Clothing, Textiles & Garment Life Cycle Analysis2 Comments
Update: I will be focus on a Leg Avenue brand of hosiery.
I decided to focus on the clothing/textiles/garment industry as the research subject for the rest of the semester. It holds a certain power for me as my maternal lineage consists of tailors, seamstresses, and shoemakers. A common history for Ashkenazim who fled Eastern Europe, my great grandparents settled in the Lower East Side where my great grandmother was a garment industry worker at the notorious Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. As someone who rarely buys “new” clothing (my wardrobe has changed fairly in the past decade with the exception of my penchant for vintage dresses which are now about 50-60 year old garments), I am fascinating about the life cycle of various textiles throughout the world being manufactured at different periods of time.
The textile industry has been wrought with problems at every stage of the life cycle from the poor treatment of workers and working conditions (sweatshops, et. al.) to formaldehyde treated fabric to large companies such as H&M being publicly shamed (and rightfully so) for shredding unsold garments instead of donating them to those in need. I am interested in learning about every stage of the life cycle of this material and product.
Start doing deep dive research into your chosen product to review, focused on product origin, and share your findings on your blog. Where is this product made? What were you not able to discover?
Textiles are made from both organic (as in naturally occuring or plant based materials) and inorganic (as in synthetic) materials. Fibers that make up textiles come from materials more explicitly such as plants (hemp, cotton, linen, bamboo), animal (wool, alpaca, insects (silk), and crude oil(!). Synethic materials are made of all sorts of confusing things.
Textiles used for clothing are frequently made in Bangladesh, China, India and Sri Lanka as wages are significantly lower than for workers in the global north. Not surprisingly, globalization is the most contributing factor to the poor working conditions of garment workers.
“Used, unwearable clothing was once used for quilts, rag, rugs, bandages, and many other household uses. It could also be recycled into paper. Now it is usually thrown away. Used but still wearable clothing can be sold at consignment shops, dress agencies, flea markets, online auction, or donated to charity.
There are many concerns about the life cycle of synthetics which come primarily from petrochemicals. Unlike natural fibers, their source is not renewable (in less than millions of years) and they are not biodegradable.”
However, specific brands work towards running sustainable and ethical business practices ranging from vertical integration to worker owned-cooperative to organic fibers and materials used in their products. Well known American Apparel is one of them (despite the highly sexualized nature of their advertisements…) and assorted manufacturers such as Justice Clothing and No Sweat Apparel.
Below are some of the studies I’ve found:
- Life cycle analysis for cotton and polyester
- Life cycle of clothing
- Playback Clothing Shows Benefits of Recycled Cotton, Bottles With Lifecycle Analysis
- EU COST Action 628: life cycle assessment (LCA) of textile products, eco-efficiency and definition of best available technology (BAT) of textile processing
- Life cycle assessment in woven textiles
- COTTON TEXTILES AND THE ENVIRONMENT: LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT OF A BATHROBE
- Sustainable textiles: Life cycle and environmental impact