Global textile: a supply chain that weighs on workers and the environment | What's Left

When a Canadian consumer buys a pair of jeans for $30 at H&M, an entire chain of production is at play. While $30 for a pair of jeans may seem like a bargain, there's more to it than a marked-down price tag. Millions of workers are involved in the international textile supply chain: in cotton fields, in the textile factories of Bangladesh, in shipping and packaging, and in retail outlets around the world.

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Slow Fashion October is a concept started by Karen Templer of Fringe Association. Her blog focuses on knitting and sewing projects aimed at eliminating clothing consumption. Every year, she engages other makers to think about their impacts on the continuation of the global textile industry – in which most workers are exploited, forced to work relentlessly in dangerous factories, and are paid only pennies a day. Templer challenges people to take note of what they already own and mend what can be repaired. Of course, this concept is not new. But, with the alarming pace that people continue to consume – driven by fashion seasons, trends, and cheap prices – new emphasis needs to be put on alternatives.

Not everyone can teach themselves to make fashionable and long lasting pieces of clothing, nor does everyone have the privilege to sit down and mend a favourite shirt. What we can do however, is seriously think about the journey of our textiles - whose hands worked on sewing them and their history of displacement and colonization, the emissions needed to deliver our clothing from one continent to another, how we care for our clothing once we have them in our possession, and the different ways in which we can extend their usefulness.

No one wants your old clothes

Slow Fashion October

#slowfashionoctober on Instagram

Documentary: Unravel

Some of the clothes that don’t end up in a landfill somewhere eventually make their way to Panipat, a northern Indian city that tears apart, organizes, and recycles our old clothes. Here is a 14 minute video that will leave you thinking of the life of that $30 pair of jeans – made in Bangladesh, shipped to Canada, worn for a few months, and then shipped to India.

This is the final resting place of your cast off clothing

Documentary: The True Cost

This new documentary takes a look at every step of the global textile supply chain, and attempts to unravel the true cost of the fast-fashion industry. The documentary explores the market pressures that cause textiles to be manufactured in conditions which result in thousands of workers dying in factories around the world. It also examines the environmental impacts of producing mountains of cheap garments that end up in landfills. The documentary is available on Netflix.

Why not all fashion documentaries should be pretty

‘The True Cost,’ a Different Kind of Fashion Documentary

Fashion: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)