Lifting the veil: The truth about cheap fashion

As the Opening Event for Flora Lou nears, I am constantly reassured that I’ve found my calling. The idea for Flora Lou materialized after about a decade’s worth of soul searching, many part time jobs, a college degree, and a lot of love and support from friends and family. 

About a year ago I started researching the ethical and environmental consequences linked to the fashion industry. After navigating what sources were credible on this lovely thing we call the internet, I became completely enveloped by the realities of the fashion world and the travesty it has become. Child labor, exploitation, and modern day slavery were just the beginning of the violations on human rights. Unfortunately the impacts on the environment weren't much better. Excessive water use, over consumption of materials, use of chemicals, and pollution are all very pressing matters created by todays fashion industry. I became almost obsessed with doing what I could to right these wrongs.

Although I know there is so much more to learn, I feel compelled now to know where and how my clothes are being made. I ask questions and that is the first step. Over the past year I have drastically cut back on my consumption of new clothing, seeking out things at thrift and consignment stores. But I also love the feeling of buying something new and knowing it has been made ethically and sustainably. 

In my effort to find ethical and sustainable clothing I’ve discovered that the companies that adhere to strict standards for ethical and sustainable responsibility are often significantly more expensive than those who do not. At first I found this frustrating and terrifying (as shopping is a favorite past time of mine and the thought of giving it up really scared me.) But then I heard something that fundamentally shifted my perspective. If a T-shirt costs only $5, it is nearly impossible that the person who made it could have been paid a living wage. I have drastically altered the way I shop because of the eye opening information I have gathered. Now I can’t imagine going back to my old shopping ways.

Transparency is such an elemental part of shopping for me now. Knowing the who, what, when, where, and why of my t-shirts and dresses is more important than how something makes me look. That being said, I have found a lot of clothing companies that enable me to do both.

The financial reality of what it takes to produce a piece of clothing is something that might shock you. Truly understanding this cost breakdown of materials and labor lifted the veil in terms of what I was really paying for. This is a comparison of the costs of producing a denim shirt in Bangladesh compared to the same shirt in the U.S. 

As you can see the labor costs are a mere $0.22. If we are honest with ourselves, how can we possibly believe that the person who made the shirt in Bangladesh is being paid a living wage? The cost of the shirt made in the US is higher, but for a good reason. 

If you are concerned with the food you put into your body on a daily basis you should also be thinking about what you are putting onto your body. If you like to know where your food is grown, you should also be asking where your clothes are produced and better yet where the raw material for that clothing is grown. Transparency and traceability of clothing is a foreign concept. I think It’s about time we make it a requirement.