I have a confession. It is a silly story that happened a few days ago but it has been constantly on my mind and I am feeling ridiculously guilty.
I left my studio and was making my way to the tennis club. I play the lesser known parent of lawn tennis that is a little more like playing squash with a piece of concrete. It is called real or royal tennis. I was almost there and running late when I came to a horrifying realisation. I had left my leggings at home. As it is winter and I have a wonderful boyfriend who loves my inner self and is therefore blind to my winter leg fuzz, I hadn’t done anything about them for weeks. I suddenly felt mortified at the thought of creeping out of the clubs change rooms in my tiny tennis skirt and my hairy legs (Pre-emptive mortification!) I considered everything. Cancelling my lesson, “forgetting” about it, wearing my stockings on court (and, yes, spending the rest of the day in them)
As I crossed Bridge road I decided that it was simple! I could just buy a new pair! Two shops down was a sale rack with a pair of leggings for $15. I grabbed them. Hurriedly paid for them and was only 5 minutes late for my lesson.
A microfiber nylon and spandex blend, with very little tension in the waistband, they slithered down my legs the entire lesson to which I ended up doing the very attractive move of hitching them up every odd minute.
They felt cheap and nasty and when I finally took them off I noticed that I had created a little hole in them from the constant pulling of them up. As I went to inspect it I pulled the fabric further and a large ladder ran right through the leg.
I sat down and finally considered what I had done. Yes, I had spent $15 – which could have instead bought me a wonderful breakfast at Cumulus Inc. Yes, I had supported the sales of horrible synthetics like nylon. I had also supported the shop that sells them, reinforcing the fact that people want these items regardless of environmental factors. I now also had in my possession something that I am unable to use, yet unable to get rid of. Nylon does not biodegrade. It is a polymer that breaks down eventually into smaller and smaller particles and as it does kills smaller and smaller animals. If it burns it will create toxic gas. If is stays as it is it will probably end up in the sea being swallowed by turtles and killing molluscs.
There is also the ethical impact.
To create a $15 dollar of leggings (on sale) means that they were probably sold to the shop (wholesale) for around $9. This $9 includes the shipping from China to the warehouse to the shop. The production of diamine and dicarboxylic acid and then the process of making these into nylon and making the fibre (this is done by huge factories so the cost is low – but people still run and man these factories) The sales agent or the wholesaler will have made a percentage. Maybe just a dollar. Someone will have cut the fabric, sewn the fabric, someone will have overseen every stage done by the machines. It will have been transported from fibre stage to knitting stage to sewing stage.
Leggings may be quick to sew, but as the transport and the fibre eats into the price you can pretty much guarantee that the person who made these leggings was being close to being slave labour.
I am trying to work out what to do with these leggings now. I refuse to throw them out, but the fabric is so awful I’m not sure how I can reuse it. Make it into sleeves? Ruffle it into shoulder pads?
It will be my quest after I have finished my first collection’s patterns and have handed them in to be (ethically) made.
I will post the results in a few weeks.
Now – back to work.
This painting, by the way, is by George W Lambert. It is called Hera and it is one of my favourites.