Fashion Revolution Course: My Class Notes

Fashion Revolution Sustainable Development Goals class | For Animals For Earth

I got really excited when I saw that Fashion Revolution released a new course this month.  Number one, their classes are FREE and number two, the DEPTH they share is incredible.  I’m significantly more knowledgeable when I finish and truly inspired to make a difference.  This newest one, titled, “Fashion’s Future: The Sustainable Development Goals“, doesn’t disappoint.

Simple idea: take a Fashion Revolution Course!

In my opinion, Fashion Revolution is one of the most impactful nonprofits on the planet because they holistically address fashion, recognizing that huge changes need to happen.  Yet, they inspire learners to continue to love what they wear.  By empowering people at an individual level to influence brands, they’re taking on what would feel like an impossible problem to solve, and they’re making a difference.

Here are links to the two courses that I have taken.  Sign up to be notified when the next one starts.

  1. Who Made My Clothes?
  2. Fashion’s Future: The Sustainable Development Goals

What are Sustainable Development Goals?

I was amazed that I had not heard about the Sustainable Development Goals that the UN put forth for 2030.  I was literally starting at square one for this course!  It’s pretty neat to see that there is a holistic effort with many people, all across the earth, working together toward these goals.  And the goals are lofty, but promising too.  If you want to jump over and read the 17 goals before you move on, please do so.

Lesson 1: What are your favorite brands doing to support the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030?

Creating a list of “my favorite brands” was actually hard for me.  I haven’t purchased any new clothing in 2020.  And I’ve only shopped 3 times that I can remember in the past four years.  I’m wearing many of the same clothes that I wore 20 years go.  And I get a lot of second hand clothes from my sisters.

In some ways this makes me a pretty conscious fashion consumer, BUT I don’t feel good about most of my clothes.  And I don’t usually feel cute when I leave the house.  Finding the balance between being a conscious consumer and feeling stylish when I go out has been very difficult for me.  Let alone running a clothing brand.

I’m still working to find high quality brands that I can afford, fit me well, will last a long time (from both a quality and a style perspective), and come from sustainable and ethical supply chains.

So I went with H&M (used to be my favorite store), Eunina Jeans (the brand of jeans I currently wear that came from my local boutique), and Nordstrom (because I heard that they are doing a lot for sustainability.

Here's what I found:

H&M:

So H&M is doing a lot, it seems.  Their foundation is still in fast fashion, though, which in my opinion, can never be a 100% good thing to support.  It’s based in constantly keeping up with new trends, and making clothes quickly, at a cheaper quality, so that they can be sold at a cheaper price.  To me this feels like a race to the bottom, that inevitably ends with us all losing.  At some point, we will have depleted our natural resources, destroyed the health of the people making the clothes, and we as individuals still won’t be happy because we’re still seeking “more”.  I feel that Good on You always does an amazing roundup of what a brand is doing.  You can read their review of H&M here.

EUNINA JEANS:

Eunina Jeans is based in Los Angeles, so that’s a positive.  But I couldn’t find any more information about where they are made, who they are made by, or what supply chain they use.  One thing that is positive about Eunina Jeans is that they sell wholesale only, so I’m supporting a small business (namely my local boutique that I absolutely love) when I purchase.  But I also found them online from huge online retailers.  So I’m a bit torn about this brand.  I sent a note asking for feedback on their supply chain and will update this if I hear back from them.

NORDSTROM:

This obviously isn’t just one brand.  But I really wanted to dig into what I had heard about Nordstrom because I dream of going into a store to shop, try on clothes, and know that everything in there comes from sustainable, ethical suppliers.  I very much miss going to stores and trying on a ton of clothes to see what actually looks good on me.  In my experience, about 2% of clothing on the market actually looks good on me!

So Nordstrom… well here’s what I found.  Basically, it looks like they are actively working toward some great sustainability goals by 2025.  They’ve launched a new shopping category called Sustainable Style, so that’s a place to start.

I also noticed that Trunk Club has a sustainable option to only have brands from this sustainable style category sent to us.  So that may be a way to try on only sustainable items, to see how they look.  I also recently received a gift card to Wearwell, a small business that does this same thing, a subscription box for only ethical and sustainable brands.

I’m looking forward to trying that.  I’m still torn on the subscription box idea, because it means purchasing new clothes every month.  It also means extra carbon emissions by shipping back what I don’t want.  On the flip side, I would like to find my unique style again, and this would be a good way to have a stylist help me.

One thing to note… I didn’t see anything about only using ethical suppliers, who focus on making sure all garment workers receive a living wage and safe work conditions, on Nordstrom’s website.

Lesson 2: Can you find stories about people in all parts of the fashion supply chain?

Article 1: “Once ‘King,’ cotton farming on a long decline in U.S. south”

This is an interesting story about cotton production in the US, which is something I wondered about throughout Lesson 2.  I assumed that most everything here had been “industrialized” to use expensive machinery on large farms.  I find Mr. Shelton’s story sad, just because I’d rather see all industries made up of many small businesses doing well and working together.  Rather than the reality of what seems to always happen in the US, which is a few small businesses grow large and dominate the sector, pushing out smaller businesses that can no longer compete.

Something else fascinating to me about this article is that I come from a farming family in Indiana.  And I know that Indiana farmers who grow corn and soybeans are struggling more each year to stay afloat as well, as larger corporations take over.  So I wonder if the disappearance of cotton is step one, but changing over to crops like corn and soybeans will also fizzle out and disappear in ten years.

Article 2: “European Commission Promises to Champion Corporate Accountability”

This is pretty awesome.  It looks like the EU is truly talking about beginning to hold brands accountable for checking into their supply chains.

Article 3: STILL made in the USA (just): America’s last surviving textile factories are captured in mesmerizing behind-the-scenes photos”

This is a neat article with photos of what the inside of textile mills in the US look like.  It shares an interesting perspective from small mills that have been able to stay in business by finding a niche to serve.

Article 4: “An Inside Look At Making Clothes In An American Factory”

A somewhat promising article about the future of textile mills in the United States.  This starts out talking about a small business that caters to small batch designers.  This is something I looked everywhere for when I first started my clothing line.  I wanted to make custom little girl’s tshirt dresses, but I couldn’t find options for producing new pieces under batches of 300.  And I don’t sell anywhere near that volume.  I do believe there is a growing market for providing an option to people like me.  This seems like a promising opportunity for small businesses in the USA.  And it is nice to buy things made in the USA because we know that the factories were held to an acceptable level of ethical standards and pay.

Lesson 3: Choose something you are wearing right now and investigate the environmental impacts of it

I chose my Alternative Apparel Ramble Eco-Gauze Raglan Tunic in light gray.  It’s made in Peru with 50% cotton and 50% recycled polyester.  Being made of 50% cotton, I can know right off the bat that a lot of water was used to farm the cotton.  I can also know that pesticides and synthetic fertilizers were used, perhaps even GMO seeds.  I’m excited that it is made from 50% recycled polyester, and that’s why I bought it.  But I wish I had more information about what original material was recycled, and if it went through a chemical process to recycle that material.

The fabric is very thin and very soft, so I’m guessing that it was processed a lot to become that way.  I think this means that a lot of chemicals may have been used.  The color is light gray, so it would have been dyed, which could mean toxic water runoff, depending on where it was dyed.

Alternative Apparel’s website says this about the production of their clothes: “Our garments are crafted with sustainable materials & processes, including organic & recycled materials, low-impact dyes & water-conserving washes.”  The shirt does not say that it is made with 50% organic cotton, so I assume it is made with non-organic cotton.  But it is nice to know that the manufacturing processes are eco conscious.  And they specifically state on their website that they are a part of Fashion Revolution, and that they ensure fair, clean and safe work conditions globally.

I do think Alternative Apparel is trying to do better for people and for the earth.  And I think that’s a really good start.  I feel good that my shirt is made with recycled materials as well as with manufacturing processes that take the earth into account, and the wellbeing of the people making it.  I do wish there was a little more transparency in where the fabric that was used to make the final product came from listed right on the website.

I only wash this shirt when it absolutely needs to be washed, and I do it on cold water, in a garment bad, and hang it to dry.  That being said, I think I may save water if I washed it by hand when it is time.

I’m actually guessing that I will wear this shirt until it falls apart because the material is thin, and I really really love it.  I’ve had it for about 6 months so far, and luckily it hasn’t shown any sign of wear yet.  I suppose I could make it into something when I’m done with it… I wonder what that could be?

Lesson 4: Create a Fashion Revolutionary Action Plan

So my action plan is smaller than I dream of it being honestly. After taking this course, I feel extremely compelled to work on fixing all of the problems that are happening. But I’ve learned the hard way through many years of setting lofty goals. So my plan here is what I hope will be manageable and truly get done over the next year. I know that taking in these documentaries on a schedule will help me to anchor back into what’s happening and perform actions on an ongoing basis.

1. Watch 1 documentary on how fashion is impacting the world per quarter, starting with River Blue
2. Share what I’ve learned in a blog post each time I watch a documentary, with a simple action that I’ll take.
3. Compile an ongoing list of good documentaries to watch regarding consciously choosing our clothing.
4. Put together a podcast episode about these documentaries and the top simple actions that we can take to help everyday.

The Documentaries I Find:

Amazon Prime:

Fashion Factories Undercover (2014) – This documentary follows undercover cameras in garment factories in Bangladesh, post the Rana Plaza collapse.  It reveals children being physically and verbally abused to make clothes for western fashion brands.

River Blue (2017) – This documentary looks at the processes used to manufacture our clothes, with focus on the chemicals used and the disposal of toxic waste.

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