WHAT THE TAG
IN YOUR CLOTHES SAYS
The name of the game speaks to fashion- hang tags, country/content/care tags, that's what I think of when I hear "tag you're it". What if you are what you wear? The few simple words and symbols on your clothing tag and it's company's ads reveals minimal information about that piece of clothing’s unique journey to your closet. “Made in America” doesn’t always mean just that.
Too often fashions’ journey parallels with other articles of clothing who started in fields and factories by the hands of slaves (wage slaves often, but actual ownership slavery does exist in this world today, and many of us are aware of the clothing manufacturing connection with child slavery and prison labor.) Where your clothing tag says “Made in ____” that simply states the last stop on that article’s typically global journey. Where your clothing was truly made is where the fibers were harvested, processed, sorted, spun, milled, woven or knit into fabric; Where the fabric was sent for cutting, where clothing construction took place, and where the clothing was finally finished (trims, buttons, bows, zippers applied, and take into consideration where they all may have come from as well) and packaged for retail. There is no clause in your clothing tag suggesting any of these steps are taken even in the same hemisphere as the step before or after it.
Take cotton clothing as an example: Cotton is traded as a commodity, and therefore is often impossible to track. It is sorted, generally according to length of fiber and color, then lumped together with other fibers from all over the world before being sold at different rates according to quality. Cotton is also the most toxic of all fibers; When grown conventionally pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and chemical defoliants are used prolifically.
Conventionally grown Cotton uses 22.5% of the entire World’s insecticides, and it takes 257 gallons of water to produce enough Cotton for just one T-shirt. Wealthy and greedy corporations often take advantage of Third World Countries and their lax (or nonexistent) taxes, labor laws and facility inspection standards to minimize cost. This keeps products cheap and bountiful to satiate American’s appetite for fast fashion (not unlike fast food). The country of origin designated on your clothing tag may be deceptive, and whenever saying “Made in China" or any other country overseas, know that the possibility of exploitation is high.
Also consider “greenwashing” as a fashion marketing trap: Toxic companies hiding in plain sight. This marketing strategy preys on those of us wanting to do good through shopping but deceptively promotes the perception that an organization's products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly when they're not. Remember the recent Volkswagen scandal? Well, turns out that's just the tip of the melting iceberg! 95% of “green” products on the market include at least one false or questionable claim. The Federal Trade Commission fines retailers for falsely marketing products as environmentally friendly. Just because something is made from a natural source does not make it healthy for you or the environment.
"Buy less, choose well, make it last." -Vivienne Westwood, fashion designer
As a conscious consumer armed with knowledge you can really start to see what a tag says (or doesn't say) about the world and the wearer. Take a look at the clothing company as a whole. Can you easily find more information about their sustainable business practices on their website? Do they have a comprehensive environmental story? Is there believable information to substantiate their green claims? Try Googling the company name plus the word “environment” and see what pops up.
This holiday season as your traveling in style and comfort, tucking in your little ones, making your lists and checking them twice consider looking beyond the label, past the price tag, and search for a truer shade of green by making your family's fashion purchases with clothing companies who back up their claims with credentials, accreditations, and approvals. If only everything were as clear as feeling someone tag you while shrieking "You're it!", we wouldn't have to traverse the vague verbiage of greenwashing. But, since life is complicated we have to educate ourselves and be our own green warrior advocates to take Vivienne Westwood's "choose well" advice.
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