I was standing in line at the grocery store last week and I overheard a woman speaking with a friend. They exchanged hellos and then the one asked the other, “Where’d you get those jeans? They’re so cute!”
I was standing behind them and noticed the jeans were made by one of the worst garment lines in the industry… worst as in worst polluters.
It took all of my power to say, “I know where she got those jeans! They may cost over $400 but they were made in Xintang in southwest China where the dyes were dumped into the drinking water and the town is so polluted, no one wants to live there.”
Hmmm…can this be why I don’t get invited to cocktail parties anymore??
Based in the Guangdong Province, one out of three pairs of jeans (as of 2015) is made in this town. Manufacturing jeans takes a lot of water and so many chemicals, the town people won’t work in the factories there. They’ve heard stories of how the workers in these denim shops can’t have children and most get so sick, they only last a few years working there.
As if that’s not enough, some of the factories there are still using sandblasting to distress the denim. This process leads to respiratory illness called silicosis. Basically, a worker inhales so much sand into their lungs that they can’t breathe. Adding insult to injury (literally, sorry!) many jeans get sprayed with chemicals that have no business being put onto our clothing much less sprayed into the air for workers to inhale. These chemicals add to the distressed look so many American shoppers love but many are stored in open, inadequate containers contaminating the entire factory.
In order to stop supporting the denim brands that are polluting our planet and our people, I’ve been focused on buying only responsibly USA MADE denim brands these past couple years but last year, one of the biggest (and I think only) US denim suppliers, Cone Denim closed their North Carolina plant. Now they only operate their plants in China and Mexico where environmental regulations are barely a thing. Needless to say, their closing this USA based plant not only affected their own workers but the handful of small USA denim designers that relied on their goods for their collections. (Read how one denim manufacturer felt after hearing of the closing here.)
So, as I stood staring at these two educated women in the grocery line at my local ORGANIC grocery store, I wondered how it was possible they could care so much about what they put into their bodies but give so little thought to what they put onto their bodies. How is it possible they could focus so much on where their brussel sprouts were grown but not give a damn about where their $400 jeans were made?
It’s up to us, the consumers, to demand our clothing has the same transparent supply chain as our food.
I’d like to think those women standing in front of me in the grocery line would be appalled knowing those cute denim jeans caused harm to others and contributed to destroying a small town in China.
I am a firm believer that knowing how our clothing impacts the planet will change consumers’ behaviors so the slow fashion brands like ME (MAJAMAS EARTH) can thrive and the demand for dirty fast-fashion dies. I’m hoping knowledge will be a driving force for another denim manufacturer to take over that closed plant so we don’t have to succumb to supporting denim brands that don’t operate responsibly.
In order to drive our point home, ME (MAJAMAS EARTH) has changed our tag line to “CARE WHAT YOU WEAR.”
I’d like to think of it as a wake-up call to those in denial about where their clothes come from.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this irresponsible, fast-fashion is costing us much more than the price of the garment!
It’s destroying our streams, our towns and our children’s future and if that doesn’t make those denim jeans look less appealing, I don’t know what else can.
– Germaine Caprio, MAJAMAS EARTH Company Owner & Designer
2020 UPDATE: We LOVE thrifting and searching online to find second-hand denim too! Companies like Poshmark and ThredUp have made it easy to thrift lightly used (and sometimes brand new) pieces – virtually!
LET ME KNOW:
What are your favorite sustainable, ethically made denim brands?
Please share your own thoughts with us – let’s get a conversation started in the comments below!