It’s time for fashion to clarify… and I’m not talking about laundry. The multi-billion dollar industry has left stains on our planet that need cleaning up.
As an award-winning ethical clothing designer, I know consumers want to know what’s in their clothes and how it affects the world.
The fashion industry generated $ 300 billion globally in 2020. But the industry in general is poorly regulated and often complicit in contributing to atrocities that harm people and our planet. These include air and water pollution, harmful use of chemicals / pesticides, waste, microplastics in the oceans, human trafficking, exploitation, racism, sexism and under-representation.
Polyester and other synthetic fibers (which, like plastics, are petroleum-based) are instrumental in killing aquatic life with microplastics. Cotton is one of the most pesticide laden crops grown, and many pesticides are also known as carcinogens. Textile dyeing and finishing use toxic chemicals known to be dangerous to humans and our environment.
Weak labor laws abroad allow the exploitation of garment factories with unfair wages and insecure conditions. Forty million people live in what amounts to modern slavery. And garments are in the top three global products most likely produced through slavery-like practices.
All of this adds up to a huge expense to our environment and humanity. We have all paid – and continue to pay – this price.
New York City is a fashion capital of the world. And today, the state of New York is poised to become a leader in fashion sustainability and responsibility.
The proposed New York Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act (“the Fashion Act”), co-sponsored by state Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Congresswoman Anna Kelles, would require fashion retailers and manufacturers operating in New York with $ 100 million gross income to disclose their environmental and social due diligence policies, potential negative environmental and social impacts, and methods of prevention and improvement.
More importantly, this bill would require companies to move towards their stated goals or face significant fines. All the money raised from those fines would go to a community fund focused on promoting sustainability and good working practices.
We all wear clothes made with limited resources. Someone somewhere created these clothes with components probably shipped all over the planet.
New York has a unique legacy of environmental responsibility and thriving markets. The New York Fashion Act could have a positive impact on the environment, humanity and the economy. It could create virtual seismic shift in the fashion industry and align it with the state’s aggressive climate goals. I believe this bill could elevate New York, not only as a hub of fashion, but also as a pioneer of sustainable fashion.
It is time for companies that profit from the loss of resources and human resources to reflect, report and rethink. We deserve to know what we are funding with our money.
I urge you to support the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act and to sign the online petition at newstandardinstitute.org/thefashionact. And please ask your senators and assembly members to support and co-sponsor the Senate Bill 7428/8352.
We clean up the fashion industry.
Jesse Junko Beardslee (she / she) is a Finger Lakes stylist and entrepreneur who infuses style and art with purpose and identity into her fashion business Themis and Thread and at Hector Handmade Gallery and Gift Shop, which she co-owns.