Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

Why The Pop Duo Wham! Is Eco-Fabulous Today

by Cheri Sundra

Way back in 1984, when MTV was experiencing its adolescence and so was I, Wham! released a music video for their song Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, featuring a positive disposition and colorful clothing.  The video still stands as a sartorial image for the 1980s as a decade, showing George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley sporting oversized, block-letter CHOOSE LIFE T-shirts, a slogan targeted at drug abuse and suicide,  by designer Katharine Hamnett.    Her political T’s quickly became the “new black” of 1984, making her the inventor of the slogan T-shirt which has become a part of our fashion lexicon.  Hamnett’s   initial protest T-shirt line, which she unveiled in 1983, included  the  slogans WORLDWIDE NUCLEAR BAN NOW, PRESERVE THE RAINFORESTS, SAVE THE WORLD, SAVE THE WHALES and EDUCATION NOT MISSILES along with CHOOSE LIFE. Each slogan is now part of our pop culture vernacular.

 In 1983, Hamnett initiated research into the impact of the clothing and textile industry on the environment, and revealed an untenable situation.  In 1989, she began lobbying the textiles industry because research showed that cotton-growing regions were experiencing catastrophic damage because of pesticide poisoning. 

Becoming more and more frustrated because of the textile industry’s continued refusal to even attempt to do things ethically or environmentally, Hamnett canceled many of her licenses and went into manufacturing herself in 2004.  She produced a new line, KATHARINE E HAMNETT, the E stands for being manufactured ETHICALLY and ENVIRONMENTALLY.  

Despite growing awareness among designers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers, we still have a long way to go to make significant changes in the way in which our clothing is produced.  Today, according to the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), cotton makes up 10% of world agriculture yet accounts for 25% of world pesticide use.  These pesticides, which are direct derivatives of World War 2 nerve gases, cause 20,000 deaths PER YEAR from accidental poisonings in the developing world according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Cotton is one of the most important exports for many developing countries.  It should be an excellent cash crop for 10 to 11 million farmers in these countries, providing enough money for food, education and healthcare.  Unfortunately, this is not currently happening. 

Farmers in developing countries need a contract with brokers to buy their cotton after it is harvested.  In order to obtain the contract, the farmer has to agree to buy both seeds plus pesticides from their broker. By growing cotton  organically, farmers get a 50% increase in their income , because of the reduction in costs due to the lack of having to purchase chemical pesticides, and the 20% premium the farmer will  receive for farming organically and doing away with the risks that these chemicals pose to the environment and human health. 

For organic cotton production to continue growing, consumers have to start buying more products manufactured with organic cotton.   In developing countries like Mali, cotton farmers experience devastating poverty despite the fact that cotton is their second largest export after gold.

According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, “Over two thirds of the world’s cotton is grown in developing countries and the former Soviet Union. Valued at over $32 billion every year, global cotton production should be improving lives. But this “white gold” too often brings misery”.

According to Katharine Hamnett, you can start to change the world by just buying one organic garment every season.  Undoubtedly, she hopes that one of those garments will be from Katharine E  Hamnett Clothier.  The original CHOOSE LIFE  T-shirt, her biggest seller in the 80’s is back again, but this time it is available in 100% organic cotton.  For more information, visit http://www.katharinehamnett.com/ . 

Pick up a re-issued CHOOSE LIFE shirt and you can Jitterbug in 80’s chic,  eco-fabulous style–you’ll “make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day”. 

 I know the song is now running thru your head.  You can thank me later.  😉     Cheri Sundra © 2010  All Rights Reserved


Is Green the New Black?

Don’t just invest in your wardrobe…invest socially!
by Cheri Sundra

We all know that style is about self-expression, but did you know that ethical fashion is increasingly becoming the way to get your personal chic on?    Great designers are always aware of what is going on around them.  The global warming issue has been a part of our collective consciousness for about a decade.  In terms of fashion trends, this has translated into seasonal collections of floral prints, linens and material manufactured from raffia and bamboo. 
Obviously, global warming is not just a seasonal trend and neither is ethical fashion.  It’s not a secret that sweatshop labor, where workers are often exploited, harassed and underpaid, is behind the majority of the clothing sold in the United States today. Synthetic material may seem miraculous because ironing is never required, but it also will not decompose anytime soon once it reaches the landfill, much like plastic bags or bottles and disposable diapers.  And natural is not always the way to go since pesticides often used to grow cotton are harmful to the eco-structure.

So what are those of us who love clothing and love shopping supposed to do?  We can start directing our spending power to those businesses that produce clothing in an ethical and environmentally friendly fashion.    We can all begin to balance the pleasures associated with shopping and those nasty ethical dilemmas by considering a few questions before making clothing purchase:

What is the item made of?

 If it is cotton, is the cotton organic?

 Why is the item so cheap?

 Is it fair trade?  What were the people making it paid? 

 Has the material been recycled?

 Can the material be recycled?

 None of us can have a completely Green Wardrobe overnight.  “Greening” our purchases is a process that requires consumer and manufacturer education.  But each of us, through awareness, can start taking baby-steps towards that goal.  Are you ready to be eco-fabulous?

Cheri Sundra © 2010
All Rights Reserved