THE DARKER SIDE OF FASHION
A LOOK INTO FAIR PRACTICE AND THE FASHION INDUSTRY
Having a sense of style is a way of taking action. People should take fashion more seriously, not less. It matters. For those of us learning to balance our interest in fashion with conscious consumption, an awareness of materials and their environmental impacts can guide us toward more sustainable purchasing decisions. We believe that as a consumer it is your responsibility to consciously consider what you buy, knowing which philosophies you are supporting through your purchases and the true ideals of the brands you are purchasing from. As a brand, we take our job seriously and understand our responsibility to you as consumers to remain transparent, responsible and to share with you our intentions, processes and goals in terms of fair practice, ethics and sustainability.
As one of the biggest players in the global economy, the fashion industry has a responsibility to help protect the environment. As it stands the fashion industry is the third most detrimental in terms of its environmental impact and this is something that doesn’t sit quite right with us here at Chasing Unicorns.
There’s the larger issue, which is indeed one of size. The problem with fashion, vis-à-vis the environment, isn’t with any one product or any one process (some of these are pretty horrific in themselves). It isn’t with any one company or with a specific consumer. It's with the industry as whole and the emergence of sustainability being used as an easy, trendy marketing tool to greenwash businesses rather than as long term dedicated solution. It’s also with the scale of production; an immense infrastructure has been devised to support a shopping culture in which we’re encouraged to buy more, more, more. Buy now; buy cheaper; buy constantly.
This is a matter close to our hearts at Chasing Unicorns. Creative Director and Owner, Sarah Humphrey, is environmentally conscious in all aspects of her daily life, whether it's at home on the family farm or in her business ethics. With a background in Biology and Science from Brown University in the US, she has not only an informed but acute awareness of the detrimental impacts the fashion industry has on our living world. Here we share with you some facts that took our breath away. These facts will not and cannot be fixed if the industry keeps using trendy catchphrases such as "eco-conscious" or "sustainable" without practicing what they preach. Whilst it is near impossible to be 100% perfect in terms of fair practices in fashion, there are many smaller decisions, steps, and ethics that can be put in place by brands and companies, no matter the size, to create fashion in a way which is more considerate of humanity and the environment.
*The rise of fast fashion in Australia has led to 6000 kg of clothing being dumped in landfill every 10 minutes
*Greenpeace has estimated that an average of 20% of the populations clothing is not worn more than once
*Extending the life of a garment by just a mere 9 months can reduce carbon, waste and water footprints by around 20-30% each item
*Synthetic materials, like polyester, nylon, and acrylic don’t exist naturally but are made in factories
*Synthetics are created through an industrial manufacturing process in which petroleum, a fossil fuel, is extracted from the earth and mechanically transformed into fibres for clothing
*The resulting fibre, although soft and even silky, is actually a plastic. In fact, polyester is made of the same exact material used to make plastic bottles: polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. Resources used: fossil fuels. Environmental issues: the production of fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, which is the leading cause of climate change; washing synthetic fibres releases microplastics into the water supply and ultimately into our food chain, synthetics don’t decompose in landfills. Material miscreants: polyester (because of its volume — it is the most common material in our clothes); nylon (because its production releases nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than CO2)
*Semi-synthetic materials have a natural source, but require processing to transform that natural source into a fibre that can be used for clothing. These include rayon (aka viscose), modal, lyocell. Resources used: primarily wood. Environmental issues: deforestation (the cutting down of trees faster than forests can replenish them) which has climate change implications; heavy chemicals needed to transform the hardwood into a soft fibre release pollutants into the air and water. Material miscreants: rayon, modal
*Bamboo Clothing Isn’t Really that Eco-Friendly. Bamboo fabrics have been extremely hyped because bamboo grows and regenerates quickly making it an incredibly sustainable material. That’s great if you’re building a floor. However, in the world of garments, it actually requires extremely high amounts of toxic chemicals to ultimately turn bamboo into garment-ready fabrics
*Clothing is made in overseas factories that don’t use solar power, and is then shipped worldwide - all super carbon-intensive activities. Plus, fast-fashion clothing that is worn and quickly thrown away emits 400% more carbon emissions per item per year than a garment kept for a full year and worn 50 times
*Every year, more than 80 billion pieces of clothing are made worldwide. After we're ready to discard a garment, three out of four ends up in landfills or incinerated
*In China, 80% of groundwater from major river basins is unsuitable for human contact
*In Guangdong in China, young women face 150 hours of overtime each month, 60% have no contract, 90% have no access to social insurance.
*The fashion industry is unfortunately rife with human rights violations. To compete in the ongoing race to make and sell clothes that are ever cheaper, the textile industry has relocated to countries with low labour costs and inadequate regulations
*Despite regular media attention and NGO campaigns, suppliers in these production-based countries are being pushed beyond their limits, with significant environmental and social impacts, such as unacceptable working conditions and the use of child labour
*At Chasing Unicorns we advocate conscious, considered and moderate consumption. We believe the best thing a consumer can do is to buy fewer pieces that they feel are truly special and intend to keep and wear for a long time- thus creating tomorrows vintage to be passed down forever. We have used high quality, carefully chosen base clothes, exquisite details and beautiful hand work as a way to elevate these pieces to “keep forever” status
* We know that no two body shapes are the same. That is why we offer an alteration service to provide customisations for perfection and longevity of our clothing.
*Our production process has no middle men and involves dealing directly with two families. The hand work on our pieces is being made through "home industry". This is the outsourcing of work to mothers and grandmothers who make our pieces in their homes while tending the house, caring for their children and chatting with their friends. Sarah deals and speaks directly daily with the wonderful people making our garments. They set the prices and terms of work and we honour this and sell accordingly. This mutual respect, honesty, happiness and financial viability for all involved is the crux of our relationship with our artisans
*Each of our production teams have specialty niches and each makes the portion of the Chasing Unicorns collection that is tailored to their individual skills and expertise. Because we make very limited runs of each style we can ensure that each garment has a tremendous amount of human energy and time put into it. Because of our business model of direct retail we have flexibility in delivery (due to your amazing understanding) we're able to engage our producers to work with no overtime or target related penalties
*We include linen in our range due to the fact that flax and the linen textile made from it are more environmentally friendly in numerous ways than many other fibres available. When the flax is grown to produce linen the whole plant is harvested and can be utilised for different things meaning there is little to no waste from the crop, flax crops are also gentle on the land and easily introduced into modern day crop rotations, preventing soil depletion. The flax used for linen production grows naturally requiring less water and fewer pesticides than cotton, making it a more eco-friendly fabric.Because it is a natural fibre linen is biodegradable and recyclable and can be reused as a recycled product such as paper and insulation materials for the car industry. Very little energy is used to process flax into linen yarn and the industrial process of spinning and weaving the flax has very little to no impact on the environment
*We use 100% cotton, 100% linen and 100% silk base cloth fabrics, simply because they wear better, last longer, are true to the vintage styles that we're inspired by and have fewer chemicals involved in their production than man-made fabrics
*On average e-commerce uses about 30% less energy than traditional bricks and mortar retail. For us, e-commerce remains the very best retail option moving forwards
*At Chasing Unicorns we have made the choice to never enter into mass production or wholesale. To do volume, brands have to enter into full-scale factory-based production thus losing control and more often than not sight of the human and environmental impact of the brand. By selling directly to the consumer rather than wholesaling, we keep our quantities made down, our production slow, we are able pay the producer the highest price for their work and give the customer the lowest price possible for the highest quality product that we can make. Everyone wins from producer to consumer and we ensure that these pieces remain unique and non-ubiquitous- which is something we value highly
*Our parting words to you are that “Fair practice fashion” is no simple concept as a consumer or as a brand….none of us will ever be perfect, but there are choices we can all make with our heads and our hearts to ensure the longevity of this amazing planet and its beautiful people for generations to come. Here at Chasing Unicorns, we promise to always make this our priority and ask you to do the same