GUEST APPEARANCE: Time for the fashion industry to clean up | Environment

It’s time for fashion to be clean…and I’m not talking about laundry. The multi-billion dollar industry has left stains on our planet that need to be cleaned up.

As an award-winning, ethical clothing designer, I know consumers want to know what’s going on in their clothes and how it impacts the world.

The fashion industry generated $300 billion globally in 2020. But the industry as a whole is barely regulated and often complicit in atrocities that harm people and our planet. These include air and water pollution, use of harmful chemicals/pesticides, litter, microplastics in the ocean, human trafficking, exploitation, racism, sexism and under-representation.

Polyester and other synthetic fibers (which, like plastics, are petroleum-based) are major contributors to the destruction of aquatic life along with microplastics. Cotton is one of the most pesticide-laden crops and many pesticides are also known carcinogens. Fabric dyeing and finishing uses toxic chemicals, which are known to be harmful to humans and our environment.

Weak labor laws overseas allow garment factories to operate with unfair wages and unsafe conditions. Forty million people live in what amounts to modern slavery. And clothing is among the top three global products most likely to be produced through slavery-like practices.

All this represents a huge expense for our environment and humanity. We have all paid – and continue to pay – this price.

New York is a fashion capital of the world. And today, New York State is poised to become a leader in fashion sustainability and responsibility.

The proposed New York Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act (“the Fashion Act”), co-sponsored by State Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Congresswoman Anna Kelles, would require fashion retailers and manufacturers doing business in New York with 100 millions of dollars in gross revenue to disclose their environmental and social due diligence policies, potential adverse environmental and social impacts, and prevention and improvement methods.

More importantly, this bill would require companies to make clear progress toward their stated goals or face significant fines. All money from these fines would go to a community fund focused on promoting sustainability and good working practices.

We all wear clothes made from limited resources. Someone somewhere created this garment with components likely shipped across the planet.

New York has a unique heritage of environmental responsibility and thriving markets. The New York Fashion Act could have a positive impact on the environment, humanity and the economy. It could create a virtual seismic shift in the fashion industry and align it with the state’s aggressive climate goals. I believe this bill could elevate New York not only as a fashion hub, but also as a pioneer in sustainable fashion.

It’s time for companies profiting from lost resources and people to reflect, to report and to rethink. We deserve to know what we are funding with our money.

I urge you to support the Fashion Sustainability and Social Responsibility Act and sign the online petition at And please ask your Senators and Assembly Members to support and co-sponsor Senate Bill 7428/Assembly Bill 8352.

Let’s clean up the fashion industry.

Jesse Junko Beardslee (she/her) is a Finger Lakes fashion designer and entrepreneur who infuses style and art with purpose and identity at her fashion business Themis and Thread and at the Hector Handmade Gallery and Gift Shop , where she is co-owner .