Looking Closer - The Relationship between Science and Fashion

Imagine you are a young child walking through a mall. You spot your favorite shop and walk inside. This store happens to be a part of the fast fashion world. You walk up to a clothing rack and close your eyes. You reach out to feel the clothing, taking in the soft feel of the fabric. You lean in towards the rack, and smell the clothes. Your eyes pop open and you fumble backwards, running into someones legs. What hit your nose was not the fresh smell of organic cotton or hemp, but the cutting smell of chemicals.-


It is so easy to look at something and think you know exactly what it is made of. We experience this all the time with the food we consume everyday. However, it is so easy for producers to make something like food look any way they want it to so that it appeals to consumers. This also happens in the fast fashion world. What may feel and look like organic cotton or other sustainable fabrics, are in fact made from synthetic fibers. Fashion companies use a number of chemicals to manipulate clothing to feel a certain way or have a certain benefit.  

-Imagine you take a trip outside of the city for a day to a nearby river to relax. As you sit in your canvas beach chair, you lean back, taking in the cool breeze and fresh smell of the river flowing in front of you. You stand up out of your chair and bend down to touch the water. You swirl your finger through it, leaving wrinkles on the surface. Growing, flowing. A thought crosses your mind: ‘what is in the water?’. You see a fish swim by, some algae on the rock next to your left foot, and think about how interesting water is a bond between two hydrogens and one oxygen.-


What if I told you that rivers are not this simplistic. Let me explain to you how my background in physics vaulted me into wanting to change the fashion industry. Let’s take two unseemingly related things to create unfortunate clarity, as we did above with fashion and chemicals. I had the opportunity during my undergraduate years to work in an environmental engineering laboratory. This is where I learned the eye-opening truth about what is actually in water systems like rivers. It is easy to look past how often we release wastewater into our water systems because they are usually out of sight. In fact, every time you wash your face with your favorite face wash, the chemicals in your personal care product can be traced in the water system that your sink flows into. Similarly, when you wash your synthetic clothes, tiny micro-plastics fall off the clothing and are released into the same body of water. These chemicals and plastics are building up in our environment right under our noses, even though we can’t see them. As you can see now, there are strings that link fashion and science that are critical to saving our Earth from continued pollution. However frightening, it is important to stay informed and make decisions about what you buy based on the facts. After this consideration, perhaps you can omit that body wash with plastic beads or that new pair of nylons.. 

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