The High Cost of Our Cheap Fashion: An Analysis

In this TED Talk, Maxine Bédat — co-founder of Zady — explores the true state of our wardrobes, and how our choice in clothing is destroying the planet. She beings by exploring polyester as an environmentally damaging fabric due to the fact that it’s non-biodegradable, polyester fabrics shed micro-plastics that later enter our water systems and ocean, it is non-breathable, and it is energy intensive. Furthermore, she addresses emissions concerns associated with fabric production, including the face that the apparel industry is responsible for 10% of total carbon output for the entire world. This is not a piece of information that is readily known, and is indicative of the secrecy and ignorance that surrounds consumer mindsets about the fast fashion world. Bédat continues to explain that we have been groomed to believe that fashion is an ethical industry, when really there are innumerous human rights concerns connected to it. She explains that while we may see pictures of factory conditions, pictures do not equate to transparency, nor do they show the wages or healthcare coverage of the workers, which is normally almost non-existent. Furthermore, she details that pictures do not accurately show the conditions of shadow factories, nor material sustainability. We are not told or shown that cotton is the fourth largest pesticide consuming crop, resulting in soil degradation, or the industry is the second greatest polluter of freshwater globally.

This talk was actually the piece that kick-started my research, and I believe that it was also the most relevant, useful, and informative source that I used during this project. Firstly, it deconstructs the fashion industry and the environmental degradation associated with it in a digestible, easy to understand manner, whilst using pertinent scientific facts and statistics to prove and support points. The statistics that are included are some of the ones that shaped my perspective going into this project, and serve as some of the facts that we decided to include in the receipts we are handing out in exchange for donated clothes.

What is interesting about this piece is that Bédat herself did not start as a scientist. Instead, she was a concerned consumer who educated herself, contacted the right people in order to obtain information, and then utilized this information to make a change. She created her own business that not only serves to promote environmental consciousness and provide facts about associated environmental and social damage of the fashion world, but provide alternatives to purchasing from fast fashion brands. They connect buyers to clothing that has a fully transparent history concerning where it was produced, by whom, and why it is priced the way it is. This talk demonstrated the power of knowledge as empowerment and creating alternative modes of consumerism. I think the fact that she made this transition made her an incredibly viable source for information, and also contributed to why her talk is so accessible.

Lastly, in my opinion, this talk encapsulated the issues surrounding the apparel industry, as well as the ability for self-education. I believe that this talk was extremely relevant to what we are trying to accomplish with this project, which is connect concerned and interested consumers with more information and sources that could help them transition to a more eco-friendly closet and consumer habits.

Bédat, Maxine. “The High Cost of Our Cheap Fashion.” Online video clip. Youtube. TEDx Talks. 21. May 2016. Web. 01. May 2016