Saving the planet will, if everything goes according to plan, end up being quite alright: we’ll remove (most of) the plastic from the oceans and bowels of the earth and, after preserving our fauna and flora, so it can thrive in our Anthropocene, we will finally be able to reclaim, in the right way, our manifest destiny as children of the Sun.
However, we cannot achieve the proper protection of our planet if we neglect humanity. That is: how can we hope to preserve our environment if we don’t try first to save ourselves? We must be rooted in the fertile soil of care, selflessness, and practicality: in order to save the planet, we simultaneously need to keep finding ways to end human misery: only together we thrive as a species.
The areas where the fashion industry contributes to human misery and inequality are well known – namely, human slavery and child labour (both concepts being, at times, indistinguishable). It is this dark fuel that powers fast, disposable fashion and even though slavery has been abolished, never has there been so much slavery in humanity’s history as today, with more than 40 million slaves worldwide. Some of those 40 million slaves work in fashion; they are deprived of a life of liberty and dignity because we like having cheap and pretty things to wear. We say the future has arrived, but it comes dragged by the tired arms of enslaved human beings, fearing as much the barrel of a gun as the crack of a whip, thousands of years ago.
Even outside of the problem of slavery, the fashion industry predates on those who are the most vulnerable. Children, particularly, are especially vulnerable: from the more than 260 million children employed in some form of work, 170 million are exploited in their works, often working in hazardous conditions detrimental to their physical and mental health.
Simply saying and believing things are slowly getting better is dismissing the problem. Fast fashion works against paradigm shifts that shrink its profit and hurt its core business. Those paradigms shifts are simply what many of us demand and take for granted: Liberty. Safety. More quality of life. More environmental protection. Still, it begrudgingly adapts: Social and environmental impacts are slowly gaining some hand when pitted against shareholder’s profits. The battle is not over, and it will keep raging on this XXI century. And, as always, the efforts of changing things for the better will fall on us – on our wallets and on our choices.
So the question, when buying things to wear, should be: who made my clothes? Knowing it, we can all make an informed choice and change the world for the better – or, at least, try to keep it from getting worse. At Ina Koelln, we know where all of our raw materials come from and we follow the processes that deliver them on our workshops from the very beginning, so we can be sure that our products are in compliance with the strictest rules of fair trade. And, instead of outsourcing our bags, where we lose control about who employs – or exploits – who, we put human dignity before profit, by only working with local workshops and artisans, where reasonable salaries and working times are – and should be, everywhere – the norm.
It is possible to help end slavery and child labor and preserving the environment, while still demanding the best in fashion and style. There’s always another rack, another mannequin, another wardrobe, where stylish, perfect little fashion pieces exist without someone assembling them in shackles. It’s also easy – just follow a very simple resolution: before your fashion purchases, check the labels, and ask yourself: #whomademybags #whomademyclothes