Let's Follow Meghan Markle: Fashion Reimagined

When was the last time you checked the label of a shirt you purchased? Do you know how the jeans you are wearing were manufactured? In our fast and often blind pursuit of fashion, we often forget to stop and think about what it means to be a thoughtful purchaser. We forget that the sweater we wear did not just appear out of nowhere; it was made by someone, somewhere.

Some of the most common and popular fashion brands use cheap, exploitive labor. After all, we live in a capitalist society where demand is high and cheap labor is desired. In sweatshops around the globe, but especially in Southeast Asia, workers are often mistreated. Child labor is not uncommon, and females are often physically and verbally abused.

One worker for H&M confessed to the Guardian: ““[My] batch supervisor came up behind me as I was working on the sewing machine, yelling, ‘You are not meeting your target production.’ He pulled me out of the chair and I fell on the floor. He hit me, including on my breasts. He pulled me up and then pushed me to the floor again [and] kicked me.”

H&M, Zara, Forever-21, and Urban Outfitters are all companies that employ cheap, massive labor from Asian countries including China and Cambodia.

Why can’t fashion be both humane and affordable? As we rifle through sale racks, it’s hard to keep in mind the implications that BOGO-half-off clothes have on our planet. How do we find a happy medium?  

As college students, a lot of us are looking for affordable options that are trendy at the same time. The good news is that many new clothing companies have emerged in the past decade that heartily advocate for sustainable and ethical fashion. These brands prioritize the quality of materials and the conditions of their factory workers over the quantity they are able to produce in a certain period of time. Moreover, they are meant to last for a long time. They serve as a reminder for us to pause in this fast-paced society and reevaluate our habitual routines.

Here are three brands for you to consider if you love the idea of dressing comfortably, fashionably, and ethically. First, Girlfriend Collective. They are known for their incredibly soft and sustainable leggings. They recycle water bottles from “Garbage Island” in Taiwan and break them down into PET (polyethylene terephthalate) chips. These chips are then washed, dried, heated up, extruded, spun, and chipped into little pallets. Finally, they are spun into yarn and are used to make their incredibly comfortable and colorful leggings. Not only are they soft and sustainable, they are cheaper than your Lululemon leggings. Girlfriend Collective cares about ocean plastic pollution. As a result, they make their nylon from recycled fishing nets. Wearing their nylon products means that you are protecting marine animals like dolphins, whales and sea turtles from ocean plastic pollution.

Second, Outland Jeans. This brand has been endorsed by our very own Northwestern alum, Meghan Markle, who is a true advocate for sustainable fashion. At Outland, every seamstress is known on a personal basis, and they are supported with adequate living wages. Founder James Bartle hires vulnerable girls coerced into the sex industry by human traffickers, and provides them with a job at Outland. After Markle voiced support for Outland, they were able to hire an additional 15 Cambodian females who were previously victims of the human trafficking industry. Outland also uses sustainable raw materials including organic cotton and recycled packaging.

Last but not least, Thought. As the name suggests, this UK based company is committed to creating thoughtful clothing that uses the right fabrics, makes people feel good, and minimizes our environmental footprint. Their sustainable fabrics range from naturally grown bamboo, free from harmful pesticides, to “helpful hemp” that only gets softer as time goes on.  Their polyester is made with plastic bottles that are recycled and reworked, and they pride themselves in the soft and silky textures of their clothing.

A small change can go a long way. We are connected to our planet, and wearing something sustainable will not only improve the lives of so many animals and plants, but will also make us feel better about our next shopping spree.

Yujia HuangComment