Spotlight on Slow Fashion Advocate Emily Fenves

In 2021 Emily launched lander line, an online space to highlight small, slow and sustainable brands who are dedicated to ethical manufacturing practices, sustainable fabrics, equity, and active contribution to the betterment of the planet. In addition, lander line connects people with textile recycling resources to divert as much textile waste from landfill.

Despite having one of the most real, down to earth, and witty senses of humor on social media, Emily's message is incredibly serious. 92 million tonnes of textile waste is produced every year by the fashion industry and this number is predicted to grow to 149 million tons by 2030. 

For Lucinda, our focus is that clothing options for women above a size 12 or 14 are almost exclusively fast fashion. And since most women in the US, Canada, Australia, the UK and beyond are above a size 12, if we're going to reduce the waste in landfill, women need to have sustainable clothing options made in their size. 

Emily and I sat down to discuss the industry today and how we can use our purchasing power to make positive changes. 

When did you first become conscious about the need to change consumption habits, and who or what inspired this journey for you?

I am a true minimalist. I like my environment to be clean and uncluttered–if my environment deviates from this, I often feel anxious until it's back in order. I have two children, so my house is in disarray more often than not, but I enjoy the process of cleaning up every night.

Secondly, my own behavior as a consumer began to exhaust me. I was consuming for myself at an unhealthy pace. I would buy clothes for specific events only to wear them once, and often bought things for no real reason. I found myself constantly returning things that I bought online, and one day in September, 2021, it just hit me: I was unhappy with my own consumption habits. In addition, many of the clothes that I would buy were fast fashion - they lacked integrity, quality, and often didn't last more than a few wears.

I wanted to help shift others' behaviors, and did lots of research in this area as I started lander line in September 2021.

I launched with the idea that I would start an ecommerce site that sold high fashion clothing that was ethically and sustainably made, but quickly realized that the world doesn't need another retailer. We need to uplift and support the small businesses that are already DOING the good work, and shed major light on the fast fashion industry and its dark, ugly secrets.

What are those dark, ugly secrets?

I’m referring to the wage, health, and labor issues particularly overseas but also happening in the US. Garment professionals are essential to the fashion industry, yet they receive some of the worst treatment along the supply chain. Many are not paid a living wage, many do not have basic health care, and many work and live in uninhabitable conditions.

The Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 that killed over 1,100 garment workers and injured even more exposed the industry, as many household names contracted with factories there. That atrocity was really the beginning of people opening their eyes to who makes their clothes and how they are treated.

The lack of transparency from big brands surrounding waste, resource and energy utilization, and ethical labor practices are also big issues in the fashion industry.

Greenwashing has become rampant as brands are taking advantage of consumer trends to buy "sustainable." Greenwashing is when companies use terms like "ethical," "green" "eco-friendly," etc. as marketing tactics to drive sales, but these terms are unregulated and can be used with no action to back them up. For example, a brand can market a pair of jeans as "sustainable" because a percentage of the denim was made with organic cotton, while the rest of the denim required chemical and resource heavy materials.

A Changing Markets Foundation 2021 report found that 59% of all eco claims made by European and UK brands were unsubstantiated or misleading. The list of brands including ASOS, Burberry, Lululemon, Nike, Boohoo, Patagonia, M&S and Zara was topped by H&M where a whopping 96% of claims were false. H&M Conscious? Not so much. 

To put it simply, the sustainability angle is pure marketing. Even Revolve has a "sustainability" section on their website where you can shop items based on their manufacturing practices, however most of the clothing is made from polyester, a material produced from fossil fuels such as oil and fracked gas.

The Rana Plaza Collapse

Rana Plaza was an eight-story commercial building on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh where five garment factories made clothes for major brands from the U.S., UK, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Denmark.

Rana Plaza was in Dhaka, Bangladesh, one of the largest clothing-producing cities in the world. The city hosted roughly 5,000 factories. 85% of the factory workers are women who support their families with an average of $50 per month.

On April 23, 2013, cracks appeared in the walls, ceilings and floors where workers were cutting, sewing and finishing clothing. Workers expressed concern but were not in a position to decline to work at risk of losing pay or their jobs.

The following morning the building came down in less than 90 seconds, killing 1,134 people and further injuring 2,500 more.

Despite garment workers being coerced back into the building, the bank and shops located on the lower levels did remain evacuated due to the dangers of the cracks discovered the previous day. Garment factory management was as aware of the risks as the banks and the shops were.

Less tragic but equally as harrowing stories include Boohoo factory paying workers as little as £3.50 in London, Uniqlo severance theft which impoverished over 2,000 women, Shein worker rights abuse seeing workers forced to work 14-hour days, 28-days a month to complete orders, Victoria’s Secret Covid wage theft from 1,250 Thai women of 8.3M, and the piece-rate factory work in LA, where most workers are undocumented women immigrants and have no other options.

If you could pick 1 thing that's the biggest or most important issue facing the fashion industry today, what would it be?

Textile waste. As we consume, consume, consume, we also throw away clothing at an unsustainable rate. Most often, our textile waste ends up in landfills around the globe (but the majority ends up in the global South), which has MAJOR impacts on our climate. Our (speaking about the US here) communities need to invest in textile recycling resources so that we can divert as much textile waste from landfill as possible.

The biggest thing that consumers can do to improve the consumption crisis is learn about their own habits and behaviors. Why are they buying xyz---is it filling an emotional need? Were they influenced online by someone who's lifestyle they envy? Are they bored - seriously, I bought things sometimes because I was just bored!

Taking a good hard look at the WHY behind the purchase is valuable. And then taking that information and changing habits. That includes wearing what you own, tailoring things that don't fit, learning how to do some basic mending, giving clothing to friends or selling second-hand when you are ready to part with something - there are SO many options to consider before buying something new or getting rid of something old.

We're constantly being barraged with the message to consume while simultaneously there's the expectation to be conscious and ethical. How to do you maintain a healthy boundary with all the expectations?

Yes, I believe it is totally okay to make mistakes. I think it is also okay to purchase something that you REALLY want and that you have a need/purpose for in your closet that will SERVE you (hint: quality) for years to come. And, if you are making a gradual switch to supporting more conscious and ethical brands, as opposed to being vigilant and strict, which can often backfire, you are already doing a great job. It's all about learning, making informed choices, having some grace with yourself and others, and then continuing to learn even more.

What's one thing you want the whole world to know?

That they better get themselves acquainted with lander line, because I have some fun, interesting, and innovative aspirations! It brings me so much joy to share the information I know, highlight the brands (like Lucinda!) who are so gracious and conscious and lovely, and have open and honest conversations with my following.

Emily wears Maria Blouse, made from GOTS Certified organic undyed cotton

Textile recycling resources

If you have unsellable, unwearable clothing, don't trash or donate them. 

Instead, check your city government website to see if they have textile recycling. Most small communities and cities don't have textile recycling programs. If this is the case for you, you still have options. Here are Emily's suggestions:

1. Drop off these piles at an H&M or Zara (don't buy anything though), as they will upcycle the materials regardless of condition

2. Purchase a buy back bag from companies like ReTold and For Days.

3. Ridwell is a great company that will pick up many hard to recycle items, including textiles!