Jon Stewart’s ‘Daily Show’

Words fail me. I know this video has already done the rounds over the past few days, but still.

You all need to take five minutes out of your days to watch this. Now.

Video: Stabilising the Global Population – where next for the Millennium Development Goals?

In preparation for tomorrow morning’s ‘Understanding Poverty’ exam, I’m re-watching this fantastic lecture from the Director of the Institute for Global Health, the lovely Anthony Costello. Had a great time attending it and chatting to him was fascinating!

He talks about measuring progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those on nutrition and health.

In typical development studies style, he’s a bit of a communist and openly criticises bad governance and big corporations and their corruption. Wonderful!

It can also be downloaded from iTunes University by searching for this URL:

http://deimos3.apple.com/WebObjects/Core.woa/Feed/ucl.ac.uk-dz.5993416793.05993416795