JUST DO IT: On trying to get New York State lawmakers to finally pass The Fashion Act 

NOTE: There are less than two weeks in the session and to get the Fashion Act passed! You can help by telling lawmakers that you support it. Senator Thomas senatorkevinthomas KevinThomasNY Assemblywoman Rozic nilyrozic nily Senate Majority Leader Stewart Cousins andreastewartcousins AndreaSCousins Assembly Speaker Heastie cheastie CarlHeastie NYSA_Majority

My day as originally seen on Instagram stories!

Memo: Just do it. That is, just discover, disclose, and better your supply chains. How hard can it actually be? Until we mandate their doing so through legislation, it seems fashion companies won’t. 

Just for the sake of this piece’s title, let’s talk about Nike. According to Macrotrends.net, NIKE revenue for the twelve months ending February 29, 2024, was $51.581B. Statista says that most of this revenue comes from the US. I’m not going to go into the math or the public records, but I would guess that Nike earns $100 million in revenue from business in New York State alone. 

Nike does not, however, despite all its sustainability initiatives, support The Fashion Act — that is, [New York] Assembly Bill A8352, which will require businesses that gross over $100 million in revenue (from retail within the state of New York) to trace and disclose their entire supply chain.

By doing so, companies must prove that their product manufacturing live up to humanitarian and environmental standards. (If you’re unfamiliar with the Act, No Kill is an active sponsor and has covered it before. It is a groundbreaking piece of legislation, one of the first of its kind, that will legally require companies to understand the impact of their convoluted supply chains.)

I do not see why, if one professes to care about sustainability, one would not agree to such a data-acquiring project. No matter how hard. Just do it; just try. And yet, no major brand (except for the usual suspects Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, and Stella McCartney) has signed on to the challenge. 

My Day of Lobbying for the Fashion Act

Bright and early on the bus to Albany!

Enforcing change on this scale requires many hours of hard, unglamorous work. But it’s FUN when we do it together as a committed and collaborative group. 

Recently, I got up at 5:30 am to catch a bus to Albany with the New Standard Institute and the Act on Fashion Coalition’s crew of committed activists for a full day of lobbying for A8352 up at the New York State Capitol. I had run out of time to grab coffee that early in the morning, but it turns out that seeing FabScrap founder Jessica Schreiber and Sustainable Baddie blogger Jazmine Rogers at Common Ground is all the morning pick-me-up we need. The Glasgow Caledonian New York College (GCNYC) lobby was [caffeine] buzzing as the day’s changemakers and influencers arrived: The Trash Walker, representatives from Remake, The Columbia University Impact Fashion Club, and more. With all this good energy and enthusiasm, the two-hour bus ride flew by.

Lobby and Rally pins designed by Project Runway star and upcycler extraordinaire Kelly Dempsey and sewn by Berkeley College fashion students. 

It was all signs and smiles as nearly 100 of us gathered on the Million Dollar Staircase for a press conference and rally. Our uniform: bright petaled flower pins made of FabScrap remnants in the New York State Flag colors. 

Sophia Li led our [pep] rally cry: “What do we want? Ethical Fashion! When do we want it? Now!” and “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Toxic Fashion’s Gotta Go!”Assemblymember Anna Kelles & Senator Brian Kavanagh spoke fervently about the cause. 

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the NYSI, we now have lawmakers ready to enforce a new standard in fashion. It is heartening that people in power are stepping up for the nonnegotiable universal truths that the dignity of garment workers and the rights of the environment should be respected — both of which are violated by the current practices of the fast fashion industry. 

While standing on the steps, one feels a new revolution is blooming. This push to pass the Fashion Act and change the apparel business is not a pipe dream. It’s a full-blown, expert-managed, lawmaker-backed, student-committed movement. On legal paper. With support from significant influencers like Angelina Jolie, Rosario Dawson, and Jane Fonda

Voices of the future, voicing together 

Lobby Day is a day of meeting with legislators. We discuss the issues the bill addresses including: textile waste (i.e., using taxpayer dollars to landfill fast fashion), the mental health of young shoppers, and the loss of local businesses to cheaper labor abroad. We stress that pollution results from overproduction and how the Fashion Act will mitigate climate change. We explain that New York can join international leaders like the European Commission to become a beacon of sustainable business development. What politicians wouldn’t want this? 

Some of our most IMPRESSIVE advocates are high school students! They eloquently speak up about what the Fashion Act means for the next generation — the generation burdened with fast fashion’s messy byproducts. 

But despite our arguments there’s never a resounding “YES, we’ll pass this bill!” Few commitments to sign are made then and there. A shared sense of urgency? It’s MIA. 

Why does anyone need convincing? I wonder. Given everything we tell them, doesn’t passing an Act to curb these problems seem like common sense? 

The fashion industry is one of the top three industries in New York, alongside tourism and finance. Politicians reside in a world where tan suits are a total scandal, but the fashion Industry is a powerful lobbying consortium and it takes a lot to go against them. 

The last day of the current legislative session in Albany is June 6, which means it’s a mere T-minus less than a month until The Fashion Act could make it through the Senate and become law. 

I am hoping the Senate does the right thing. We did not vote in officials to trade tomorrow’s possibilities for today’s profits. We will not let their indecision dampen our cheers or fade our flower pins. Our actions are far from over. The Act on Fashion Coalition continues to write letters and call politicians to continue pushing the case.

We need them to concede that the Fashion Act is a good and beneficial thing. So why not sign it? Why not just do it? 

–Anne Elizabeth Whiting

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