About two years ago, I read a few posts from a friend’s blog (that has since been deleted) about humanitarian and environmental issues in the fashion industry. I was definitely interested at the time and researched it a bit, but was way too deep into my tj-maxx obsession to seriously consider changing my purchasing habits.
Being away from home for the last year has completely changed the way I shop. When I lived in the states, I would describe my shopping style as ridiculous, compulsive… Frankly, I’m ashamed at how wasteful and gluttonous I was. In Korea, the amount of money that I have spent on clothes has been reduced significantly. The wardrobe that I brought from home and my few Korean purchases were greatly supplemented by things that I got second-hand, mostly for free, from other expats that were cleaning out their closet and preparing to travel again. Some of the things that I picked up quickly became staples in my wardrobe and got me thinking about purchases I’ve made and things in my closet that go unloved.
Recently, my friend and I biked to a neighboring city. When we reached our destination, we decided to treat ourselves to nice meal and a couple of craft beers (a rarity for me these days). We were seated next to two men, one German and one Korean, who we struck up conversation with. We ended up asking the ultimate questions for foreigners, “What brought you to Korea?” and “How long have you been here?”. The two men were mechanical engineers and worked for a recycling company.
I’m interested in the subject so I started asking a few questions and found out some information about the green “clothing recycling” boxes that you can find in Korea. I was under the impression that these boxes were more of a donation type of thing, and that they went to people in Korea who needed clothing. It turns out that the clothing you put in here is instead broken apart and sold to companies who make rags used for cleaning. Further, he told us textiles are one of the hardest materials to break down, that it takes a ton of energy, and the machines break quite often.
I can only imagine the amount of waste that is created by unwanted or unsold clothing. Just thinking about the inside of one Forever 21 location makes me cringe a little. I feel like I’ve been doing this whole consumption thing all wrong and I’m definitely more open to making some changes in my lifestyle when it comes to the things that I purchase. If you guys are interested in this topic, here are some links that I’ve found particularly enjoyable.
Fashion Revolution- “Who made my clothes?” It’s a question we should all be asking.
Beyond the Label- (Claudio Montesano Casillas) I particularly loved this video about Minea, a 24 year old Cambodian woman who is working in a garment factory and making $200 a month. I found it interesting that the workers aren’t told which clothing brands they are producing for.
Laboni- Another series done by the same photojournalist documenting the life of a Bangladeshi woman killed when a garment factory collapsed in Dhaka.
Local Wisdom – This website perfectly expresses the idea that the things you put on your body help you tell your story and express your personality. It talks about an art form that I’ve never given much thought — “craft of use”. Are we using things to their truest potential to meet our needs, or are we going out and buying things that aren’t really necessary? Here you can find awesome stories behind things people own, and how they have been loved.
I’m seriously considering taking a year off from buying clothes. Comment below, tell me whatcha’ think.
Until next time, friends.