Sustainable Fashion Vs Zara, H&M, and Forever 21

Noemi Florea grew up in Potomac, Maryland. She had a negative high school experience. Now she’s studying in New York at the best art and design school in America.

“I had a really negative experience growing up with high school. The county that I was going to public school in, Montgomery County in Maryland, had this very competitive atmosphere. Everybody was always competing for the best grades and the best SAT scores.

When I was fifteen, I realised that this competition for the best statistic, using the statistic to define yourself, I just thought it’s so unfulfilling. I really just rejected that and I didn’t know what I was going to do.

I was kind of an anarchist for a little bit. I negated everything. I thought society was this big circle jerk. We all just applaud each other and we never achieve anything. Nobody thinks for themselves. It sounds very radical.

As some years went by I became more mature. I was never able to return to that idea that you have to study finance, you have to get a good job, because that’s your purpose. You have to study so you can get a good job and you can make money. I never was able to return to that.

Art was this kind of inbetween of being this institutionalised person who I despised, versus being a total anarchist and going nowhere.”

Now, Noemi is 18 and living in New York.

She’s studying a dual degree. One degree to earn a bachelor of fine arts from Parsons School of Design with a major in integrative design. The other half of her dual degree Noemi is majoring in environmental studies Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts.

Why is this combination important?

“As designers, everything we create, we have to consider the impact on the environment that our creations will have because that’s so crucial today.”

Noemi and I sat down to talk for my podcast T-Shirts & Ties where we chat with Creatives and Strategists. We discussed her thoughts on design, her upcoming exhibitions, and the problems with fast fashion and what we can do about it. Enjoy.

What is fast fashion? Why is it dangerous? Why is it unethical?

“Fast Fashion is those brands that are globalized; Forever 21, Zara, H&M. Their method of production is so dangerous and unethical.

So one, the materials they make their clothes out of are not biodegradable and quite toxic, even for your skin. It’s bad for you when you’re wearing them. And then when you’re done you throw them away and they just sit in landfills. They’re not biodegradable so they just take up space. And the fashion industry today is because of fast fashion. It takes up the second largest amount of space in landfill.

The other half of it is that these clothes are made by workers in developing countries for nearly slave labour. They’re paid maybe $2 a day. And they’re working in sweatshops in Bangladesh and Thailand and Cambodia. They’re working in these sweatshops for next to no money and then they’re just sent to America and Europe where they’re sold for cheap. That’s why people buy them. That’s why they’re so popular. It’s cheap.

But just because something is cheap it doesn’t mean that it’s ethical, it doesn’t mean that it’s healthy, so you think why are people shopping from fast fashion if they know that it’s unethical and it’s unhealthy? And it’s because there’s this consumer mentality that there are fifty-two seasons in a year and every single party that you go to you have to buy a new dress. Every two weeks you have to buy a new set of shirts because people are in this habit now of buying clothes and then quickly throwing them away once they decide that they’re bored with them.

That’s really not how shopping, especially for clothing, should be because in the 1950s when the baby boomers were the main shopping demographic, the idea was they you only had two seasons in the whole year. You had the cold and the warm. And you really didn’t need to buy more clothes. I think that’s the step that we need to take; going back to this mentality where it’s I don’t need to buy clothing every week.”  

Why do you think people want to buy clothing every week?

“Because of marketing and advertising. These fast fashion brands induce the idea that if you’re wearing something from three weeks ago it’s out of style now and nobody is wearing it anymore. So you need to go and buy new clothes. When really what people should do, they should try to develop their own style. It shouldn’t be what marketers decide is your style. You should really be able to decide this is what I like, this is the kind of style that I feel represents myself, and I don’t need marketers to tell me what to wear. When you achieve that you don’t need to buy new clothes every single week. You can buy your own clothes and wear that for the next five years.”

What can people do?

“There’s a documentary called The True Cost which is really famous for how it documents that fast fashion industry. I recommend watching the movie because it will definitely convince V safe brand.”

Listen to the full T-Shirts & Ties podcast here.