Is your fashion budget too high?

Chic protest - green fashion is all the rage

A cheap T-shirt travels through many countries before it arrives at the store. The production conditions are not fair everywhere. In Germany there is a green fashion movement that wants to change that.

A cotton bush grows in a sprayed field. Its white, fluffy balls are picked by an exhausted smallholder. Then tons of them go to a dye factory. Workers there handle dangerous chemicals to dye and process the fibers. The balls are woven into a cotton fabric and taken to a sewing factory. Seamstresses sit there, some are still children who sew T-shirts for up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week. The T-shirts are then delivered to wealthy countries. There they are offered at low prices. Many buy them and wear them for a while. Then the parts go out of style and stay in the closet. The cotton balls have experienced many things up to this point, traveled through some countries and seen a lot of suffering.

Buy consciously “green”

Since the media in recent years has drawn attention to the conditions under which many items of clothing are produced, the awareness of many consumers in Germany has changed. In 2013 at the latest when the “Rana Plaza”, a nine-story textile company in Bangladesh, collapsed and over a thousand people died, many people realized that their buying habits were linked to the lives of others.

Julia is one of those who want to change something about that. The 26-year-old is a student and doesn't really have a lot of money to spend. But because she is committed to fairly produced fashion, she buys her clothes in organic shops. The clothes there are three times as expensive as at large fashion chains, but Julia then simply buys less - instead of ten new items, there is just one item a month. She also rummages for clothes at flea markets or meets up with friends at clothes swap parties. This saves you money and still has a good selection in your wardrobe.

"I think that we are partly responsible for how the people over there are doing," says Julia. Some time ago she took part in a so-called "consumer-critical city tour" in Cologne, where she was told which routes a textile chain sometimes takes Some T-shirts have passed through up to 16 different countries before they finally land in the store, but in the end they don't cost more than an ice cream sundae.

Protest against unfair clothing

This problem has preoccupied activists and human rights organizations for a long time. In the nineties, a campaign against unfair textile production was founded for the first time: the “Clean Clothes Campaign”, which now exists in 16 European countries. It links over 300 trade unions, consumer organizations, church groups, world shops, NGOs and women's rights organizations. They are all in contact with organizations and activists in developing countries and discuss together what needs to be changed.

There is also the “Clean Clothes Campaign” in Germany. For example, it informs teachers and students about fair and sustainable clothing. “There are a lot of people who ask us and want to know what they can do,” says Anna Korittke, campaign coordinator. People can do something in very different ways, for example by participating in online petitions or participating in action days organized as part of the campaign. “But it can also change something if you ask in the store whether the clothing was produced fairly. It's a small step, but it can make a big difference. "

New eco fashion in trend

That something has already changed can now also be felt in the fashion industry. In the past, eco-fashion had the reputation of being beige or brown, scratchy or saggy. This image has changed a lot to this day - eco-fashion is no longer as boring as it used to be. On the contrary, it is actually very much in vogue. Well-known German designers such as Michael Michalsky are committed to sustainable fashion and during the Fashion Week in Berlin, more and more of the green fashion trend is being used: In the “Ethical Fashion Show”, over a hundred fashion labels from all over the world are presenting World this year for the first time fair produced and ecological clothing.

People like Julia started this trend. As a result of the new eco-fashion awareness, demand has even risen to such an extent that even large clothing stores have added individual eco-labels to their range. But also stores like “green guerillas” in Cologne, which exclusively offer ecologically and fairly produced clothing from various eco labels, show that clothing made from natural fibers can look and feel very modern. “In recent years there have been great innovations in terms of fabric quality. There are creations made from hemp or organic cotton or new fibers made from eucalyptus or beech wood, "says Marlis, explaining the new developments in the textile industry.

You and Kai are the owners of “green guerillas”. Kai studied sports, Marlis has a degree in politics. Both have often dealt with the topic of sustainability and global development. In 2011, Kai had the idea of ​​opening a shop for fair fashion - Marlis was on fire right away. Your store concept is well received, and there is even a second branch. “It went very well right from the start. Many people like to shop here, not just because it's eco-fashion, but because the things look great, ”says Kai. The customer can check this with the seals sewn into the clothing.

The eco-labels are fair, environmentally friendly and also rely on transparency, for example by making video recordings of the production conditions on site. On that day, Julia bought sunglasses with a frame made of bamboo. "Something different and the shape looks nice," she says.

Green fashion - not for everyone

Textile experts say that the average European uses 20 kilograms of textiles a year. Up to 75 million tons of cotton are produced worldwide today, compared to 38 million tons in the 1990s. So today there is almost twice as much cotton on the market. This makes it clear that there are still consumers who buy a lot of clothing that was not necessarily produced fairly - not infrequently even despite a changed consumer awareness.

28-year-old Niki is one of those people. Niki is fashion conscious and likes to wear a lot of different outfits. She also has a small budget. She thinks eco-fashion is a good idea, but she still often buys cheap clothes from big fashion chains. “The good will is there, but in everyday life you reach for a nice part that you see on the road in the city,” she admits. There is a lot more choice in large fashion stores, but Niki also likes the clothes very much. That's why she often finds it difficult not to shop there. “I just enjoy shopping, I like to stroll through the shops. You don't have that anymore if you only sometimes buy something from an organic store. "

Niki is also skeptical when it comes to the eco-label. There are many seals that stick on all kinds of products. “How do I know which organic label is correct?” She often asks herself. According to the campaign for clean clothing, only certain seals are really trustworthy, such as the “Global Organic Textile Standard”. Because many consumers have difficulties with the many seals, the campaign has brought out a “boy scout” that explains how one can find one's way in the seal jungle.

© "WEARFAIR - A guide through the label jungle for textiles" by the Christian Initiative Romero (CIR),

No change without the big corporations

Buying from a large corporation is not necessarily wrong. After the accident in Bangladesh, some textile companies joined the so-called "Bangladesh Accord" in order to improve safety precautions in the factories. “But by far not all of them are there,” says Anna Korittke. Why not just produce all corporations as fairly as the small organic shops? The individual companies fear a competitive disadvantage, she suspects. If the corporations do not change it voluntarily, there must be legal measures. But it would also help if the companies did not place their orders at such short notice: “The quantities or colors are quickly changed again or the garment is quickly given a different cut. As a result, the factories in which the clothing is produced have much less time to actually finish the things. "

Turn the fashion world upside down

The members of the campaign for clean clothing are aware that the fashion world cannot be turned inside out immediately and that from now on it will only be produced fairly. But they work tirelessly on it. A campaign was recently started as part of the campaign, with which schoolchildren can make a difference by buying fair high-school t-shirts. But even if a student gives a presentation on the topic, it can make a difference: “Then at least you've made your classmates aware of it,” says Anna Korittke.

Ananda Braunig
is a cultural journalist specializing in new media.