Let’s Talk about Faux Fur

Fur vs. faux fur. As an ethical consumer, faux is the obvious choice when one wants a little furry flair, right? In a 2017 article for the Los Angles Times, Janet Kinosian wrote that faux fur “offers you a chance to look festive … without the guilt.” However, the choice is a little more complex than Kinosian makes it out to be.

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At a glance, the option that doesn’t require the death of animal is the most ethical choice. Duh. But it turns out faux fur is just the lesser of two evils, so it is still, to some degree, evil. The synthetic material that fake fur is made out of is pretty much just plastic, meaning it’s likely to never biodegrade. (Real fur will eventually biodegrade even though it is heavily treated with chemicals to preserve it.) This is an issue in itself, but it is especially an issue when these faux fur coats are bought more for trend than for warmth. Meaning, when people buy them they aren’t planning on breaking them out every winter but, rather, to wear them once or twice for fun. They end up in a landfill in a jiffy.

This coat is made up of 34% polyester and 66% modacrylic. Both of these materials cause harm to ocean-dwellers as well as being toxic to us, as a 2015 study released in Scientific Reports revealed that these fibers were found in the bellies of fish being sold at markets in California. Growing research compiled by Patagonia shows that these micro-plastic fibers are released when we wash any clothing item made from synthetic material, but a coat like this, which sheds without any prompting, will release any especially large quantity of microplastic fibers.

I’m obviously not here to tell you that you need to avoid all faux fur because, as pictured, that would be a bit hypocritical. Instead, proceed with caution. I know my personal style well enough at this point to know that I am actually going to wear a crazy piece like this a ton, and not just chunk it after newness of it wears off. When purchasing, really think about if it’s just impulse or something you will wear a lot. Whatever you buy, buy second hand. It’s best not to contribute to companies creating cheap synthetic fur, as this just send them to signal to keep on creating more indestructible plastic coats. Just continue the life of an old one. I bought this one at Goodwill, and lots of other thrift stores have tons of wacky coats like it. When it comes to releasing fibers in the wash, Patagonia is one of the first companies to invent the “GUPPYFRIEND” Washing Bag–a bag to put synthetic clothing in that catches the little fibers. (This is useful for other clothing, as well.) I have yet to invest in one of these because, full disclosure, I don’t think coats need to be washed too often and plan on climbing that hill when I get to it.

Make whatever fashion statements you want, just make them informed.

The incredibly talented photographer who took these portraits is Kylie Atkinson, who you absolutely need to follow on Instagram this very minutes.

Tips and Tricks: Taking the Ethical Fashion Plunge (3 of 3)

Want to take the ethical fashion plunge, but not sure where to begin? I have compiled a list of my tips for getting started. If you have been following the series, you’ll know I wrote two informational posts about fashion’s effect on humanity and on the earth, which help explain why you should start being more conscious of how you’re handling clothing. Now that you know why, I thought it would be helpful for me to provide a how, as well. It may not be plausible to make all of these drastic changes immediately, but I’d challenge you to pick a couple of these to implement in your daily life.

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How to Start the Ethical Fashion Journey

  • DONATE your old clothes rather than just tossing them.

    • Take clothing to a trusted thrift store. Many of those drop-boxes on the side of the road can be misleading. They often end up throwing a lot of the items away, rather than actually reusing them. (This is not true in all cases, but try to look into it before you toss the bag.)
    • Let your friends look through your old clothes. I bet you’re pretty stylish. You know your pals would love a free blouse.
    • Pay attention to the people in your community, and give hand-me-downs to those that can use them. When I was in high school, there was never a shortage of junior high girls at my church who would happily receive the items which I had outgrown.
  • MAKE something new out of something old.

    • One of my favorite youtubers and biggest ethical fashion inspirations, Annika Victoria, has a TON of tutorials for sewing and clothing DIYs. She has varying difficulty levels, so there is something for everyone.
    • If you can’t sew your old clothes into something you’d like to wear, you can easily create dish rags or re-usable grocery bags out of them. Even if you aren’t much of a DIY-er, you’d be surprised how simple it is to up-cycle. (Let me know below if you’d be interested in a tutorial on any of these, to help you kick-start your up-cycling.)
  • EDUCATE yourself.

    • Good On You app is a great resource to find out what stores you like to shop at are ethical. It is a super easy to keep this app on your phone and check it before you head out to shop or even while you are in a store.
    • This website has a lot of information on the transparency of popular brands.
    • We have access to infinite knowledge with the internet. There are apps, websites, and something as simple as a quick google search can get you farther than you think.
    • We need to show the fashion industry we won’t stand for the way they are conducting things. They want our money, and if they realize they won’t get it if they keep abusing their power, they’ll start to make changes. You can’t stop supporting bad companies if you aren’t willing to find out who is doing what.
  • INVEST in ethically conscious, well-made items.

    • Brands that are ethically conscious tend to be more expensive by nature. It takes more money to pay workers well and keep facilities up to code. We need to change our mindsets from expecting to buy tons of items for cheap to investing in key pieces that we can keep longer. In the end, the money evens out, we just throw out less poorly made items.
    • Big Bud Press is one of my favorite brands, currently. They may be a little out-there for some of my readers, but they are full of psychedelic color and all of their items are made in Los Angeles. They are totally transparent, and often post videos of their clothes-making processes on their Instagram story.
    • Miracle Eye is a 1960’s and 1970’s inspired clothing line, which is totally ethical from start to finish. I’m obsessed with their velvet mini dresses and jumpsuits. Getting into ethical fashion is a great way to start supporting small businesses and artists who are doing great things in fashion.
    • If you are into hiking, or pretending that you are outdoorsy, Patagonia is actually one of the most outstanding brands I have ever seen. They have TONS of information on their website about sustainability.
    • There are plenty of other ethical brands online. Searching Etsy is a pretty easy way to find some, if none of my suggestions tickle your fancy, I’d encourage you to search out the locally owned stores, vintage shops, and thrift shops  in your area.

(I am not affiliated with any of the brands or other resources linked throughout this post.)

If you are overwhelmed, simply pick one or two of these changes to integrate into your life. It may seem like we are too small to make a positive change with our personal choices, but a movement always starts with individuals. If you learned anything from this post, I hope it was that there are tangible ways to make a change on the world around us. We mustn’t be idle when there is so much good we are capable of accomplishing. Are there any tips you would add to the list? Let me know!

 

Fashion and the Environment (2 of 3)

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In the first part of my ethical fashion series, I tackled how the fashion industry affects humanity. Today I’ll be explaining the fashion industry’s effect on the earth (which also, in turn, affects humanity). If you want a little bit of background on this topic before diving in, click here to read my first post. This issue is fairly complex, having different facets such as the production, materials, and us– the consumers. I am no professional, but we are all capable of educating ourselves, so read on if you’d like to raise your awareness with me.

Production & Materials

Every item of clothing produced uses up resources and, since we are buying more clothes than ever, companies are producing more than ever, and using up resources at a vastly unsustainable rate. One of the most prominent examples of this is the disappearance of the Aral Sea due to the vast amount of water necessary in cotton farming. The amount of water it takes to produce one cotton shirt is enough for a person to drink in over two years (about 27,000 liters) according the World Resources Institute. In the process of drying up the Aral Sea, around 60,000 people lost jobs in fishing. Not to mention the water and air pollution caused by pesticides used in cotton farming which release carcinogens and toxins, causing sickness and death in the surrounding areas. Humanity cannot afford to farm cotton at the rate that fast fashion companies are producing items.

(Other materials, such as leather and fur, have a big impact on the environment, but for the sake of this article’s length and the fact that most of us are more likely to be consumers of cotton, I left them them out.)

Although the creation of synthetic fibers can reduce the use of natural resources in the process of making clothing, it ends up negatively affecting the earth toward the end, or lack thereof, of the clothing item’s life. Synthetic products, such as polyester, do not biodegrade. So, when it gets tossed out, it sits in a landfill basically forever. When all human life, animal life, and the earth itself have passed away, there will just be millions of transcendent polyester mini-dresses floating throughout space. (Okay, that was definitely not scientific, but I was worried you stopped paying attention.)

Now what?

I know what you are thinking, “If natural fibers are bad and synthetic fibers are bad, are we just supposed to become nudists?” And the answer is no (or, yes, if you feel so inclined). Natural fibers, such as cotton, are definitely the best option, we just need to make sure we are supporting companies which source products that are organic (leaving out all those bad chemicals) and sustainable (paying attention to how they are using resources). The issue is not that we need to stop growing natural materials, we just need to grow less of it and grow it responsibly. This may sounds impossible, but if companies such as Patagonia can do a fantastic job of this, I believe other companies can follow suit.

Us

We cannot entirely place the blame on the industry, as we all have a shared responsibility in what and how we consume. According to the World Resources Institute, a regular shopper is buying 60% more clothing than they were less than twenty years ago, while only holding on to it for half of the time. A byproduct of inexpensively made and mass-produced clothing is the lack of quality. When the clothing we buy falls apart because it was cheaply made, we just toss it in the trash and head back to the mall, knowing that it won’t leave too big of a dent in our wallets.  If we throw away synthetic items, they will just take up space in landfills and even natural fibers will sit in landfills for a while before degrading, “due to lack of sunlight and oxygen,” according to EcoGoodz. The best way for us to partake in fashion responsibly is to wear our clothing for longer, reuse it when we can, and recycle it when we can’t.

I know I just dumped a ton of information on you, but the crazy thing is that I just barely scratched the surface. If you want to know even more about this topic, I recommend clicking on some of the articles that I sourced throughout. More than anything, my goal was to get the conversation started so you might begin thinking about your personal impact on the world. My next and last post in this series is going to focus more on what we can do to make our fashion choices more ethical, so stay tuned for that. I hope that we will all continue educating ourselves to the best of our abilities so that we might care for one another, and our earth, better.