Organic Panic Uncovers the Real Cost of Fast Fashion

Organic Panic S1E4: Fashion - Designer Lisa North

Think the purchases you make at the grocery store are the only ones impacting the planet? After zeroing in on the realities of mass-produced food, Organic Panic will make you think again, as it moves from the kitchen to your closet to find out the real price of big-box fashion.

Furniture designer Lisa North, this week’s subject, has conflicting feelings about the fashion industry. With her keen eye for design, she loves creating new looks and sees personal style as a valuable form of self-expression. However, she’s witnessed first hand the negative impact that the industry she admires on a creative level can have on both consumers and the planet. She looks to Organic Panic, and the show’s experts, to help her overcome those contradictory impressions, and take a more resolute stance on the issue.

Lisa North TIFFShot

Lisa North, Furniture Designer

Lisa starts that mission hoping to learn about the advances that organic fashion has made in recent decades, and whether or not big-name chains and designers are committed to keeping up with more sustainable ways of doing business. But, just as we heard from organic farming advocates last week, those who oppose the chemical-ridden methods of garment production that are prevalent today see the shift to organic methods as an imperative, not a choice to be made. Unfortunately, they say that majority of manufacturers are too slow getting with the program.

Kelly Drennan, Executive Director, Fashion Takes Action

Kelly Drennan, Executive Director, Fashion Takes Action

Kelly Drennan, the Executive Director of Fashion Takes Action, is a proponent of grassroots organic fashion – a movement that she says has the power to offset the damage done by mass manufacturers and chains. She explains that the issues facing the fashion world extend far beyond questionable working conditions. Factories are threatening natural resources by polluting water sources with hazardous chemicals, and even the pesticides used on cotton crops are damaging to the environment (and the people tasked with harvesting them).

She reinforces the importance of paying attention to clothing labels in the same way you would read the ingredients on the back of a cereal box. Not all organic tank tops are created equal, and not all garments are created with 100 percent organic materials.

Lisa meets with Emily Scarlett at H&M to discuss sustainability.

Lisa meets with Emily Scarlett at H&M to discuss sustainability.

And, as Lisa learns from H&M Representative Emily Scarlett, not all large-scale retailers are cut from the same cloth either. Though the international brand is one of the most recognized outlets for the so-called ‘fast fashion’ that activists like Drennan work to counter, she outlines some of the ways that larger companies are looking to alter their practices.

With more resources at their disposal, she argues that large companies, when they act responsibly, can actually do more to advance organic practices in the industry than anyone. Incorporating recycled and ethically produced materials into their lines is a first step to improving their manufacturing techniques, she says, and part of their effort to phase in organic practices.

After hearing both sides of the fashion manufacturing debate, will Lisa’s suspicion of the industry prevail, or will she begin to see companies like H&M in a more flattering light? Tune in to Organic Panic this week to learn for yourself whether or not the shirt on your back is contributing to the planet’s degradation, or if opting for organic is really worth it when it comes to populating your closet.



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