The last time I blogged, I wrote about how cotton is destroying the world. This statement has become a sort of rallying cry of mine at Threadquarters. Being the point person in charge of measuring and understanding Thread’s impact is a dream job for me, but there is a heaviness that comes with consistently researching the negative impacts of industry and understanding the effect they have on the world. I deal by ensuring my coworkers know all of the depressing facts I know. Misery loves company!
Seriously though, knowledge is power. We can’t fix problems we don’t know about, so while the environmental, social, and economic issues facing our world overwhelm me, I take enormous comfort in my day to day work being involved in changing these issues.
It’s great to work for a triple bottom line company. However, I can’t separate my work-self from my non-work self and the more I learn about environmental, social, and economic issues (especially as they relate to the textile industry), the more I question the purchasing habits I’ve naively practiced since my life pre-Thread.
As a whole, the apparel industry – to put it simply – is not good. It’s environmentally harmful, it treats people poorly, and it relies on mass consumption. There are exceptions to this that we at Thread look up to – but these are few and far between (and could be even better).
This is where I tell you how much I love clothing. I love fashion. I know that wearing the same thing everyday would make me a more focused and productive member of society (a la Mark Zuckerberg or President Obama), but getting dressed in the morning is one of the most joyful parts of my day. Call it frivolous, call it shallow, but getting dressed is a creative opportunity to present myself to the world.
This is where I tell you that I own a lot of cotton. That I’ve bought clothing from Zara and Benetton who have been implicated in tragedies such as the Rana Plaza Collapse. That I own cheap clothes from H&M. That I have used my purchasing power to support things that directly contradict my core values.
I know better now. So those habits are changing. I satisfy my desire for fast-fashion by attending clothing swaps (if you’re in Pittsburgh – join us here) if you’re elsewhere I encourage you to start your own, because clothing swaps are the best. I try to buy second hand for the things I don’t find at swaps. When I need something specific, or decide to buy new, I do as much research as I can and support brands I feel good about supporting. Everlane, Timberland, Under Armour, Levis, and a handful of local designers/artists are the brands I am happy to give my money to. They produce clothing I’m proud to present myself in.
What I’m trying to say is that purchasing power matters. We just went through Black Friday and Cyber Monday and the whole world is yelling at us to buy, buy, buy. I recognize that the majority of people are not as nerdy as I am and are probably not pouring through annual sustainability reports before making purchasing decisions. If you are this nerdy – I think we just became best friends.
Luckily there are other groups out there who do this research for you, and allow you to compare apples to apples, or toothpaste to toothpaste, or apparel brands to apparel brands. GoodGuide is one such site – scoring brands on both environmental and social impact so you can have a bit more insight into the impact you are supporting this holiday season.
Their methodology seems sound. Most of the scoring is based on self-reporting from the brands, and the apparel industry is notoriously opaque, but they do a decent job with what little transparency they have. This is one of the biggest reasons Thread exists. To provide brands with a transparent supply chain from Ground to Good™.
It also helps to inform my own personal shopping decisions. Sorry Anthropologie and Free People – I love your designs, but your score isn’t good enough for me to be your customer any longer. (pssst. Thread could dramatically help you! Have your people call our people.)
For those of you that want to have a bit more understanding behind your purchasing, I hope this resource is helpful to you. I hope that these kinds of scoring systems become commonplace and that we consumers no longer naively support practices we don’t want to.
For the brands out there – know that we’re watching. Know that we will be demanding transparency, honesty, and quality for people and for our planet at every step of your supply chains.
Happy Holiday shopping.