By Greta Eagan
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Featuring the Integrity Index (a simplified way of identifying the ethics behind any piece of fashion) and an easy to use rating system, you’ll learn to shop anywhere while building your personal style and supporting your values- all without sacrifice. Fashion is the last frontier in the shift towards conscious living. Wear No Evil provides a roadmap founded in research and experience, coupled with real life style and everyday inspiration.
Part 1 presents the hard-hitting facts on why the fashion industry and our shopping habits need a reboot.
Part 2 moves you into a closet-cleansing exercise to assess your current wardrobe for eco-friendliness and how to shop green.
Part 3 showcases eco-fashion makeovers and a directory of natural beauty recommendations for face, body, hair, nails, and makeup.
Style and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. They can live in harmony. It’s time to restart the conversation around fashion — how it is produced, consumed, and discarded — to fit with the world we live in today. Pretty simple, right? It will be, once you’ve read this book.
Wear No Evil gives new meaning — and the best answers — to an age-old question: “What should I wear today?”
See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil. Wear no evil. From tragic textile-related headlines to icy editors, it is easy to group all of fashion into the evil column. Yet with its wide reach and influence, fashion has a rightful place in our evolution as global citizens and as ambassadors to a sustainable and just future for generations to come. Odds are that if you picked up this book, you too are wondering where doing good and looking good come together. My hope is that this book will guide your awareness and your actions, because small steps add up to big shifts.
Paraphrasing a speech by President Barack Obama, in which he said something that resonated deeply within me: our actions today impact the world of tomorrow. In other words, we have a choice to play an active role in the world we create and leave behind for our children. That is why I wrote this book, and that is why you are reading it.
Of course, I didn’t always share that belief. I made my way through life blind to the impact of my purchases for my first twenty years of life. But let’s start from the beginning. My journey into the world of fashion and style started as early as I can remember. My great-grandmother, Grammy Bea (short for Beatrice, the name I always wanted desperately to inherit), was a model and married a prominent banker in San Francisco. I remember visiting them as a child in what we called the “Golden Apartment,” where I wasn’t allowed to touch anything. Everything had a perfected placement and gilded presence. At her husband’s request she would host important businessmen for cocktails and dinner, and inevitably she developed a classic 1960s style. Her sheath dresses, oversized jewelry, and coral lipstick made a lasting impression. Next, my Auntie Holly followed in Bea’s footsteps and also became a model. She learned the tricks of the trade and developed her own personal style. A few years after graduating high school she opened a cosmetics boutique in the Bay Area, where she assisted women in selecting their ideal colors and helped them discover how to highlight their best features.
As for my mother (Holly’s kid sister), she grew up during the hippie age and believed only in peace, love, and macramé. She married my father at a young age, and they spent their honeymoon in the infamous dude ranch town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Many years later we children were raised there, competing in barrel racing, ice skating, and Nordic skiing. It was a wonderful athletic playground, but not so big in the way of fashion. Yet a sartorialist cannot be stopped, no matter how po-dunk and rural their surroundings! So I would casually add an Allure magazine or Teen Vogue to the checkout line when my mom took me grocery shopping. Every birthday someone would tap into my thirst for beauty and fashion how-to books, and I would devour them within the day of receiving them. And then there was Auntie Holly. Unfortunately Grammy Bea didn’t live long enough to see me develop into a young woman or even a teenager. But Auntie Holly was there to pass the torch.
She would send boxes of product samples. I had a cornucopia of colors to choose from for lips, eyes, cheeks, and nails. I experimented with everything and diligently followed my various beauty books’ advice on how to apply certain colors for specific skin, hair, and eye color combos. I’d host sleepovers at which my friends would line up to have me pluck their eyebrows. And so it went all four years of my high school career.
I became the girl who anyone within my circle consulted for a new haircut or color, their prom dress, what to wear to their sister’s wedding, and how to create a plentiful and functioning wardrobe. I think my crowning glory was my junior year, when I wore a silver brocade pant set (a strapless top with streamlined cigarette trousers) to our winter formal and was named WinterBall Queen. I was stunned. I knew my place as a style adviser to my friends and family, but I had no idea the rest of the school considered me an arbiter of style.
As you can tell by now, the fashion lover’s blood has been flowing through me for quite some time. And even though I fought it (I studied sports pre-med for undergrad before switching to fashion for graduate school), I never could keep those tips and tricks I picked up along the way from echoing in the back of my mind before lending my advice on a friend’s style conundrum.
And as I entered into the fashion world full time, a funny thing happened: my conscience got checked—hard. I would make small, conscious decisions about the food I put into my body but not the creams I put on my body or the clothes I wore next to my body. My conscience check was much less about the ceaseless desire for wanting material things and more to do with what I was supporting by being both a consumer and proprietor of fashion.
During my studies at the London College of Fashion I was required to do a work placement. My first work placement lasted six months and was with a talented and independent Central Saint Martins graduate designer named Jane Carr. Her work ethic, ingenuity, and sheer dedication were a priceless influence on my life. Yet I longed to see what it was like with the big brands. And so I took another work placement the following year at a major internationally recognized label. (I won’t disclose this brand’s name because it could have been any major brand—many of them operate the same way.) This turned out not to be as rosy as I had envisioned, and I grudgingly made it through my four-month agreement. Although it was one of the toughest times in my life, I am forever grateful for that difficult experience because it opened my eyes and taught me what I didn’t want.
It was at this fashion house that I learned the dirty secrets behind luxury’s deceptive luster. Samples for the upcoming collections would be shipped in from China and sectioned off into mounting piles of “potential” products. They reeked of toxic dyes and glues, and more often than not they would fall apart before the week’s end as they were tried on for fit and aesthetic. I remember feeling disturbed somewhere deep down inside when we would sit through meetings and select pieces from the piles to present as a potential item that would go into production. There was so much. And so much waste. And while the other interns gushed and excitedly interjected their opinions, I sunk into a lonely place where my conscience sat patiently waiting for me. That was a dark time for me. I was confronted on one hand with my personal values and ideals for the world I wanted to be an active citizen of and, on the other, what felt like the only reality for having a career in fashion—a shallow and recklessly wasteful existence.
I began to wonder: Could there be a real movement toward fashion with ethics? Fashion and style without the evil that drives corporate culture and destroys our planet? Could we look as good but hurt the world less?
You see, this book isn’t about giving up style to live a greener life. Who wants that?
I was a fashion lover long before I became an environmentalist (even though deep down I always cared). The truth is that I care about how I look and feel, and I know you do too. I don’t discount the importance of the confidence that looking good or doing good brings; I just don’t think that style and sustainability are mutually exclusive. They sit at equal weight, and by reading this book you’ll learn they can live in harmony. What is really necessary is a reboot. We need to restart the conversation around fashion—how it is produced, consumed, and discarded—to fit with the world we live in today. Pretty simple, right? It will be, once you’ve read this book.
This book is about navigating the new frontier of responsible fashion in a way that lets your sartorial heart sing with a clear and uplifted conscience, as you re-enter the world knowing how to wear no evil. Are you ready to become an ambassador to style with substance? I know you are. Let’s get started!
TO WEAR OR NOT TO WEAR?
“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
Every day we make two decisions that have an enormous impact on the world around us: what to eat and what to wear. With help from successful books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the popularity of Whole Foods and the Slow Food Movement, we’ve begun to overcome the first challenge. USDA-approved organic, Fair Trade, non-GMO, and local have all become common qualifiers for our grocery shopping habits. When it comes to food, we can confidently shop, knowing that the items we purchase fall in line with who we are—you are what you eat—and what we support.
But what about the second challenge? Maybe you hadn’t yet realized that the simple question—to wear or not to wear?—truly is a multifaceted dilemma. Obviously, the first part of that tricky question is to decide whether what you’ve selected to wear accurately represents your style. The importance of style is not to be underrated, because whether you admit it or not, it plays a role in your everyday life and tells the world what you think of yourself and what others should think of you. I love what Miuccia Prada said about style: “What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.”1
Yet there is another side to consider when getting dressed. Does this outfit reflect my values and who I am as well as my personal style? And there’s the rub! Until recently not many of us ever considered the second side of that daily question: What should I wear today?
When I moved out of my small hometown in Wyoming to the fabulously fashion-forward city of London, my sole focus was to find pieces to build my wardrobe. I was on the hunt for clothing that suited my lifestyle and embodied my developing identity as a career woman in fashion. I was completely clueless about checking where the pieces were made, what the materials were made of, and whether I thought the price could possibly reflect a fair wage for production. And although ethics were on my radar in other realms—like food, transport, energy and water conservation, and recycling—it simply never occurred to me that those same ethics could and should extend to include my wardrobe. Well, we all know that they eventually did, and I’ve shared that turning point with you already. And very gradually I’ve watched as those around me and in the news, magazine features, on red carpets, and runways have all begun to express a desire to merge ethics with style too.
A lot of that stirred motivation is a reflection of the terrible consequences from fashion that are more and more visible and apparent. Today, you can’t watch the news without seeing stories about the sweatshops in Southeast Asia, tragic fires or structural collapses in unsafe clothing factories, or deadly dyes and unregulated pollution silently seeping their ways across India and China. Not to mention the lost jobs that have been outsourced to poverty-stricken children halfway across the globe.
How did we get here?
Of course, fashion didn’t start this way. Clothing came from a place of necessity, even in our classic closet staples: Blue jeans were produced to give mining workers in California a sturdy and durable pair of pants to work in. The flapper dresses of the 1920s gave women more flexibility in their movements and comfort. The trench coat gave British soldiers in the trenches during World War II a functional jacket that could hold grenades on their belt and protect them from the elements.
The great leaders of fashion—Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, the Hermes family—built the foundation for modern-day fashion by exploring form and function while upholding quality and craft. They produced wares for the wealthy, famous, and royal. To own and wear fashionable pieces was a social-class signifier that only the economically elite could afford. Before the 1900s most people had a handful of garments in their closets that were constantly being repaired and passed down. Even in the twenties the average middle-class American woman had nine outfits (total, each year) that she would lovingly care for and wear week after week.2
It wasn’t until the 1950s and 1960s that income and advertising took off, changing the fashion industry forever. After World War II, men and women were actively in the workplace, earning dual incomes for a single-family household. Still concerned with social status and clothing as an indicator, men and women alike “traded up” by purchasing discounted quality-made and designer-label clothing in bargain basements. According to Elizabeth Cline, author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, the 1960s was when clothing turned away from necessity and the idea of “keeping up with the latest fashions” came into play. Big-brand department stores popped up around the United States, and Sears notoriously sent out its catalog to the picket-fenced homes of America.
In the late sixties and early seventies, counterculture abolished any outer display of wealth, and conspicuous consumption faded into the background. It wasn’t until around the 1980s, when working women with disposable income came into vogue, that the opulent show of luxury reemerged. Greater mobility along the socioeconomic ladder opened the marketplace to a greater audience who could participate in luxury at various levels. This proved a pointed shift for the luxury fashion sector, soon to be followed by mainstream mass-market retailers.
Corporate tycoons gobbled up the luxury fashion houses that had been established and run by the founding families, turning them into dominating international brands listed on the world’s stock exchanges.3 They sold a capitalist agenda disguised as “the democratization” of fashion, which would make luxury accessible to all. Even if they believed their own hype, the very ethos of artisan-crafted clothing and accessories, which warrant a luxury price tag, often went out the window when luxury companies went public.
“Going public does force you to change the way you do business. It forces you to be aware of how you are spending and where it’s going, to make some short-term decisions because that’s what shareholders respond to,” stated Tom Ford (formerly a lead designer at Gucci) in an interview with Dana Thomas for her book Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster. Translation: luxury brands cut corners. They outsourced production, used cheaper materials, and employed rock-bottom manufacturing to turn the biggest profit. Coach was one of the first brands to take its production out of the local New York garment district and use Chinese factories and labor to produce their goods. Their successful experience with production in the Far East prompted a colossal migration of other US- and European-based luxury brands.
Meanwhile, during the 1990s and early 2000s, mass fashion retailers like Spain’s Zara and Sweden’s H&M were developing the business model of fast fashion. They pioneered a corporate retail model that boasted fast-paced consumption in response to constantly changing styles. By keeping their production nearby their design offices and markets, they were able to capitalize on quick turnaround and had the ability to make last-minute changes. Yet in order to pull it off, they rely on volume and push production and consumption to unsustainable scales. Zara reportedly produces 1 million garments a day!4 Their “cheap and cheerful” prices for trendy clothes prompted an entirely new category of clothing: disposable fashion. Fashion-obsessed men and women would purchase fast fashion on a weekly, if not daily, basis to update their wardrobes and ensure they weren’t caught wearing the same thing twice.
By 2011 the average American was purchasing sixty-eight new wardrobe items a year—double what we had been purchasing in 1991.5 Who has the closet space for that much clothing? None of us do, and so Americans throw out an average of sixty-eight pounds of clothing each year, which amounts to 13.1 million tons of textile waste that goes to US landfills each and every year.6 The craziest part is that 95 percent of that waste is, in fact, recyclable.7 We are literally throwing away valuable resources while simultaneously existing in a world where we have limited resources. It doesn’t add up.
BRACE FOR IMPACT
I hate to say it, but the environmental and inhumane impact of such irresponsible production and consumption is as bad as you think it is. Brace yourself. This is the part where I give you some tough facts to convince your ego to start listening to your conscience and supply you with heavy-hitting material to back your position when speaking to those around you about your hip transition to being a conscious consumer.
According to the World Wildlife Fund’s 2012 Living Planet Report, 40 percent of the world’s population live in river basin areas that experience droughts and severe water scarcity at least one month per year. That may have something to do with the fact that the average T-shirt takes seven hundred gallons of water to produce. For just one shirt! Magnify that water use for a single item across the global textile industry, and it is easy (yet still alarming) to see that the textile industry uses 100 million gallons of water annually.8
In 2012 Global Trends 2030 reported that annual global water requirements will hit 6,900 billion cubic meters by 2030, which is 40 percent above current sustainable water supply levels. It is essentially like buying on credit. We’re living a lifestyle we can’t actually afford, and so we just “put it on our tab” and think that we will deal with it later, but we are talking about water here, people—a necessity for life! The next time you buy a pair of jeans, it might be worth a second thought as to whether you would actually prefer the drinking water it took to make them—about eighteen hundred gallons per pair.9 Sounds scary when put into that context, but 2030 is not that far away.
Water use by the fashion industry is as intensive as it is dirty. Chemical solvents and toxic dyes are readily used in heaping amounts and spewed into natural waterways without properly being treated. By now, most of us have heard of the Greenpeace Detox Campaign (launched in April 2012). Greenpeace purchased clothing from twenty major fashion brands and then ran tests to determine their toxicity levels. According to their findings, “All of the samples were tested for the concentration of NPEs (nonylphenol ethoxylates). Once released to the environment, NPEs degrade to nonylphenol, which is known to be toxic primarily due to being a hormone disruptor—persistent and bioaccumulative (known to accumulate in living organisms). Garments that were dyed were tested for the presence of carcinogenic amines that are released from certain azo dyes used to dye fabric. The thirty-one garments bearing a plastisol print were also tested for phthalate esters (commonly referred to as phthalates).”10
Of the 141 articles of clothing purchased for this study, 89 were found to contain NPEs. Phthalates were detected in all 31 samples with plastisol-printed fabric. Two of the samples made by manufacturers for Zara tested positive for the presence of azo dyes, which release cancer-causing amines.11
Okay, let’s pull all of this heavy-hitting information together. Major fashion brands, whose clothing winds up all over the world, are using manufacturers in areas where the use of NPEs are not illegal (second- and third-world countries) and where toxic dyes are still blindly permitted. Essentially, even environmentally aware and educated countries that have governmental policies in place to protect the people and the planet are subjected to toxic chemicals that have been shown to cause cancer and disrupt normal hormone activity (causing feminization and other hormonal irregularities) because of retail import practices.
That means that you can buy a cute and cheap top from one of your favorite fashion brands and not only will you be wearing those chemicals close to your skin, but when you wash them, they are released into our home water systems. I’m not one for naming and shaming, but thank goodness Greenpeace is and decided to bring this all to the forefront with their Zero Hazardous Waste campaign. Luckily, the fashion brands they called out, and others that weren’t included but self-volunteered, took the pledge for zero hazardous waste by 2020.
Unfortunately, focusing on chemicals solely in our waterways would be too limited a scope for the damage the textile industry does. Land use and the cultivation of crops as fibers have an important place in textile production. Cotton, also known as white gold, has long been both a celebrated and vilified crop. Not only is cotton one of the thirstiest crops, conventional cotton is also pesticide laden. Approximately $2 billion worth of chemicals are sprayed on cotton crops worldwide every year, half of which are designated toxic by the World Health Organization.12
Farmers’ exposure to herbicides, fertilizers, pesticides, and growth regulators have caused occupational illnesses and pesticide poisonings that amount to 3 million cases per year, resulting in twenty thousand poisoning deaths.13 Not only do the workers and farmers directly exposed to these chemicals suffer, but the land also accumulates these toxins like compound interest in a bank account. The result is soil toxicity, which makes growing crops harder and releases chemical run-off into our waterways. In addition, the textile industry affects the quality of soil, as farmers try to keep up with demand and plant the same crop season after season, depleting biodiversity and natural crop rotation integral to soil health.
Land use, in general, is a rather contentious topic and one that held center stage at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in January 2012. In their industry agenda WEF reported that “Unless the present link between growth and consumption of scarce resources is severed, our resource base, governance, and policy structures are unlikely to sustain the standard of living societies have grown accustomed to and aspire to.”14 In other words, we are at a critical tipping point at which world leaders are no longer concerned about securing basic necessities (like food and water) to those in developing countries, but for the world at large. Forests are cleared to create crop fields, not for food. Countries that were once agriculturally independent have shifted to produce textile crops or raise livestock, and they now import food. This uncalculated misuse of natural resources and land is multifaceted.
Animal rights activists argue that if all the land used for livestock was instead used to grow grains and vegetables, we could feed the world three times over. And that doesn’t even touch the humanity side of things. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) openly displays the underbelly of the clothing industry and its unethical use of animals. Every year millions of animals are mistreated and killed—all in the name of fashion.15 The leather industry alone is responsible for slaughtering over a billion animals a year.16 On PETA’s website they state that “Many of these animals suffer all the horrors of factory farming—including extreme crowding and confinement, deprivation, and unanesthetized castration, branding, tail-docking, and dehorning—as well as cruel treatment during transport and slaughter.” And the negative effects don’t stop there.
The tanning of leather takes its toll on our environment too. Most US leather producers and those around the world use a chrome-tanning technique that outputs chromium as a byproduct into our waterways and soil. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers chromium-containing waste hazardous.17 The Center for Disease Control (CDC) found, for example, that leukemia cases were five times higher than the national average in residents near a tannery in Kentucky.18
Raising livestock is also energy and resource intensive. Overstocking of animals is common and leads to soil deterioration and eventual desertification of the land previously used. Over the last 250 years, manure and its associated methane gas from cattle, sheep, and other animals raised for their fur and meat has greatly contributed to an increase in greenhouse gasses and global warming.19 It turns out that passing gas is more serious than just a smelly situation. And the stench doesn’t stop there. Our carbon emissions are drastically connected to global warming and the environmental changes we are beginning to understand and experience.
CarbonTrust.com issued an annual report on the international carbon flows of clothing, which stated that “The global production of clothing results in around 330MtCO2 being produced annually, which is about 1.2 percent of global human CO2 production emissions. In-use emissions from clothing, principally arising from washing and drying, but also including ironing and dry-cleaning, cause a further ~530MtCO2 to be emitted, equivalent to around 2 percent of global emissions.”20 If we put that into context (and add the other CO2 sectors that make up the total CO2 emissions of the fashion industry), the apparel and textile industry comes in second on a scale of highest CO2 emissions, with 2.1 million tons produced annually, just behind the petroleum industry.
If you’ve ever been to China, you’ve had a firsthand experience with the pollution that makes almost every day foggy and overcast. Perched atop a mountain crest on a hike just outside of central Hong Kong in 2013, I looked down at the tightly packed city and had a sense of vertigo from the pollution distortion. And, of course, the mere mention of China brings us to yet another issue within the fashion industry—the fair and ethical treatment of people.
Under the leadership of Deng Xiaopeng in 1978, China named four “special export zones” and then seized the opportunity to create a source of GDP through the use of its plentiful land and workers by setting up factories. In doing so China thus redrew the global manufacturing map.21
The book holds a wealth of information that's useful both environmentally and personally, and Eagan's plea for a reboot” of how people shop and clothe themselves is a timely entreaty for change.”
The ultimate, all-in-one style guide with ethics built in that we've all been waiting for."
"Rare is the book that speaks to your values while also providing a framework for realizing them in day to day actions. Wear No Evil does both in inspiring fashion. A must read for all who wear clothes."
Ben Goldhirsh, Co-Founder GOOD Magazine
The more we uncover what lies behind the fashion industry and the clothes we wear, the more we realize the power we have, as fashion lovers, to change it for good. Wear No Evil is a great guide on how to transform the fashion industry, one wardrobe at a time".”
Livia Firth, founder of Eco
"I love this book! Finally an approachable, practical, DO-ABLE how-to on going green with your wardrobe without sacrificing an iota of style!"
Alysia Reiner, Actress (Orange is the New Black)
- On Sale
- Mar 11, 2014
- Page Count
- 208 pages
- Running Press