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A Climate Change with Matt Matern Climate Podcast


97: Sustainable Fashion Author & Editor Dana Thomas, British Vogue

Guest Name(s): Dana Thomas

Join Matt for a riveting conversation with Dana Thomas, author and European Sustainability Editor at British Vogue, about sustainability and the environmental impacts of the fashion industry. Dana Thomas is the author of “Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes,” “Fashionopolis Young Readers Edition,” “Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano,” and the New York Times bestseller “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster,” all published by Penguin Press. She hosts “The Green Dream,” a podcast focused on sustainability and human rights, produced by Wondercast.

Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes (Amazon) >>

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You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host I’ve got author Dana Thomas on the program today, I’m very excited to have her. She’s the author of Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion. She has also written a couple of other books that have been reviewed by lots of different people as being great books, I haven’t had a chance to read those. She’s also the host of the green dream, a podcast, and the Europeans stainability, editor of British Vogue.

And so Dana is going to talk to us a lot about this fast fashion industry, which is a huge industry $2.4 trillion. And growing, some of the richest people in the world are, you know, being fed by this fast fashion industry, we’ve got Zara, one of the billionaire owner of that is worth, I don’t know, 6080 100 billion dollars, and LVMH. Now that’s not exactly fast fashion, but it is fashion.

So, you know, is feeding this empire. So I’m very excited to have Dana on the program, tell us about what she’s doing. And what she’s uncovered. In looking at the fast fashion industry. Welcome, Dana.

Thank you for having me, it’s a pleasure to be here.

So tell us a little bit of your journey of of how you, you came to the fashion industry. And and then what kind of opened your mind as to the potential downfall of of this fast fashion, you know, trend that we’ve had?

Well, as it happens, I got into the fashion industry, not on my own, but with the help of my father, who wanted me to be a model. So I was a model as a teenager, in an until I was 21. In Philadelphia, New York, Paris and Milan. And when I’d finished that, I thought it was done. And I would go to college, and I did and take the money and pay for college and study journalism and politics. I wanted to be a White House correspondent and work at the Washington Post or the New York Times.

And I got to the Washington Post while I was still in school, because I studied Washington DC. And, and was working on the national desk as the news aide, the kid who answers the phones and run back then ran phone messages back to people because it was before there was voicemail, if you can imagine. And the fashion editor in the Style section of the Washington Post heard that there was a former model working as a news aide on the national desk and spoke French and Italian. And she needed a new assistant. So she tapped me to come work for her for the summer.

And it was a strange sensation, because I’d always thought the modeling thing was its own weird. It was a means to an end. And when it was over, it was over. And then I was gonna go off and do this other thing. And it turned out that the kind of the two ideas, the two passions, or the two things that I knew, which was writing or in journalism, and the fashion world in Paris and Milan especially fit together in a newspaper environment. So I worked with Nina Hyde, that was her name for on and off for about two years, she her assistant came back and then went on leave again.

And so I worked I filled him for about two years. And then I helped after Nina passed away from breast cancer, I was doing the the fashion coverage for about a year and and really got into it in a way that I didn’t anticipate. But what the beauty of what Nina taught me was that it wasn’t about him length and heel heights that it was about politics, business, sociology life.

And so in fact, though, I wanted to be a political reporter, in the end, I kind of still am a political reporter, or at least a social anthropologist, and I always loved anthropology too. So I followed this path and I moved to Paris, I married a Frenchman and moved to Paris. And when I got to Paris, it just made sense for me to continue to cover fashion along with things that were happening in France for The Washington Post and then later for Newsweek magazine, out of the Paris bureau.

And I you know, when there was big news, like when Princess Diana was killed, I worked on that story. And when, you know, the Pope came to town I worked on that story. When the presidential election happened. I worked on that story because it was a bureau and we all contributed to anything but I also carved out the fashion beat and it was a time when the fashion industry was changing from small family owned and run companies to global publicly traded corporations.

You mentioned that VMH in the introduction that was one of these groups that was forming, and there was another one now called caring that started out as Gucci group. And they were starting to grow and go, go global. When I first started covering fashion, you know, Louis Vuitton had something like, I think it had two stores in Paris and nice. And then it was in some department stores.

And suddenly, they’re, you know, today there for 400 or 500. I don’t know how many stores there are hundreds and hundreds of Louis Vuitton stores. So you know, it was a time when these businesses were becoming brands instead of houses. And then they were going global, instead of being very European and European centric, or being Paris and Kota zero.

And, and, you know, and Milan and London and New York, but that was about it. And, and I followed this and trace this evolution of the Business Week by week and Newsweek magazine. And I eventually took all that reporting for my first book Deluxe, how luxury lost its luster. And then my second book, Gods and Kings, the rise and fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano was about how the business really impacted the creative side, the business aspect of business corporatization impacted the creative side of fashion.

And to a degree that, you know, designers were killing themselves or drinking themselves to death or cracking up cracking up quite simply, because they weren’t trained to be business managers, they were trained to be, they were artists. So and then the third book came to me while I was working, you know, I was still writing and now and I now write for, and I’ve written for the New York Times for years as well. And then I joined Vogue about two years ago in British Vogue. But I wrote this book, because I could, my job has always been, you know, from the newspapering aspect, looking to see what’s coming next, what’s next in the what’s on the horizon.

Not always just the news, like what happened today, but I have to try to figure out what’s going to happen tomorrow, or two weeks from now or six months from now. And and, and I have my radar up, and I have doing my reporting, and I’m figuring out trends before they happen. Some people call this being a futurist. Some people call this trend forecaster, I’m not paid as well as those, those jobs. Essentially, that’s what I do.

And, and so I did that for the book, because I could see that climate change eventually was going to come to the fashion industry that the fashion industry had kind of ignored it and been immune to that whole movement. Just like the digital revolution slowly came to the media after it dissipated. Film and Music and all these other, you know, Humanities like areas of business. Well, the same thing, climate change, hadn’t come to fashion yet. And fashion has a huge imprint on planet and people as we like to say, you know, that was from, you know, cotton fields all the way to, you know, throwing out your clothes when you’re done with them.

And, you know, the materials that are used the way people are treated the factories, the, the shipping, the vast volume of clothes, and I was reading up on this, and I was reading stories about reshoring and I was reading stories, you know, then the big factory collapse in Bangladesh happened where more than 2000 people were killed.

And this all just sort of culminated into this book, fashion opolis The price of fast fashion and the future of clothes. It really does encompass the whole thing. And basically, what I found is the, you know, as the French say, the Prusa shawls the more that changes, the more it stays the same, that what we have today happening in Bangladesh and Vietnam and and Honduras and Mexico.

And, you know, these these far flung local cost labor markets, Cambodia and Myanmar, is exactly what we had in Manchester in the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, cheap labor, terrible working conditions, all for the profit of a couple of a handful of people who make wild, wildly wild amounts of money.

And we forgot we forget, you know, when we think of we talk of the industrial revolution, we think about steam engines and we think about STEAM, you know, and you know, like the the motorized part of it right but it began with cotton weaving, and then moved into clothing. And from there then we got trains and ships and you know, steam engines and, and all the rest of it, but it began with clothing, cotton in Manchester, England, that’s why it was called caught INNOPOLIS and thus, the name of my book fashion novelists.

And we’ve just followed up from that ever since, you know, like the triangle factory fire in their early 20th century. We have fires still in Bangladesh factories, clothing factories today And it seems like you know, it just, it doesn’t change, it just moves. And that’s what I wanted to show with the book. And if we really want to change it, we’re gonna have to work hard at it.

Well, you know, thank you for giving us the whole kind of breadth of a your career and how it it’s kind of gone in a parallel path to the fashion industry. You know, the I love the part about LVMH was two stores. Back when you started your beat, and now it’s 400. It’s a behemoth, Gucci the same thing as we all saw in the movie house of Gucci.

You know, it went from a very small operation to big big business. Same thing, Christian Dior, that that movie kind of shows the arc of, you know, a brilliant designer and kind of being eaten alive by by the system that was created the big business that it became. And, and I love how it all ties into something very, very, you know, relatable to everybody on the planet, we all wear clothes, we all wear clothes, what so first thing we say to ourselves in the morning.

So what am I going to wear today? Unless, of course, you go to maybe a school with uniforms. Or you have a uniform, but even if you have a uniform, you still figure out which pair of shoes you’re going to wear, what am I going to wear today, right, and the people will wear uniforms are constantly trying to alter them to try to make them look different and cooler and whatever.

So, you know, it’s all it’s all tied together. And, you know, I’m looking forward to asking you a ton of other questions, we got a lot of ground to cover. And for those who are listening in, you’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. And I’ve got Dana Thomas was the author of fashion opolis The price of fast fashion, we’ll be back in just one minute to talk to Dana.

You’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Danna Thomas, who’s the author of Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion, and, you know, great reviews on the book. The New York Times Book Review said fascinating will engage not only the fashion set, but also those interested in economics, human rights and climate policy. So that’s a pretty good take by the New York Times Well done. Let me ask you a little bit about that. Why is fashion so important to economics, human rights and climate policy?

Well, fashion is important because it is an enormous business, one out of six people on the planet with somehow work in the fashion industry. That’s a lot, right. I mean, that’s all the way from people who are picking growing farming cotton to Naomi Campbell, okay, let’s like, show that this isn’t just you know, people making your clothes, but also modeling them, photographing them selling them. But it’s still, it’s a gigantic industry. I think it’s up to now i in the few years since I wrote the book, it’s grown so much, I think is now not far from $3 trillion a year in sales.

And, you know, we produce 100 billion garments a year, but we only sell 80 billion 20 billion are thrown away before they ever even hit the shop floor. So that gives you an idea of the breadth, the size of the of the industry. And but also the wastefulness of it, the intentional wastefulness of it, that they over produce all for the sake of profit, you know, the idea of economies of scale, but how can you be? How can that be economic, if you’re intentionally throwing away 20% of everything you make that feels like a very bad business practice? I mean, talk about waste.

I’ve heard that H&M has so much waste, that it has a point a facility, I think in Sweden, where they burn all the products that they don’t use to power, you know, the generate power. So that just tells you the magnitude of the amount of product that is going to waste.

Yeah, and it seems most commonly also, yeah.

Right, it seems criminal that they don’t kind of just give some of that away. Given that, you know, there are probably many people around the world that could use those garments. And instead they burn them.

Well, they’re the the world is awash in clothes right now. They don’t know what to do with all the clothes because we now buy five times more clothes than we did a generation ago. And yet we spend five 1/5 The amount of money that we used to spend in the family budget on those clothes. Now I’m terrible at math. algebra, you know, the the trains leaving the station at different times and going in different directions. I can’t do that.

But even with my very bad algebra to be buying five times more clothes with only 1/5, the amount of budget shows you how cheap clothes have gotten, and how many we have. And what do we do if we’re buying so many is we throw them away, and we give them away to charity, but they go to places like Africa, Africa is awash in our clothes so much they don’t want anymore.

They don’t know what to do with them. They’re dumped into deserts, they’re thrown into the sea. They’re everywhere. If we stopped making clothes today, we’d still have enough clothes out there to wear new clothes until 2050.

Wow. So that’s that is really the problem is that it’s a problem of abundance that we’ve all gotten richer as, as citizens of the planet is a wealthier place than it was 50 years ago. And I think that’s, you know, you can see that evidence by 1/5 of our budget is needed to buy clothes now 1/5 Of what we used to spend of what we used to spend, because it used to be like it used to be in the double digits, sort of like, you know, say 20%, or if 18% of our budget every year was dedicated to clothes, and now it’s like three or four, right? So we can deliver, right? And we’re buying five times more clothes with that tiny sliver of money. Right?

Well, in part because the budget has grown. You know, if you take a $10,000 Earning person now they’re making $100,000. You know, three or 4% of that is roughly the same or more than what you had with 10% of a $10,000 budget, which would be $1,000. So you have more dollars to spend on it just like on food. We spend a much smaller percentage of our incomes on food, because we are richer.

So we can we have much more disposable income so people can afford to waste more. I mean, it’s obviously has repercussions in all this waste and and also have never been cheaper than they are today. I had sort of an aha moment when I was working on the book, where I was reading an article from the 1940s I think it was 1940 Right before the war about the famous retailer Hattie Carnegie, and she lives in New York in New York City selling clothes to the wealthy women and during the Depression.

When the stock market crash and all those people lost all that money, she had to come up with a new line of clothes that was more affordable. Now at the time of of the depression in the 1920s she was selling Paris originals from Chanel. And we still know today Scott, who else was making clothes in PA Hey, a couple other houses like that, that she was selling them and they were selling for those Paris originals in New York at her store for between $903,000 A piece to women, these gowns that’s about what you spend today. Wow.

And Chanel for dress for a ready a beautiful, a beautiful dress. And and so then Hattie Carnegie said Well okay, so everyone lost her shirts in the in the in the crash and they can’t afford my clothes. What should we do? So she came up with a a sort of more accessible, affordable line called it was something sport and had it was like basically, you know, Lauren Bacall and like, in one of those Bogart movies where she’s The Big Sleep and she’s in one of those smart little suits.

You know, Raymond Chandler called the Hattie Carnegie suits, the Secretary special, you know, it was a nice handsome a nice looking suit, but it wasn’t anything fancy. And it cost between 1999 and 2499. About what you’d pay today at Zara, h&m. And you know, in any of these other fast fashion companies, now, that was at the height of the Depression, and we’re paying the same price for clothes.

I feel like that sort of tells you everything I went, Oh, when they say the clothes have never been cheaper than they are today. That’s because the same price as they were 100 years ago. That’s crazy, right? Well,

I guess the economist and me will have to jump out and say well, that $19 Back in 1930 would be worth $190 or more in today’s money, but still shows how cheap it is today.

Right? Which shows how cheap it is today. So yeah, the so yeah, your point is well made that and why is it so cheap?

Because labor is so cheap because they moved all the during globalization. They moved the labor offshore to places where they don’t where companies don’t have to pay any sort of benefits. They don’t have to pay vacation.

They don’t have to pay overtime. They don’t have to pay any thing because they’re just contractors, they don’t have to build the factories, they don’t have to worry about any of that stuff anymore, then they don’t. And they, and the, the wages are, you know, the workers are paid half a living wage. And when I was in Bangladesh, the workers were making $68 a month.

Well, that’s right. Well, I was at the time czar as owner was worth $68 billion. Well, that kind of shows a difference. And when they talk about the vision of well, there’s a very good snapshot of division. And yes, it’s Bangladesh as the cost of living is less, but it was factor figured it was calculated by economists that $68 month was half of what a living wage in Bangladesh.

They should have been making about $130 a month in order to be able to house clothe, and feed their families without freaking out that they can’t make, you know, even basic, and they you know, workers were living in shanties and, and they have their kids sleeping under factory table floor, you know, tables, because they can’t afford to send them to school. And, you know, they don’t, they don’t have how to childcare, they don’t even have health care.

So. So that’s where the companies have cut their prices and raise their profits to such a staggering amount that, you know, six of the wealthiest, top 50 people in the world today own fashion companies, and the only other sector that has such a high amount in that, in that top 50 is tech.

Right? Well, another factor that has, you get really rich making cheap clothes, right, another factor that has gone into this, and because I live in Los Angeles, and I’ve, you know, been involved in the fashion industry, from having clients, who owned fashion houses, and and also clients that worked at them. And the machinery has gotten so sophisticated, that you don’t need as much labor so that there are many more, you know, much more sophisticated machines that spit out these clothes, you know, without almost any human involvement.

So that’s in Los Angeles. But that would not be the case in Cambodia, and Myanmar and Vietnam and Bangladesh, I can promise, you know, the old fashioned sewing machines like we’ve had since the 19th century.

Right. But the point being that it’s possible to knock out the these clothes much more cheaply than ever. And, you know, and that creates an environmental disaster, as well as many other problems, such as labor problems, as you had had rightly pointed to.

And one of the things that we should be thinking from a public policy standpoint is to say, to countries that are importing goods to the United States, we they should take into consideration paying their workers a living wage, because obviously, it’s not fair to say American workers to have a be competing against literally sweatshops, they should at least pay a living wage wherever the the products are coming from.

Exactly, exactly. And because we’re making such cheap clothes, and we’re buying five times more than we did a generation ago, the impact on the planet is enormous, because we have so much leftover clothing, and we have no place to put it will tell what’s talked about that.

And let’s when we get back from the break, you’re listening to A Climate Change. My guest, Dana Thomas, author of Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion. And we’ll be right back to talk to Dana about how fast fashion is impacting the plan.

You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. And I’ve got Dana Thomas, author of the book Fashionopolis, New York Times bestseller, The Price of Fast Fashion. So Dana, talked to talk to a bit about a lot of different issues. Let’s talk just about the pollution aspect of fast fashion and what is the cost of it, and you alluded to the cost of pollution, you know, cotton being a polluting crop, you know, those of us kind of who think, Oh, we’re buying cotton, it’s, it’s good, it’s natural. It’s, you know, it’s organic, maybe, maybe the organic stuff is better. Tell us a little bit about the effect of cotton on the environment.

Well, cotton can’t cut and should be and can be a wonderful product and that doesn’t hurt the environment and in fact, is is the right answer. are four times when we need a crop that will grow in poor soil. Cotton has been with us for 1000s and 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of years, it’s been domesticated 1000s of years ago, we’ve had it in clothing. You know, the Romans were using cotton, you know, for their robes and, and the Egyptians were growing cotton.

You know, it’s been around for a while. But it’s been sort of manhandled and corrupted in the last, let’s say 50 years. First by through and met and definitely since the war since World War Two with the industrial farming of of all things and relying on fertilizer to boost the soil and boost your crops until your soil is so broken up. You can’t grow anything in it. But cotton was always the crop you could plant when you couldn’t grow anything else because it likes to be stressed and it doesn’t need water naturally. If you think about where cotton is grown, it likes hot weather, it likes it, it likes drought, it likes dry.

It’s grown in Texas, it’s grown in Arizona, it’s grown in India, it’s grown in, in Egypt, you know, has grown in really dry hot places. And what happens is when it gets stressed, that’s when it bought a blooms and the bowl, the cotton ball is called bol L is the bloom and that’s the cotton. But, you know, genetic engineers got a hold of cotton and started messing with it. And they’ve made it you know, yes, they’ve made it bug resistant, or you know, pest resistant, I should say and, and disease resistant, but they also started finagling the genetic makeup of it.

So it started producing six times more cotton per plant than it would organically. And then if you’re planning six times more cotton, and they also made it to do that it required water. So suddenly, it became known as a thirsty plant, when in fact, it’s the least thirsty of them all naturally. So organic cotton is fantastic. But conventional cotton, which is what most clothes are made up today is highly toxic, it’s hard on the soil, it’s hard on the water table, and then it’s treated with defoliant, so that they can pick it easier, but the leaves fall off, it’s treated with loads of herbicides and pesticides.

And so in the end, when it’s picked conventional cotton for each kilo of cotton will say pound you need a pound of chemicals it like it requires a pound of chemicals to produce a pound of cotton, which is really mind blowing.

It’s pretty toxic, right? That’s just bad for everything and everybody and there’s terrible stories about cotton farmers having cancer and you know, and I mean, if you start really digging down into it, it gets very grim. And meanwhile, organic cotton is so much more.

You know, it’s such a better product. The quality of the cotton is similar. I mean, you put on a cotton an organic cotton shirt, you feel the difference instantly the it’s just a better, it’s a better material. It was interesting when I was working on the book, Stella McCartney said well, if client if organic cotton is seen as a luxury, then why aren’t luxury brands only sourcing organic cotton?

Well the answer is is because it’s more expensive and that profits are their most and you know, they’re raising debt and not and not making luxury products. But profits it’s all about profits. So you know today only 1% of all cotton is organic, which is kind of crazy considering 100 years ago well maybe you’ll say 120 years ago all cotton was.

So we really sort of taken this ancient ancient material and turned it into you know, a Frank and Frank and textile and we and there’s a big movement in the slow fashion business, the Swift slow fashion movement which is a bit you know, a reaction to the fast fashion industry to bring organic cotton to the forefront and really make it seem you know, give it the the respect it needs to honor it and to really start making it part of the the supply chain again.

Well, I think that we as consumers can certainly demand that and just buy only organic cotton products and that will send a message so all of us out there that are listening you should be looking at the tags making sure the tags make sure that you’re getting organic cotton.

And then as investors anybody who’s investing money in you know companies should be asking the companies they invest in to to produce organic cotton products and we should be pushing for that and in the org positions that you work for, you know, tell them, hey, the uniform should be or organic cotton, so that it goes up and down the supply chain and also talk to our legislature and and tell them hey, for the government workers, they should be, you know, getting their products organically.

So then that creates the marketplace for these. For the, for the manufacturers that are doing the right thing, so that there’s kind of, literally and figuratively cede the ground with, with good public policy.

Yep. The other very impactful material which is everywhere, of course, is polyester. And it’s, and it’s cousin’s nylon and spandex and lycra. These are all petroleum based textiles and fabric cloth. And they were made they were invented during the war right before the war 1930s-40s. And at the time were seen as a as a genius idea, because it was the war it was the period of the war when silk was being used for parachutes and for thread for in hospitals for stitching up wounds, and polyester, nylon.

These were silk these were synthetic silk like materials so then we could be making clothes out of these synthetic silks while using the real stuff for hospitals during the war. But the petroleum at the time, we thought, Oh, we got loads of petroleum and nobody really thought about the impact like we didn’t didn’t think about it with with automobiles, either. The impact that the that fossil fuels have on the environment first drilling and digging it out. But then also the carbon impact when we use it, and polyester nylon and and these other petroleum based synthetics, what happens is first they don’t like plastic because they are essentially plastic. don’t biodegrade I mean, they say it takes 1,000 years but is anyone gonna be here in 1000 years to check?

I don’t think so. We were thinking is gonna take about two years, I’m betting they don’t ever biodegrade. And then the second thing is that when we wash them, they release microfibers little tiny plastic microfibers into the wash. Now you say oh, how many could that be? How about 700,000 Micro fibers per normal load of laundry?

Wow. Wow, right? Nearly a million micro fibers every time you do your you wash your your gym clothes, your your stretchy, sweat wicking. T shirt, your pant your stretchy like grows spandex pants, your fleece top, your fleece jacket. microfibers. And the microfibers have washed out into our water systems, of course, and are found in lakes and rivers and fish and shellfish. But now there have been studies that have found it in the ice in Antarctica and in the Arctic.

The microfibers are now found to be floating in the air, there was a study that said that microfibers are floating like an immense one of the worst parts of pollution in the city of London, just from people wearing fleece and walking down the street, they’re releasing microfibers in the air microfibers are in the rain in the Rockies. So if you have a organic garden, you know you can do all you want, but it’s gonna have this thin layer of plastic on top.

So and of course now it’s been found in our on our blood streams because we’re drinking the microfibers we’re breathing the microfibers we’re eating the fish that have the microfibers. So we got to figure out how to get off. I mean, we talked about trying to you know, we’re gonna have EVs for cars, so we’re gonna not have gasoline powered engines anymore. Eventually. Nobody has really thought about how we’re going to get petroleum out of fashion. It’s a much bigger impact than anyone realized.

Obviously the what you just described as a parade of horribles in terms of how it’s affecting our water our air, I’ve certainly read that we have all of us about a credit card size amount of plastic in our in our bodies at any point in time, which is just mind boggling that we could have that much plastic in our system. Yep. So so how do we get out of this conundrum? How do we wean ourselves off this petroleum based clothing items?

Well, there are lots of solutions being come being dreamed up for replacements of these fabrics, and also how to regenerate them instead of you know, drilling more oil to make more polyester and then throwing it into the landfill taking those clothes out. going into landfill and recycling them and using them for other things or regenerating them into clothes, but hopefully that aren’t going to release too many microfibers.

But first, we have to wean ourselves off of virgin petroleum based fabrics and then and figure out how to use up the ones that we have circulating in the planet. If you burn them, they melt and release toxic air, you know, poisons in the air. So that’s not a solution either. And but eventually, we just have to stop making this stuff and stop using it and go back to the great natural materials. It’s we’ve worn since the dawn of time.

Well, you’re listening to A Climate Change, I’ve got Dana Thomas, author of Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and also the host of The Green Dream, a podcast that you can find on all the major podcast channels. We’ll be back in just one second.

You’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Dana Thomas, author of Fashionopolis on the program. And Dana, just kind of in our last segment want to talk about living in the solution and what what can we do to change course change direction, and to pull ourselves out of the situation regarding fast fashion and, and wasting clothes and polluting our environment?

Well, as I said, we can go back to some of the natural materials that we’ve been wearing since the dawn of time. For example, linen, linen is one of these beautiful fabrics that yes, it requires a lot of ironing unless you embrace the wrinkle. But it’s a rain fed crop.

We don’t have to water it, it grows really easily is not susceptible to pests, like like some product some crops are. And, and so fashion is pivoting towards using linen again, hemp is another solution, a beautiful material that grows very easily and is plentiful and makes you know a crop that grows easily and makes it very beautiful material. There’s wolves Did you know today that will only make up about 1% of all fabric.

Wow. I know right? And and polyester, which we were talking about earlier is to is in two thirds of our clothes. Two thirds of all clothes made today contain polyester that plastic that never biodegrade, burnt melts into toxic nastiness and emits microfibers it two thirds of our clothes have that in it. And then there’s nylon too and spandex and lycra and neoprene but only 1% is wool.

And wool is you know, been like, like cotton worn by the since the dawn of you know the in Alexander the Great’s warriors were wearing wool, you know, like it’s been around forever. And it was what serving them? Well, so it can serve us.

Well. Let me let me ask you I know on the wolf front in terms of all the animals there and the production of methane from from that. Has that been studied and measured?

I don’t know that’s its own. That’s a very deep subject. I’ve gotten into some what but what I do know is that, for example, in the UK, because there is not enough of a demand for wool in the supply chain, that the wool that is sheared from the sheep because they need to be sheared. For the sheep that are being produced for me.

That will is just burned. It’s not even used for sweaters because there’s no demand for it. So that’s incredible, right? So we have enough sheep to give us enough wool to make enough sweaters to to without adding too wouldn’t be adding to the production of sheep or for the ranching or farming of sheep to start using more wool. We’re not using the wool that we have. Which is really a shame, I think.

Yeah, well there’s there’s also I’ve talked to some people I had a guy on the show a while back and he was growing kelp. And they have studied that putting kelp in the animal feed yes helps reduce methane so absolutely does. So that’s that’s a way that this is something that’s getting rolled out and being tested. I think it’s a great it’s a very interesting movement and very in a love a wonderful solution.

But then there’s other things that you know there are other great solutions, like you mentioned kelp, we can use kelp. There is a company that’s working using algae to make a biodegradable plastic for sequence because sequences are made of petroleum based you know they’re petroleum based plastics, so sequence never biodegrade all those sequence out there.

They’re going to be there for forever and ever and ever. So there’s a company making biodegradable sequence and biodegradable fabric out of algae and out of kelp. And then there’s another company that’s making that’s growing dye out of bacteria or out of, you know, growing or using natural dyes as well.

Going back to natural dyes as opposed to chemical dyes, and where this is the most important is in the Blue Gene business, because 99% of our blue jeans today are dyed with synthetic Indigo which was only invented in the late 19th century but synthetic Indigo and again natural Indigo has been around since you know the Egyptians or or even before and synthetic Indigo has formaldehyde, cyanide aniline really toxic stuff in it. And we have this against our skin the you know, our largest Oregon is breathing Oregon porous and we have cyanide next to our skin.

I often say when I’m talking to schools, you know, those movies where they have the cyanide killed in a ring. And if you’re caught is a spy, you can take your cyanide pill and kill yourself, or you know what, you could just eat your genes. So, you know, so we’re pivoting to organic Indigo, which makes the most natural Indigo the most beautiful blue you’ve ever seen in your life. I mean, it’s like where is a shimmering sapphire next to natural synthetic indigo dye jeans.

This is coming in a big way very soon. There’s a company in Nashville, Tennessee, called Stoney Creek colors that is who is taking natural Indigo back out to an industrial scale. And he is working with Levi’s to introduce it into the industrial supply chain for blue jeans. So we’ll have more natural indigo blue jeans available out there. And when it’s dyed with cotton, natural, organic cotton. Now that’s a beautiful pair of jeans.

Yeah, and that’s, that’s the kind of thing that we want to pivot to. You know, I know you’re familiar with this company renew cell, which is in this circular fashion, tell us a little bit more about circular fashion, and how we can maybe support that.

I was just closing my article today for British Vogue for the April issue where I talk about renewing cell renew cell is taking what we call cellulosic I never quite pronounced that right, but cellulose based fabrics.

So those are the other synthetics that I didn’t talk about earlier such as Rayon is cellulosic and there are a couple other ones but rayons the biggest one and and they’re made from tree pulp, they cut down trees well as the head of canopy explained it they to make these fabrics you log the tree you put it into a giant blender with nasty chemicals used to produce a pulp that is turned into fiber and only 20 to 40% of each tree is ultimately used 60 to 80% is waste and they cut down millions of trees every year to make this this fabric well.

Renu Sal has stepped up and said Listen instead of cutting down trees to make fabric Why don’t we take the fabric we already have made and regenerated into new fabric. So that’s what they’re doing with the cellulosic fabrics are turning it back into virgin fabric there’s another company that I spotlight in a book called worn again, that’s taking cotton poly blends where you have shirts you know you’ve how many shirts Do you have were you seeing the labels is 60% polyester 40% Cotton, right? That’s a cotton poly blend.

So it’s made the cotton softer but it also just makes making that fabric cheaper because polyester is so cheap and and they’ve figured out how to as I put right in the book divorce these fabrics, separate them these these two fibers, the cotton and the polyester and then regenerate each to a virgin quality fiber to start again.

And and then there’s another company out in Seattle called evernew that’s doing this with cotton. Like all the old cotton jeans, sheets, towels, T shirts everything is being you know the as they call it feedstock it’s endless is being used as being taken in and broken down and regenerated into version cotton and they were working with Levi’s I saw the prototype of the Levi’s that they made with denim made of regenerated cotton and it was really cool and they’re working with some other companies now too.

So you know, there’s there’s a wait circular fashion, the idea of it is that for the 100 years we’ve been or since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, quite honestly, we’ve been consuming in what in a way that’s called take make or make take, take make waste, where we take some thing from the earth, we make something with it, we use it and we throw it away. Linear.

And circularity is putting it back into circulation, it’s, you know, taking from the earth, making something, wearing it using it, whatever it is, it could be anything, not just clothes. And then instead of throwing it into a landfill, we really take it back into the search back to the system, and make something else with it, use it make something else and keep it going in a circle around and around and around instead of throwing it straight into the bin.

So fashion is adopting this in many ways very, very quickly. And this gives me great hope for the fashion industry, because while they may still be over producing, at least they’re figuring out what to do with all the leftovers or all the clothes that we’ve burned through so that they don’t turn into a big toxic molten mess somewhere. And or they’re not just moldering in the landfill till the end of days.

Well, that would be a great help. I know that you do a lot in the area of empowerment of young women. And Jai and I know that a friend of mine gave me your book and she is a loyal university professor. She I know she had a plug she wanted to have you speak there sometime because, you know, to empower young people to to move in this direction.

Absolutely. Absolutely. I called the book, The Book of Hope and my podcast, The Green Dream, which is about sustainability in all areas. But you know, the truth, the idea of living a greener life. We call that the podcast of hope because I do believe that there. There is a way out of this. And if we just put our minds to it, we can affect change.

Well, I’m really glad to have you on the program. You can listen to our podcasts or Apple and Spotify or you can come check out our website at AClimateChange.com.

You can also listen to approximately 100 old episodes. And check out any part of the episode today that you may have missed because a lot of great stuff. Listen to what Dana had to share with us and check out Dana’s best selling book Fashionopolis Why what we wear matters and listen to her great podcast, the green dream. Also check out her in vogue. It’s a great pleasure to have you on the on our show. You are a treasure and it’s fantastic to have you share with the audience what you’re doing. Merci beaucoup.

Thank you. Thank you so much.

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