The online clothing store might be a (Not So) Pretty Little Thing after all.
Unless you shy away from the dark, murky depths of social media, you would have been witness to the recent backlash PLT, Fashion Nova and ASOS have faced, as a warning that their products may contain harmful chemicals has come to light.
If you live anywhere but California you wouldn’t even know this warning existed. Under California’s Proposition 65 Legislation companies are required to state that their products could contain traces of chemicals such as lead. Long term or high level exposure to lead can result in damage of the nervous system, kidneys and reproductive organs. Studies do show it could also cause cancer.
Of course, once this was warning was pasted across Twitter and Facebook, many users took to their keyboards to cry warnings and voice their disgust.
“I’m never shopping here again,” was the battle cry of many (although I am sure they have wardrobes full of these brands). And, unsurprisingly, there was outrage that the warnings only appear on the US site.
But the products sold in the UK have to be regulated to EU standards meaning there are no chemicals in high enough quantities to cause serious harm. Furthermore, the warning itself doesn’t mean if you buy a piece of clothing from the brand you will be affected. It is needed as the product COULD cause cancer in 2 or more of 100,000 people over 70 years. However, I’m sure alcoholism, smoking and pollution pose higher risks.
At the end of the day, we should know what ingredients make up our clothes, much like the food we buy in a supermarket. We should be able to as a consumer make ethical and sustainable choices about our clothes and to be made to think about the impact that one item could have on our own health, others health and the environment – it should not be our own health that we are solely concerned about.
Fast fashion should cause a bigger outcry. The working conditions of many in factories belonging to fast fashion companies should cause a flurry of Twitter threads and complaints. The environmental impact of buying fast fashion, wearing it once and never wearing it again should be shared on Facebook over and over and over again.
The fashion and footwear industry currently accounts for 8.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the total climate impact of the entire European Union. We should know what’s in our clothes no matter where we are in the world, but that information should be used to make ethical and environmentally conscious decisions.
Yes, that item of clothing may contain potentially harmful chemicals to you. But it could also have been made by someone working for little or no money in dangerous conditions. The material it’s been made from could’ve been sourced unsustainably from already fragile ecosystems. We need to be making the right choices for the right reasons.
It is not all doom and gloom, however, as many brands are tackling the issue. Zara for example has made a pledge for its clothes to be made from 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025. It is these positive changes by companies and a more careful and researched approach by consumers that will help to improve the fashion industry.
And, after all, if you don’t agree with it, don’t buy it.
By Kirsty Macadam