An American Economy Horror Story
In our last piece, we gathered the clues and got one step closer to catching the killer. Realizing the fatal impact current fashion trends have on the environment is just the beginning of our defense against cruel clothing practices. Fast-fashion has an obvious impact globally, but the danger hits closer to home than some might think. Fast-fashion is the recent trend in the clothing industry of fashion companies moving designs from catwalk to clothing store at an increased pace. This trend can be seen by new merchandise popping up in stores on a weekly basis, creating a different trend season every week. Although the higher consumption of goods means more manufacturing, it doesn’t mean that money is feeding the American economy.
The Horrible Habit
Americans are buying more fashion than ever, even with the country’s credit card debt totaling $800 billion, companies continue churning out the latest trends on a weekly basis, and consumers keep coming back for more. In a 2013 Gallup poll over 55% of Americans admitted to not caring to know where their clothes were made. What these fashionistas might not know is 97% of all clothing sold in the United States is manufactured elsewhere and imported to be sold in our country. In the 1960’s 95% of our clothing was made in America but as of 2015, only 3% of our clothes are produced domestically, and what little is produced here is often made on a robotic assembly line. The fashion industry is one of the most labor-dependent, and with the demand for fashion to continue to get cheaper and cheaper, that labor is outsourced and underpaid. With robots, credit card debt, and the allure of companies that outsource their production, very little of the money being spent on the fashion industry is coming back to stimulate the American economy.
The Deadly Effects
America has lost 5 million factory jobs since 2000 to automated manufacturing. As we see companies such as Nasty Gal and American Apparel file for bankruptcy and close their doors, we recognize the expense to produce clothing in the States. As the emphasis shifts from home grown to low cost, we forget the cost of buying into fast-fashion. Countries like Bangladesh, India, China and Vietnam become more desirable to manufacture in due to their low wages, nonexistent labor laws and free trade agreements. The outcome is the loss of millions of dollars that could potentially be paid to workers here in America, not to mention that those outsourced workers are making around $2 a day (we will touch more on the abhorrent working conditions in these countries in our final installment of this series). The average American spends $1,700 a year on clothing, preferring to impulse buy the polyester trend of the week over American made-to-last fashion. This perpetuates the culture of single use trends which increases the appeal of cheap fashion and companies like Zara and H&M, which in turn takes that $1,700 out of our country’s economy. The trend of buying fast-fashion is a billion-dollar loss of wages and profit that could be contributing to the American economy.
How To Be The Good Guy
Producing fashion in America would help with the unemployment rate and stimulate our economy, however, consumers would be forced to pay higher prices and buy at a slower rate. We have to recognize what is happening and be willing to compromise our rate of consumption to give back to our home. A good way to ease into that compromise is to shop locally and to shop with a purpose. By finding a brand that represents where you come from or what you stand for, it makes it worth the extra cost. You can find solace in knowing that companies like Bluer Denim validate their higher cost by using Georgia sourced cotton and manufacture in California. Bluer Denim also eases your pocket-book blues through their 1-for-1 model, for every pair you buy Bluer Denim buys back used jeans for $5 so they can refurbish them and give them to those in need. So, when you’re paying those few extra dollars for a t-shirt from Suki + Solaine rather than Forever 21, you can be comforted knowing that extra fee is going towards supporting women in Chicago and into the small business of America.
The discussion of bringing revenue and jobs home to America is one that stirs many emotions. There are so many benefits to focusing on the fight of shopping local and supporting American made, but as with all stories, there are two sides. In our last installment in this series we will be diving into the emotional and important topic of ethical and fair-trade fashion, what is happening to those with clothing manufacturing jobs overseas: Nightmare on 5th Avenue: The Frightening Need for Fair Trade.
By Kit Royce