We've all heard the old adage "pain is beauty," but this might be
taking things too far. On the heels of the announcement that our
favorite go-to store for fashion staples had become the world's
largest fashion retailer came Greenpeace's less than favorable report of the footprint Zara was leaving behind in an effort to keep the world chic.
All of the bleaching, dying, washing, studding and appliqueing that makes the brand so coveted is (and really, no surprise here) hurting our ecosystem. The vertically-integrated mega-company joined the likes of H&M and Nike in pledging a commitment to reduce their use of hazardous chemicals that contaminate and leach our environment by 2020. And it's not just our environment that benefits-- many of these toxic chemicals are cancer causing. We can't think of any dress that is worth our lives-- not even couture!
This isn't the first time Zara has been thrust into the news and cast in a negative light. In 2011 the Inditex flagship store was accused of outsourcing to Brazilian sweat-shop like facilities, and just
this past spring the company was being investigated for a system of management reportedly based on fear tactics. Spokespersons have quieted each issue, but their active admission of non-green practices
and movement toward healthier operations is a heartening one for the fashion world.
It seems every year we learn the cost of inexpensive, imitation clothiers. Hopefully Zara will stand as an inspiration for other fashion retailers concerned with the cost and effort of transitioning their companies to greener policies. This is not to downplay this huge undertaking on behalf of Zara's management. With an
unheard of complete merchandise turnover rate of two months, and a production time of as little as two weeks (as opposed to the six months seen elsewhere in the industry), Zara will have to tackle an unprecedented overhaul.
It must be mentioned that Zara, despite being the largest, was not the only designer mentioned in the Greenpeace study “Toxic Threads: The Big Fashion Stitch Up.” Calvin Klein, Benetton, Giorgio Armani, the
Gap and 15 other global brands including Victoria Secret, Levi’s and Tommy Hilfiger were also implicated as leading offenders. How will these other retailers respond to the charges against them? It goes without
saying-- if the biggest store in the world can do it, so can the rest of the fashion world.