Tuesday, April 28, 2015

John Oliver on Fast Fashion

My first exam is in a little less than a week, and I have been busier with school than I thought I would be! Admittedly, there is a fair bit of procrastination and Netflix time factored in, which might just come with the "graduate student senioritis" territory. I wanted to share this clip discussing fast fashion from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (I hope the video is not U.S.-region only, but can't be sure). With only 17 minutes of discussion, he can't go into detail on every aspect of the problem and doesn't discuss any of the alternatives, but as usual, he does a good job explaining a problem in a concise and entertaining way that also gets right to the point and doesn't shy away from the less pleasant truths. There are plenty of other informative clips discussing various topics on the show's Youtube channel, which I highly recommend. 

Elizabeth Cline's book Overdressed goes into more detail about the problem, and I still recommend that as a more intensive and complete introduction to fast fashion and clothing production issues. Neither the book nor John Oliver's clip can really answer the question of what a would-be ethical consumer should do, which speaks to how difficult it is to figure out where and how our clothes are produced. (The video clip, in particular, focuses on brands that sell clothes for cheap, such as H&M or Gap, which might obscure the fact that many department store brands might well be using the same countries for production, if not the same factories. Price alone is not an indicator of quality or an ethical source, which Cline's book makes clear.)

I still think that shopping secondhand (whether at an online shop like Thredup or Twice, or somewhere like Buffalo Exchange) might be one of the better ways to sidestep some of the ethical issues (both by reducing waste and not feeding as directly into the demand for dramatically large quantities of new, cheap clothing straight from the retailer), but that worked a lot better with my lifestyle when I was a student who mainly needed casual clothes. I have bought a fair number of business casual pieces at Buffalo Exchange, and generally see a few options in my size at Thredup or Twice, but that requires a fair bit of browsing time and luck. 

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