How many times do you open your closet and say to yourself, “What am I going to wear today?” Then you pace back and forth and complain about how you have no clothes as you stare at a closet filled with hangers, each accompanied by a piece of garment. Now how many of you actually know what you are dressing yourself in when you put on these clothes? I don’t think many of us think to ask one of the reps at our favorite store how the shirt in our hand was made or what products were used to make it. It just isn’t a common question that comes to mind. However, the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. Typically when economic issues are discussed things like public transportation or electricity are emphasized. Most of us are unaware of how clothing impacts our environment.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview Maxine Bédat, CEO of Zady, an eco friendly clothing company for consumers that are concerned about the origin of the clothing they purchase. She co-founded the company in 2013 with former high school classmate Soraya Darabi. One of the points Bédat focused on was the importance of polyester and how it has a negative impact. Polyester is in 52% of our clothing and is the world’s most common fiber. When we wash clothing made of polyester, microplastic fibers seep into our water supply. In fact, approximately 1,900 plastic microfibers break up into our water supply and what we don’t know is that eventually these fibers end up in our oceans and find their way back into our drinking water.
Additionally, we end up eating these fibers within our food as well. With that being said, 85% of the human-made material found on our shorelines comes from microfibers. While talking with Bédat she stressed that if we don’t begin to make changes this environmental problem will only increase over the years.
Another important and common fiber is cotton. But where does cotton come from? It is produced in mostly dry and warm regions because that is how the crop grows best. It needs to be in relatively warm conditions, which also means it needs a tremendous amount of water. This water is supplied through applying water to the region and soil to help crops grow when there isn’t enough rainfall. Surprisingly enough, 73% of cotton is grown on this irrigated land. It requires the most water in all of the clothing supply chain.
So now you must be wondering what is the difference between the clothing produced by Zady’s and the shirt you purchase at Target? Bédat informed me that within the area of design of the fashion industry there is a term called the “middle man.”
This concept includes a checklist of first finding the factory you would like to use, the fabric of your choice, and the farm or oil field it will come from. Zady’s on the other hand works from the opposite end. They start with finding an organic farm, deciding what yarn or fabric is healthy and appropriate and so forth. To the members of Zady it is essential to know their products and to be able to control their process. Overall, the process is done in a sustainable way, which is why more and more companies are joining this movement. As of now there are a total of 50 other brands besides Zady that are enforcing the significance of eco friendly clothing.
One of the celebrities currently participating in promoting Zady’s clothing is actress, Emma Watson. I would suggest checking it out because there you will be able to view all the beautiful and up to date fashion they have to offer, no different than the outfit you would find at local clothing stores, other than the fact that it is healthier to our economy and to ourselves.
When I asked Bédat what her reasoning was for starting this clothing company and how environmental clothing became important to her she replied, “I wanted people like you, myself, everyone, to have a better vision of this global movement.”
She chuckled and said, “You’d be surprised to know that I was a lawyer at first and I never thought I would end up in this field of work.”
She began wanting to become more connected to the world. She started doing activities such as yoga, she changed her eating habits to a healthier diet, and soon enough she realized she needed to shop better as well. It was just like any other day when she was looking into her closet over stuffed with clothing that she began to look at her tags and consider the quality of her clothing. Some just didn’t feel comfortable or were just starting to fall apart. When she began doing research she learned that there is a darker side to fashion other than the modeling industry. So not only were the materials not of good quality, but they also were not benefiting our ecosystem. That is when she decided she wanted to make a difference in the world. She wanted people to stop being shortchanged and most importantly to recognize that clothing has a huge impact on our world economically.
The next time you open your closet, be more conscious of the history of your clothing. Then ask yourself, “are my clothes causing more harm to the world?”