Fashion and Petrol : A love Story – Where do clothes really come from ?

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Hello my friends,

What has climate change, plastic found in the stomach of turtles, oil spills, and city smog have in common? You probably have guessed it. Our dependency on petrol and its derivatives. So many conveniences in this modern world we have become accustomed to are rooted in this black gold. To a point where we do not see it anymore. Just like we are starting to forget that food does not magically appear in supermarkets, we forget that the ton of things we buy in shops do not just grow on shelves. And I am not ridiculing anyone here. I am no better. I consume excessive amount of stuff…. Wrapped in plastic. I am merely observing what I do, what we collectively do and wonder. Does it really have to be that way?   

Thankfully, there are lots of positive movements out there, whether it is organic food, plastic free lifestyle, vegan diet, and energy reduction. Alternative options are getting more attention. However, I feel that one area which is not talked about as much as it should is what we wear, put in our suitcase when we go travelling and how it is linked to how we treat the planet.

So, let’s talk about socks, skirts, pants, t-shirts, and petrol.

Despite what the big fashion brands would probably like us to believe, clothes do not appear miraculously in shops, ready to be hung by smiling shop assistants. No, they generally come from half way around the globe and back a few times. Unfortunately, the garment tag, somewhere on the side rim of your shirt, will not be of much help to determine how and where it was made. A shirt may be labelled as “Made in China”, but chances are it has already travelled long distances before even getting to China. Surprisingly, petroleum is a pervasive component of the textile industry, and it is not always obvious how it relates to your new dress or pair of pants.  

But first, why is important anyways? There has been talk about plastic and how it ends up in the marine environment and the stomach of turtles and other species. Plastic, which is in fact derived from hydrocarbon has the property of breaking up but does not degrade, that means that it breaks down but never really goes away, filling up our environment and being absorbed by living organisms all throughout the food chain. It poisons our land and water courses and kill animals. All this because, at the source, it is derived from petroleum/hydrocarbon ( I will be using the term interchangeably for this blog).  

Petroleum products are not renewable energy sources, meaning we do not have an unlimited supply. They result in global warming, they can contribute to political instability and are an environmental risk. Spills have been known to destroy ecosystems and kill animals. They are a real environmental risk, and our dependence on black gold can be traced even in your underwear.

From a consumer perspective, how much we pay for our clothes is linked to the price of oil as it is intrinsically linked to the fashion industry. One the one hand is has allowed clothes to be transported on long distances and on the other allowing cheap labour to be exploited in developing countries.  The cheap price of petrol has been the basis for filling up our wardrobe and suitcase with cheap and throwable fashion, now plaguing landfills around the world.

In the next articles, I will attempt to follow the trace of black gold into our wardrobe or what we bring with us in our suitcase. From textile production to dyes and transport. Can’t wait for you to read those articles. I think you will be surprised, I was!

 For those of you who prefer videos to blog posts ( or maybe you want to see both!) I would like to introduce my web series called Fashion and Petrol. It is a six part video series that summarises what I will be talking about in the next few blog posts. You can get the six videos (one every week) strait to your inbox if you register here

If you prefer, you can check the first one here.  

Here at Tropical Suitcase, we love packing our suitcase and explore the world, but we are also curious about what is in that back pack.  What is really in our suitcase? Let’s find out.  Join us for an adventure and check out our website and see us on Facebook and Instagram!

Until next time, take care !

Julie from Tropical Suitcase.

 

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