The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday May 19th

Column: How we wear what we wear

I love pants. If there is one article of clothing that I invest most of my money in, it’s pants. The best pants I find are ones that can hug my hips, accentuate my short stature and stretch out to accommodate any asymmetrical places.

But, it isn’t about how the pants make me feel. Rather, it’s how I feel in the pants. It’s the feeling I get when there’s a pop of color or a perfectly-stitched pattern in my outfit that brings out my personality without me having to speak a word.

So, when someone compliments my pants, my heart flutters. Excitement comes over me, just because someone says “I like your pants.” Why does that feel so good? 

It’s more than just a compliment exchanged between two people. It’s the basic understanding that among two people, there is common ground in an aesthetic. Somehow, between two people, global fashion trends have reached us both and we’ve come to an agreement: my pants. And what’s so wonderful is that I usually buy my pants from somewhere accessible — nothing too luxury or out of reach. Anna Wintour once said, “[Making luxury more accessible] means more people are going to get better fashion.”

But, as egalitarian as this sounds, fashion is not egalitarian. Somehow, fashion is undoubtedly the most globalized industry. It is so globalized that someone who I barely know can come up to me, compliment my pants and it delve into a conversation about how easy it was to find them or how cheap they were.

Trends aside, it is their production that touches every corner of the globe, but in incredibly unequal ways. Figart cites that 30 million garment workers are employed in almost 160 countries, making it the most globalized manufacturing industry. 

For example, Bangladesh produces almost $20 billion worth of clothing for export, but the profits made on those clothes after they have been sent to brands is small. Bangladesh, therefore, is left with very little taxable profits and does not keep grow the country’s economy in an ethical way. The Bangladeshi garment industry is 85-90 percent staffed by women whose wages are constantly getting shrunken.

Another example is the massive environmental costs of the fashion manufacturing industry. Pesticides poured on cotton fields that create denim washes make 2 pounds of fabric generate 51 pounds of greenhouse gases on average.

How can fashion truly become egalitarian or accessible to all when the means to produce it are still unethical and disadvantaging marginalized populations worldwide? Is egalitarianism only meant for the countries deemed as “modern” or “first-world?” And if fashion is a sign of modernity, how can we deem another country as “unmodern” if they disproportionately produce the “modern” clothes worn? 

My pants reflect me, and they should come from ethical production that truly leads to a more egalitarian society. To think critically about the origins of the clothes we all wear is the first step in democraticizing a global industry.

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