Impact in Industry: Inspiring the Next Generation of Leaders

By: Angela Bick Rossley, OPSEU, Canadian Trade Union Delegation

I'm sitting in the room with an representative from Coach Inc.  Nowhere in the NGO CSW Forum Guide did the session for Impact in Industry: Inspiring the Next Generation of Leaders mention the word 'fashion'.  Brand name labels are the my antithesis.  I cried at the demise of our local Goodwill second hand stores.  Fashion is not my scene.

The panel comments that there are no naked people in the room.  Clothing is an essential need.  Over 150 billion garments are produced worldwide every year.  The fashion industry has grown by 60% in the last ten years.  However, we have yet to understand the full impact of this unprecedented growth.

We are seeing major changes in our relationship with food.  We are joining movements that promote local diets, ethical sourcing, and organic production.  Can we shift public opinion to consider the same relationship with the threads that we wear ?

Fibers are sourced from the lab, the forest or the field.  They are spun into threads, cut into patterns, and sewn together.  They are transported to the retailer.  They are marketed to the masses.  They are purchased by the consumer, washed and eventually disposed.  From cradle to grave, we overt our gaze from the environmental destruction, pollution of waterways, animal cruelty, and sweatshops that violate labour rights and human rights.

Ultimately, no one will argue that shopping brings us pleasure.  Fashion is a personal expression.  It is a politic.  It can liberate.  However, it also has the potential to oppress and causes suffering.  

Buy less.  Buy smart.  Buy local.  Buy custom.  And while you pause to consider if an item of clothing fits your style, your wardrobe, your body, and your wallet, also ask if it fits with your values.  Harness the power of your wallet.

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