This week's episode of the VeryPink Knits podcast includes an interview with one of the founders of Fashion Revolution, an organization working to raise awareness of issues in the fashion industry including the impact the industry has on human rights and the environment. As knitting is a piece in the fashion puzzle, I felt like it was an interesting and important topic to explore.
I was on my way to knitting night a few years ago, listening to Fresh Air, on of my favorite shows on the radio, when this topic came to my attention. Terry Gross was interviewing the author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Fashion who discussed her own awakening to the problem of "fast-fashion" after her basement was full of unworn clothes she bought because they were cheap. She was like most American consumers who bought things on deep discount, celebrating the cheap score. One day the excess became too much and she began researching the problem. She ended up traveling to garment factories in China and India and learning about the environmental and human impact of fashion to write this book. (You can listen to the interview here.)
While I laughed that I heard this on the way to knitting group, the ultimate slow fashion, it opened my eyes to the issue. Personally, I always enjoyed getting a good deal and buying a few new things each season. When I was out shopping for a specific thing, I'd always look around for extra things on sale just to get deal. When shopping online, I'd check the clearance items because of course you want that shipping to be worth it. But, I now I realized the impact of all those cheap clothes. From the radio interview, I couldn't get the image out of my head that in certain parts of the world, the water in the rivers near the garment factories will change color to coordinate with the trendy color of the year from the dyes used in the factory.
When I justified my purchases by loading up old items to take to Goodwill, it is not as helpful as I thought. Charity shops and third world countries are overflowing with our old clothes.
About a year ago, I attended a presentation with Courtney Carver who changed her life by wearing only 33 items for 30 days. (Look up "capsule wardrobes" and you'll find a lot of people doing something like this.) She's another American woman who realized she was unconsciously buying cheap things to try to make herself happy, but woke up one day to the problem when her family was in debt and her health was fading. She was under a lot of stress and tried to cover that stress with the short-term high of buying new things. By stopping her shopping habit she changed her life. It has filtered into other areas in her life beyond clothing. She has only one cutting board in her kitchen, for example, and reduced the size of their house.
Since I heard that radio interview and attended the seminar, I've been trying to reduce the amount of stuff in our lives. I've drastically reduced my shopping and am working on adding more hand-knit items than purchased items. While I'm not quite there with reducing down to 33 items in my closet (it's a real challenge with the drastic weather changes in Texas and my traveling habit!), I am focusing on wearing what I have, not buying things just to buy them, and buying items that are high quality to be worn often. Of course, I've slipped up, but I know I've made progress.
As far as knitting goes, I'm paying attention to the fibers I use and choosing natural fibers whenever possible, while recognizing where they are produced. I have a sweater I knit a few years ago that I may unravel to reuse the yarn from what I learned after our interview with Emily Felix. And, next big purchase may have to include some local Texas fiber.
Sharing this interview with you is another step in my fashion revolution. Let's all be more aware and decide what changes we can make to make a difference in what has become one of the biggest environmental issues in the modern world. What are you going to change?