The other day, my boyfriend and I were debating what the costs of rent are for stores along New York’s famed Fifth Avenue. After a quick Google search, the results we found were astounding. The sheer volume of items sold to attain those rents is mind-blowing. The staggeringly high rents explain why so much of 5th Avenue is now fast-fashion behemoths like Uniqlo and internationally sought-after mid-tier brands like Abercrombie & Fitch. But at what expense are these low-cost/high-volume stores securing their insane 5th Avenue annual rents?
Halfway through True Cost, the documentary that explores the hidden cost of fashion, I had to turn the documentary off. The injustices served by the fashion industry, particularly in impoverished, third world communities, are truly heartbreaking. While I have not been able to fully break my Zara and H&M addiction, I regularly re-think my purchases as a result.
One company, I:CO, is undertaking the daunting task to make something of the 21 billion pounds of clothing and shoes that Americans waste every year. While the concept of reusing materials in consumer products is not a new one, the efforts of recycling plastic, paper and aluminum are fairly common practice now; the use of recycled fabric in new clothing is relatively unheard of. By working directly with companies like H&M, I:CO offers a service that will revolutionize, hopefully, the way clothes are made moving forward.
Over twenty years ago, renowned global brands like Nike and The Gap were brought under fire for their unfair wages and inhospitable working conditions. To protect their reputations, and their profits, brands made major efforts to transform their factories with new standards of practices that are routinely regulated and audited. As the Myth of the Ethical Shopper divulges, our hunger for the perpetually new often forces factories to circumvent these reformations.
At last month’s American Field, a consumer event that celebrates products made in America, I met Cait Bagby, the energetic force behind World Threads Traveler. World Threads Traveler recognizes designers from around the world that uphold the ethos of sustainability and charitable giving. After speaking with Cait at length, I found her enthusiasm for brands that give back captivating. Each post from her site is infused with that same infectious passion.