At the start of each month, I mark the beginning of a new cycle. I wish friends and family “kalo mina,” (happy start to the month), and find a little opportunity to refresh my energy and goals. A number of months carry a theme now, which provides a wonderful opportunity to structure learning about the history of and deepening my understanding of the topics at hand.
As you are likely well aware, June, in addition to holding the official start of summer, is affectionately known as Pride month. Parades, product launches, campaigns, and other events elevate the LGBTQIA+ community during this month in particular.
Against this backdrop, a number of retailers seek to profit off the spirit of the month, without investing or otherwise contributing to the cause. If you’ve read my piece on Christmas sweaters, you know I live in a relatively small, rural community. Much as I am loath to do so, a large chain grocery store is the only grocery store in town which is open extended hours and offers those “exotic” delicacies like red lentils and tofu, which serve as a primary base for my culinary efforts. On my most recent trip, I raced around the store late on a Saturday evening, gathering those shelf-stable pantry staples I rely on.
I could not help but notice the rainbow theme which had overtaken the store. Rainbow clothes, rainbow cookies, rainbow decor, rainbows everywhere. I love a rainbow as much as the next person, but the inherent juxtaposition between the prevalence of rainbows and the climate of a small town Walmart seemed rather jarring. On one hand, if it is affirming or validating for someone living in this town to purchase rainbow items here, I am glad that they will have access to relatively affordable options. On the other, I take serious issue with the readiness of large fast fashion companies and big box stores to profiteer off pride month while doing next to nothing to advance the working conditions for employees or to channel any portion of the proceeds into efforts which would support the very humans whose lives have been appropriated by their marketing campaigns.
In a similar vein to greenwashing, many large corporations love to hop on the bandwagon of social causes with no intent other than to increase profits while hiding behind the thinnest veneer of advocacy or allyship. Such efforts both divert attention from LGBTQ+ creators and from other brands which actually put money or energy behind the lip service. Using the guise of activism to shield this egregious practice of selling cheaply made attire or decor, the production of which creates massive human and environmental impact, is rank with hypocrisy and rapacious opportunism.
The majority of garment workers reside in countries which offer limited or no legal protections for LGBTQ+ people. This, combined with egregious labor abuses, lack of adequate pay, benefits, and decency so frequently displayed by fast fashion producers, create a system which simultaneously oppresses and traps the workers within this system.
Furthermore, the textile industry produces an enormous share of the water and air pollution on the planet. The results of the ecological damage are, statistically speaking, most profoundly impacts those who have the least privilege. This trickle down effect leaves those with the least social capital facing the impact of the choices of those at the top of the fast fashion capitalist system.
If you want to break out of the cycle of the fast fashion consumerism while seeking out Pride clothing, here are some suggestions to reduce or redirect consumption:
- If you do want to purchase something new, strive to reduce or slow your consumption of goods. If you want to buy a pride item, make sure that you intend to continue to wear it and try to avoid the instinct conditioned by fast fashion marketing campaigns to buy more than you reasonably think you will wear.
- When shopping for new items, look past the pride veneer into what the company actually does. If the company selling pride merch is not paying living wages, seeking to reduce environmental impact, taking worker health and safety into consideration, channeling money into organizations which advocate for LGBTQ+ liberation, etc, this company is not embodying the spirit of pride month.
- Along the same vein, avoid buying items with the idea that they are disposable. Try to select items that you think you can wear year-round, or you might save a special ensemble for next year’s pride month.
- If you have time and energy, you might be able to seek out secondhand pride items.
- If you have an interest in doing so, you might try your hand at upcycling items you already own with the help of patches, pins, embroidery, fabric markers, dye or other enhancements to give them a fresh aesthetic.
- If doing so makes sense for you, you could look into swapping outfits with friends or seeking out a clothing swap to refresh your wardrobe without buying into fast fashion
- If resources permit, seek out LGBTQ+ creators or locally owned businesses to find one of a kind pieces, accessories, or even patches/kits for upcycling what you already own.
Eleni Georgiadis is a classically trained horn player currently residing in Kentucky. Outside of music, she enjoys knitting, sewing, composting, kombucha brewing, and spending time outdoors. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to share her thoughts about sustainability and inclusivity in fashion, weaving together her technical knowledge, passion, and research.