Hazardous chemicals in your home came with a warning, ‘this is harmful to your health when ingested.’ Clothes, however, appear without any warning. Our skin is the largest organ we have, you couldn’t possibly imagine what our skin absorbs through our clothes. Yet the fashion industry is not sharing this information on their labels. Let’s face it if all the ingredients were listed on that stylish dress or shirt you purchased from H&M, Forever 21 or Topshop. Would you buy it? Probably not. Here is a list of the 10 hazardous chemicals in the fashion industry you absorb daily;
1. NONYLPHENOL EXTHOXYLATES & NONYLPHENOL
These agents are commonly used in wool and leather. They can be used in a variety of fabrics such as leathers, PVC, synthetic fabrics and plastics. NONYLPHENOL EXTHOXYLATES is used as a detergent for removing grease from leather hides. It’s used for dispersing dyes in our clothes. Think about all the garments you have with colours including prints. The gummy film on silks is removed using this agent. Down and feather padding uses NONYLPHENOL EXTHOXYLATES because it’s cheaper than feathers. Found in jelly sandals, any plastic soles or shoes. You will find this used in a large amount of fashion and home goods in the cheap turn-it out-at record-breaking-speed fashion and home goods brands. Disruptive to estrogen levels, fertility and the development of sexual organs especially in children.
2. AZO DYES
Natural dyes again cut into the profit margin of large companies. Therefore using AZO DYES a synthetic form saves money but is bad for the consumer. This dye easily rubs off on the skin releasing a chemical called aromatic amines. They have been known to cause cancer. Used in almost all synthetic fabrics, leathers, and makeup. If you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to makeup this is probably the culprit. Itchy clothing can also be a sign that you are reacting to this toxic dye. AZO dyes are used in footwear as well as clothing. It has replaced natural dyes as the most popular dye category in the fashion industry. The clothing that has benefited the most is the resurgence of the denim industry. We used to benefit from the natural dye found in the leaves of plants for denim, but AZO DYES has replaced natural indigo.
3. HEAVY METALS
Heavy metals include cadmium, mercury, lead, and antimony can be found in jewellery, cosmetics, and some dyes. Cadmium is used in jewellery marketed to teenagers. It’s also used in the dye process where red, orange, green and yellows dyes are found.It is a cheaper way to produce jewellery that looks and acts like a metal. The problem with Cadmium, it is deadly when induced or absorbed over long periods of time. Whatever you do, do not let a baby suck on jewellery bought at any of these fast-fashion box brands. The younger the wearer the more vulnerable.
Have you ever bought a clothing item that smelt a little strange but you couldn`t figure out what it was? It was probably formaldehyde. A brand new garment shouldn’t smell of chemicals, should it? Your brand new shirt with the great pattern smells strange. Formaldehyde was probably used to prevent the dyes from running. Other garments using formaldehyde are; waterproof garments, anti-cling, anti-static, moth and mildew resistant. Hazardous chemicals in the fashion Industry are a cheap substitute for kinder, natural ingredients. The U.S. has not restricted the levels of formaldehyde in clothing. Beware of Made in China labels, they are the largest offenders of using formaldehyde. Look out for these sleeper names: Methanal, Morbicid Acid, Metheylene Acid, Formalin,Oxymetheylene.
Used in softening, dyeing, and printing artificial leather, PVC, and rubber. Phthalates allow artificial materials to be molded with cracking. They make plastics soft along with increased flexibility. Phthalates are used in plastic sleeves, buttons, and printed artificial leathers. How to tell if this chemical has been used? There is a strong plastic smell present. You’ll find this in jelly shoes, plastic clothing, and any synthetic and natural leathers with a shiny coating. Europe has deemed this chemical toxic to reproduction because it can hinder fertility. The increased low sperm counts in men in their thirties have provoked a lifestyle study to determine why. Phthalates have been found in blood, breast milk, and human tissue. Cancer has been linked to the absorption phthalates.
Chlorobenzenes is a solvent used to make dyes. It belongs to a group of chemicals ending with benzenes. The worst of the bunch is Hexachlorobenzenes. Known as one of the most toxic hazardous chemicals in the fashion industry. It disrupts hormones from working properly. Benzenes affect the thyroid, nervous system and the liver. Pentachlorbenzene and HCB have been flagged as priority hazardous substances. Listed as a restricted organic pollutants under the Stockholm Convention. Scheduled for reduction and eventually eliminated in Europe. Benzenes are still accepted in the U.S.
As a consumer who wants to live a decent life. You’re not doing yourself any favours by shopping at any fast-fashion company. Hazardous chemicals in the fashion industry are poisoning us as a consumer. Cancer societies and organisations can give you a list of toxic chemicals that are found in everyday products such as fashion. Get your clothes tested at a lab in your area to find out what is really in your clothes.
Wearable technology has made yoga easier for the novice practitioner. Nadi X launched smart yoga pants that can give you instruction to correct your yoga poses. It’s like having an instructor on your body when you need to improve your downward facing dog or crow position. Designed with embedded electronics, yoga pants gives feedback through gentle vibrations in real time.
With the help of an iPhone app and a battery known as “the Pulse” the Pulse clips behind your knee to power the vibrations in the yoga pants. Each time you move into a pose incorrectly the frequency will intensify. In nutshell you’re forced to correct the pose, creating a yoga warrior in the making.
Yoga + Wearable Technology
” I was never really good at yoga and felt intimidated whenever I would explore a new pose, ” says Bille Whitehouse, co-founder, and CEO of Wearable X. “Throughout creating this product we worked with 50 yogis across three different continents to understand the importance of alignment in time and space. We are proud to redefine what it means to be a modern lifestyle brand by combining fashion and technology.”
As someone who practices yoga daily, wearing the Nadi X apparel would help me become better at poses that I struggle to maintain. Getting into a pose is one thing, but sustaining it is the hard part. So getting gentle direction from my clothing would be truly incredible. So far the company has launched yoga pants. I would like to see yoga tops released into the market in the future.
When I first saw wearable technology 17 years ago, I thought it would have taken off in the entertainment world. It has so much potential in this area, but the problem was so many inventors of wearable technology were not clothing designers. Surprisingly smart clothing in the sports industry is the front runner. The clothing was interactive but wasn’t attractive. Nadi X is one of the few companies to successfully merge fashion + technology.
Dirty Toxic Cotton isn’t the name of the punk band. It’s far worse than you could ever imagine. The fashion industry is now responsible for being the second largest polluter on the planet. It is a trillion dollar industry that can produce runway inspired clothing at a very low price. The general public can’t seem to nor do they want to invest in quality because they can purchase things that look fashionable. A generation of people believes their clothes shouldn’t last. Throwing clothes away has now become a way of life. We’re dumping more clothes into landfills that are costing us our health.
Toxic Fashion Isn’t Cheap
Our clothing is manufactured with 8000 chemicals, and since the largest organ is our skin. Guess where these chemicals are going? Straight into our blood stream compromising our immune system and our health. What are the possible effects? Synthetic chemicals have been linked to cancer, infertility, low sperm count, brain disorders, Parkinson’s Disease to name a few. We’re walking around wearing clothing that’s silently harming us, at the cost of fast affordable fashion.
Cotton or as I like to call it dirty toxic cotton farming is the most common issue known to consumers. It’s a natural material that people like to buy because it breathes well and it’s light to wear. A no iron or wrinkle-free shirt is laden with a chemical called perflourinated chemicals. These chemicals make your shirt wrinkle free, but they also disrupt your hormone function, are carcinogenic, and reduces your immune system.
So what can you do to reduce the chemical intake fast-fashion offers you?
Don’t get overwhelmed. Start reducing the amount of fast-fashion in your closet. Dirty toxic cotton clothes don’t retain their colour or shape for long, get rid of them as soon as possible.
Start demanding more transparency in fashion. Illness is a high price to pay to be fashionable. Decent people deserve decent clothing at a fair price, made by people who get a fair wage in a safe environment.
Ethical fair-trade online stores have changed the retail landscape in the last five years to grab a piece of the conscious retail market. Creating a cradle-to-cradle environment, the companies listed below work with mostly women who use traditional techniques in home decor and fashion. These companies were started by industrious women who saw a need to provide a future for women. By offering artisans employment, it fosters confidence, builds communities and creates financial independence. Receiving a living wage where a woman can take care of her family seems like a normal option for us in the west. But in countries like Uganda & Kenya, it feels like a miracle. For us in the west however ethical shopping is pricey. I believe people would like to shop consciously whilst helping the less fortunate but they can’t see how. To make it easier on leaner budgets, below are a few tips on how to shop ethically whilst saving money.
Ethical Fair-Trade Online Boutiques
Soko is one of my favourite sites for accessories they create small handmade collections that are incredibly unique. Each year the collection changes, what you see now may not be there once the new collection is for sale. Checking the sale section, it’s a good indication those pieces are coming off the site. I bought a bull ring on sale last year for $20. It’s a handmade two ring set that I wear frequently. You can get a unique piece of jewellery and still support women without breaking the bank. Soko + UNTF bracelets start at $10. All the proceeds go towards ending violence against women. Collections are inspired by architecture and traditional tribal designs.
Thirty-One Bits landed in my inbox and I came to love their philosophy. Started by grad students who were waitresses and babysitters. A mutual friend named Kallie returned from a life changing trip in Uganda where she met women who survived a war but had nothing. These were single mothers with no means of income and a lack of education. But what they did have was thousands of years of traditional artisan knowledge coupled with a desire to earn a living. Up-cycling what they could find to make jewellery inspired Kallie to buy a box of jewellery for her trip home. Upon returning home Kallie sold the jewellery to friends and a business was born. These young entrepreneurs launched the site 31 bits to sell jewellery that is made only from up-cycled materials. There is a reasonable sale section with prices starting at $9.80. Check out the Mother’s Day section!
Sseko’s mandate is to support women globally. What’s interesting about Sseko is anyone can join this organisation by holding trunk shows to earn a side hustle. The company was created for women in Uganda to earn money for University. It became larger than expected and a global enterprise was born. Wearing Sseko sends a young girl to college so she can have better options in the future. They don’t have a sale section but if you subscribe to their updates sales are delivered to your inbox. This site offers a range of ethical fair-trade bags, sandals you customize, and jewellery. All handmade by women for women. If you know someone who loves hosting trunk shows and hustling for fashion, refer them to the fellow program. When they sign up you’ll receive $50. Or refer a friend to the site here. When they spend $50 Sseko sends you a $15 gift card. Gift cards are available for a last minute Mother’s Day gift.
Fashionable believes in jobs vs charity. People want to work and women who have children to support will always find a way to feed their children. Fashionable is another example women empowering other women. Rachel and Barrett Ward lived in Ethiopia where they saw extreme poverty. Women and girls forced into making terrible choices to earn a living, made the Wards take a stand. They create independence, not charity. This is how Fashionable was born. Starting with ethical fair-trade hand made scarves the company expanded its range to include jewellery and leather goods. Check out the gorgeous selection of bags, all handcrafted to last forever. Check out their ring bar for a selection starting at $15. They don’t have a sale section. Become a subscriber you will receive sale updates and $10 for being a subscriber.
Support Women On Mother’s Day
Raven & Lily is an ethical fair-trade lifestyle brand that empowers women through design. Founded by Kristen Dickerson who’s passion is to end poverty. The company has partnered with over 1500 women in 9 countries who are talented, hard working women. They also wish to provide for their families. When you purchase any of Raven & Lily’s merchandise you are helping to provide dignity, independence and fair wages. Prices range from $14 for a ceramic bowls right up to $278 for a blazer. Shop by price on the left to find something that fits your budget. There isn’t a sale section, subscribe to receive sales notices, and 15% your first purchase.
Order gift or gift card for Mother’s Day and support other mothers. Looking at how our choices impacts others is necessary to stop poverty in vulnerable countries. Always check the sale section, opt-in to subscribe to get a discount, or refer a friend to receive a discount. Every little bit helps when you’re giving back no matter how small your contribution. Don’t forget to get your free ethical accessories guide here.
A fair wage for garment workers in third countries is part of the message of Fashion Revolution Week. Many of us remember the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory where 1,138 people died for fashion on that day and much more were injured. Companies such as H&M, Joe Fresh, Primark, and Top Shop offered little to no compensation for this mass killing. Yet still making billions each year from unfair labour. It is with a heavy heart this conversation is still going on. But this week you can join in the conversation by asking retailers who are using factories like Rana Plaza to offer a fair wage in safe working conditions.
Fair Wage Is Not A Luxury
Multi-billion dollar companies H&M and Primark can help but so far they have turned a blind eye to the atrocities like Rana Plaza. These companies can support factories in places like India, Cambodia and Bangladesh. Garment workers could have a living wage, a safe working environment, benefits and even an education fund without affecting the bottom line. It may not seem like we’re not affected by this because it happened on another continent, but we are.
Fast-Fashion is now the second dirtiest polluter in the world. It comes only after carbon emissions. When we think of pollution we think of air pollution or rubbish and sewage, not fashion. But fast-fashion which gets its name from the quick factory turn around is made so poorly with lesser quality fabrics, it’s designed not to last. Younger generations now regard fast-fashion as great fashion finds because it’s cheap.They don’t have anything to compare.
Buying a coat, a suit or a dress kept it for decades isn’t in their vocabulary. It didn’t pill or lose its shape. The fabric was thick and heavy and it didn’t shred after cleaning.This is a foreign thought for young people. You get what you pay for, Fast-Fashion isn’t quality. Landfills are overflowing with clothes. In some cases, it’s shipped back to vulnerable countries. It might be upcycled or worse pollute that country. Fashion Revolution Week starts today and we’re asking you to ask your favourite retailers for transparency in their manufacturing process.
“Buying ethical clothing is expensive.” “I don’t know if I can afford it.” I hear this all the time, the truth is can you afford not to buy responsibly? That’s the question you should be asking yourself. Fashion has now become the second largest polluter due to fast-fashion brands like H&M, TopShop, Joe Fresh, Primark, and Forever21. Clothes from these brands may be cheaper to buy, but you’re also getting cheaper quality clothing that won’t last. Consumers spend over 2 trillion dollars a year on fashion. Guess what? You’re actually spending more. These brands end up in landfills or they are sent to third world countries to either sit in their landfills or in some cases re-sold. Either way, it’s still sitting around like garbage, it’s now a worrying problem.
Shop Ethical Clothing
You might be a surprised to read this but I hate shopping. I work as a stylist/creative director in print media, I’m always pulling clothes. Running around town dropping off and picking up clothing for shoots. It’s not glamorous at all. I’m a glorified porter. So when I have to shop for myself I attack it like a ninja. Shopping twice a year at the end of the season ensures the best sale prices. Right now I’m investing in autumn winter clothing more than spring summer. I know this may not be what you want to do but your wallet will thank you. You can still buy a couple of spring summer items, but the bulk of your budget should go towards autumn winter clothing. Buy one spring summer item from this season if you want. Then buy another item on sale from autumn winter that you can wear in the spring.
Shopping online can yield you deeper savings that aren’t available in the stores. Always check the sale section on sites, you can always find some gems that won’t break the bank. Become a subscriber of sites you want to buy from. When they have large sales you’ll be the first to know. Some companies offer free shipping over $50, take advantage of that. Ebates is a great option, I’ve managed to gain just over $100 cash back from shopping. Ebates has a large selection of retailers to choose from. The list runs from fashion, home, even courses. This handy app called Donegood is wonderful to shop for ethical clothing. Download it and when you’re surfing Donegood will show you alternative ethical online options that offer discounts for Donegood app users.
Reducing your waste and calling fast-fashion companies into question to offer you a better product is what all consumers should want. We all deserve to have quality for our hard earned money. Buy smart, buy less, and buy quality and you will save money in the long run.