The Life and Death of Your Jeans


The Life and Death of Your Jeans

In her book UNRAVELED, Maxine Bédat reveals what regions and people are involved and what problems occur there from spinning to weaving, dyeing, processing, packaging, shipping, selling… until the jeans arrive in our hands.

The impact of product manufacturing and disposal on climate change, the impact of retail store losses due to pandemics on sewing workers, the use of sustainable materials by companies, and more. We ask what we should recognize and take as action on these ongoing issues.


The Life and Death of Your Jeans (NYT)


Quantitative representation of unimaginative issues

After reading the article discussed in this issue, I thought again about the difficulty of being imaginative throughout the entire supply chain. Looking back on myself, I may have been a bit too much influenced by the “ethical initiatives” touted by fashion brands.

Sure, projects like making leather from mushrooms and cacti or reviving worn-out jeans are fascinating. The approaches are creative and the benefits are easy to imagine, such as protecting animals sacrificed for the sake of fashion. But are these efforts laudable?

In fact, in many cases, it is unclear how much these “green” products contribute to reducing environmental impact. For example, recycled denim developed by Levi’s in the past is said to be less durable than the company’s general products. It seems a shame for a product made of recycled materials to revert to waste in a short span of time.

The same can be said about social issues. NIKE is committed to eliminating racial discrimination, but only 4.8% of its board members are African American (as of June 2019), and the organization’s internal D&I policies seem somewhat modest compared to NIKE’s strong message to society.

High-profile performances and catchy news sometimes mask issues that are difficult for us to focus on.

I am focusing on “Good On You” as an effort to shed light on these issues. The company’s scoring system, which evaluates the sustainability of fashion brands in terms of the environment, workers, and animal protection, has been adopted by fashion e-commerce companies such as FARFETCH.

Frankly, it is a rather modest initiative. However, it quantifies issues that are beyond our imagination and powerfully supports our decision to do something good for society and the environment. A system that guarantees the transparency of such sustainable efforts is probably the most needed to empower consumers today.

Start by making it all about you

Many people around me seem to agree with the idea of “choosing what is good for the environment. However, when I look back at myself, I find that I have not been able to take action.

I often buy foods with an eye to the labeling of the place of origin and fair trade. I instinctively want to choose foods that are safe for me and my family to eat, and I guess I am able to “make it personal” by imagining the effects of such choices.

In the case of fashion, which is the theme of this study, we may be able to change our behavior in the same way by “personalizing” ourselves. Looking back at my own fashion history, it has changed over the years: 90’s HIPHOP → skater → high brand → mode → simple (now I wear almost the same clothes every day). What has influenced my fashion is the change in the community I belong to. My aesthetic sense has changed as my connections and relationships with the people around me have changed. It is a little embarrassing to put it into words, but this includes the desire to always be considered cool by those around me. This feeling surely works positively.

Something to consider "after" you shop.

I chose this article for this week’s topic because I thought, “There are not many products that are as widespread around the world, as close to our daily lives, and as reflective of the culture of the times as jeans are. I thought it would be a good idea. The lead of the article says “Something to consider before you shop. However, there are opportunities to think about the relationship between oneself, things, and society not only before, but also after.

What triggered this thought was the preparation for my move, which is in progress at the time of this writing. Devices, stationery, daily necessities, and even antiques that I use for work. I sigh when I look at all the stuff that fills my room. No, really, why is it overflowing with so much stuff…

Some to bring to the new house, some to recycle, and some to dispose of out of necessity. As I pick up each item, I realize that there is always some reason for letting go of it, even if there was no clear reason when I acquired it. It is broken, it is no longer used due to a change in lifestyle, or it does not fit my current sense of self. From physical reasons to emotional reasons.

Something to consider after you shop.

For me, as a shopaholic, acquiring something is definitely an enjoyable act, and it is often difficult to imagine the connection to society and the environment in the midst of this frenzy. On the other hand, I am amazed at how infinitely cool the moment of letting go is. We calmly assess the value of things and imagine the meaning and impact of letting go. Each one is an act of reflection and learning from our own actions. Where does it come from? Where is it going? Did it make me happy? How have I changed since I acquired it?

What is packed in the cardboard box is surely the self that you want to cherish.