Throughout my participation with CSULA’s S.M.A.R.T Lab (secondary materials and recycled textiles) Undergraduate Research Initiative, I was able to contribute to strategies in developing “SMART” Manufacturing through a merchandising eye. Through this process, what I came to understand was that education and textile sustainability awareness are, in my opinion, the driving force to a successful SMART manufacturing product.
There has been quiet a bit of research on the ecological implications of textile waste and America’s over consumption of clothing as whole, including its global ramifications. (see Travel’s of a T-Shirt)
Upon further dissection of those issues, I tried to understand how this issue even becomes large enough to reach a global scale.
First I investigated my own history;
My grandmother was a seamstress and my mother’s view on clothing and appropriate pricing was based on growing up watching her mom sew for mass production. My mother would help package and sew handbag lining at a very young age. Most my grandmother ever got paid was $1.50 a piece and as little as $0.10 a piece. (in the mid 70’s-mid 80’s in Los Angeles) They were immigrant workers who came from a ranch in Mexico where my grandmother would make all their clothes.
Realizing my relationship to mass produced clothes, base issues hit closer to home than I realized.
To actively participate in the change we tried to create, I started the research project by cleaning out my closet and discard items for the up cycling project.Realizing that I was an equal participant in this over consumption of clothing, purchasing items for the sake of ‘closet envy’, I realized that while I have a greater education on the effect of Fast Fashion, it became evident that changing perception and (most importantly) purchasing patterns of consumers similar to myself, who didn’t have the knowledge would be much more difficult.
SMART LAB PROJECT
I was also the liaison with the University in organizing the logistics for our Earth-Day information booth, Buy-Back Event, and Focus Group sale.
Through all events, there was the great opportunity to speak with students, faculty and passer-by’s about the effects of fast-fashion and textile waste. More often than not, we received great feed-back with people who were not aware and showed some concern. However, based on our questionnaire, it was evident that the majority of the people survived were completely oblivious to the true amount of labor required to create our test products, thus pricing their value very low!
Example of Products Developed
Many survied said they would pay below $10 for the products we offered. It seems clear that this pricing methodology is reflected through what they see in the stores, cheaply priced fashion items, often made overseas and in terrible sweat-shop work like conditions (ie. Bagladesh Factory Fire)
I wonder if the majority of the consumer public knew about the working conditions of the people who make their clothes, would they care? It seems inhuman not to care, but consumers have become so accustom to their cheap fashion, can we change?
This research project only scratched the surface of our initial research question: What strategies can be developed for Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART) manufacturing?
I think what we first need to ask, is how do we get consumers to DEMAND S.M.A.R.T Manufacturing? There must be a social change that promotes these desires. While there is a certain cashe rising for a ‘thrift shop find’ in the middle class, it could be a fad simply to rebel. There must be a connection between value of labor, from the consumers to those who participate in the production of goods. If people do not understand how certain things are made, they will not know who to value it properly and choose products with substance and quality.
As a result, there must be a movement to encourage consumers to think with a ‘green’ eye. See: Encouraging A Consumer Society of Sustainable Fashion. A change in attitude in sustainability and fast-fashion will be mutually beneficial.
For Further Investigation, I recommend the following:
Fast Fashion, Sustainability, and the Ethical Appeal of Luxury Brands
Link to FastFashionSustainability
Life Cycle Analysis of a Polyester Garment
Link to LCA+of+a+Polyester+Garment
Sustainability is making a mark in Fashion Headlines:
CFDA Starts Sustainability committee:
Sustainable Fashion Programs:
Large ‘Fast-Fashion’ House react to consumer demand for eco-friendly products:
Textile Collection Resource: