You might want to start giving your poorly made Princess Polly crop tops a kiss goodbye, as the state of New York just introduced the United States’ first sustainability act targeting the fashion industry, which has had a devastating impact on the global climate crisis. Naturally, it fell to two women to throw a Hail Mary to save the planet.
On Friday morning, State Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblywoman Anna R. Kelles introduced the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act (Fashion Act). If passed, the proposed legislation, which is expected to come to a vote this spring, would make New York the first state in the country to hold fashion brands accountable for their roughly 2.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse-gas emissions—about 4 percent of the global total, according to McKinsey research reports. According to researchers, fashion brands are currently producing nearly twice the amount of clothing today as compared to 2000, and much of that textile waste is incinerated, discarded in landfills, or exported to developing countries.
The act would require companies from Shein and Boohoo to LVMH and Prada to map a minimum of 50 percent of their supply chain, through farms, factories, and shipping, and to disclose (and reduce) where they are making the most troubling environmental impact, including fair wages, energy, and greenhouse gas emissions. Companies would have 12 months to comply with the state’s new regulations before facing fines, and the New York attorney general would also publish an annual list of companies found to be in violation of the legislation.
The idea that any sort of climate legislation introduced in 2021 could possibly be “historic,” several decades after we’ve been made aware that our addictive consumption is killing the planet, is absurd. And the fact that it took two women lawmakers to give a shit about this mess is especially ironic. Fashion, while surely a means of cultural and artistic expression for some and a needless game of peacocking for those at NY Fashion Week, has become an avatar for millennials’ inextricable link to excess and consumerism; but the benefits of participating in the fashion industry have long been disproportionately marketed to women. Women have been told for centuries that in order to acquire status or power, we must stay on top of the latest trends and present ourselves in a manner that symbolizes wealth. Because we aren’t men, we’re conditioned to believe we need adornments to appear, and to feel, more valuable.
Any consumer who has purchased clothing or textiles off of Amazon, Shein, Zara or countless others, regardless of gender, has obviously enabled the fashion industry to spin its turbulent merry-go-round off its axis. But women, relentlessly linked to beauty, fashion, and luxury, are repeatedly portrayed as the villainous drivers of the industry, all while those in power who were either instrumental or complicit in making fashion primarily a “girly thing” continue to cash their checks.
Despite glazed over promises of sustainability and marketing campaigns boasting of “responsible fashion” (whatever that means), America and other developed countries remain embarrassingly behind on fighting climate change. That said, however late it may be, the Fashion Act is a necessary step in the right direction that gives me hope we won’t all die atop a pile of Boohoo mini skirts at the landfill.