Maxine Bedat is the founder and director of The New Standard Institute. It collaborates with scientists and citizens to ensure that the fashion industry is ethical, equitable, and environmental.
If nothing else, you will enjoy our discussion of the social responsibility benefits of becoming a nudist. And why you should drink La Croix. Actually, I found an even better water called Liquid Death–seriously. Google it if you don’t like carbonated water in cans.
Prior to the New Standard Institute, Maxine was the co-founder CEO of Zady, which was named one of the world’s “Most Innovative Companies” in retail by Fast Company. Before Zady, Maxine was a lawyer, which explains her ability to systematically disassemble the injustices within the world of clothing.
Maxine obtained her bachelor’s degree in political sciences and economics, as well as her Doctor of Law from Columbia University School of Law.
She is the author of the book Unraveled: The Life and Death of a Garment and has been covered in the top levels of fashion media, such as Elle, Vogue, and Financial Times. In Unraveled, entrepreneur, researcher, and advocate Maxine follows the life of an American icon–a pair of jeans–to reveal what really happens to give us our clothes.
You’ll never look at jeans the same way again…and that’s a good thing.
Enjoy this interview with the remarkable Maxine Bedat!
If you enjoyed this episode of the Remarkable People podcast, please leave a rating, write a review, and subscribe. Thank you!Don't miss @maxinebedat on @guykawasaki's Remarkable People podcast. Click To Tweet
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Transcript of Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People podcast with the remarkable Maxine Bedat:
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Hi. It's Guy Kawasaki, and this is the Remarkable People Podcast.
Today's remarkable guest is Maxine Bedat.
She's the founder and director of the New Standard Institute. This organization collaborates with scientists and citizens to ensure that the fashion industry is ethical, equitable, and environmental.
If nothing else, you will enjoy our discussion of the social implications of becoming a nudist, and why you should drink LaCroix.
Prior to the New Standard Institute, Maxine was the co-founder and CEO of Zady.
Fast Company named it one of the world's most innovative companies in retail.
Maxine obtained her bachelor's degree in political sciences and economics, as well as her law degree from Columbia University.
She's the author of the book Unraveled: The Life and Death of a Garment, and she has been covered in the top levels of media, such as Elle, Vogue, and the Financial Times.
Trust me, you will never look at jeans the same way again. And that's a good thing.
I'm Guy Kawasaki. This is Remarkable People.
And now, here's the remarkable Maxine Bedat.
Do you ever wear jeans?
I do. Wait, I'm wearing them right now. I'm always wearing jeans.
After I read your book, I felt convicted by wearing jeans. The story of cotton and the economic hardship, the cruelty, on and on and on.
So should I feel bad about wearing jeans?
One can feel conflicted about wearing any clothing that one wears because each type of garment has its own issues.
Jeans has one particular issue, because it is primarily cotton, and that comes with a suite of issues and a whole history of issues.
But the book wasn't aimed at making you feel guilty about wearing anything. The aim was to just let people be more aware, so that as we engage with purchasing and engage with being citizens, that we are a little bit more conscious and just familiar with what the issues are.
Perhaps you could give a quick summary of all the points in the production of jeans that are frankly, a little depressing.
It is true, it can be a little depressing.
So if we're talking about jeans we would have to start in two places.
One is a cotton field, because jeans are a rare item in our closets that are still made from natural fibers.
And then we would have to start in an oil rig, because a lot of jeans today have that stretch in them. And that tends to come from polyester, which comes from fossil fuels.
So that would be the starting point.
And then you'd have to really think about, in terms of cotton, the chemicals that are used, how much workers are being paid in the cotton fields themselves. That has become even a bigger issue with China, which is one of the world's largest cotton suppliers. A lot of their cotton, it has been found, has been being picked by a forced Uyghur labor.
We're starting there.
And if you talk about cotton and America's history with cotton, then you also have to talk about the institution of slavery. So that's just the cotton field.
Then you got your cotton, and the oil rig has then been transferred to a chemical station and made into a polyester. That is then going to come together at a textile mill.
For my book, I went to China, because that is where most of apparel textiles are produced. And if you think about the climate impact of our clothes, is really the hotspot. It's where 76 percent of the climate impact of our clothing is, at this textile mill, because the fiber is going to have to be processed to be put in all the same direction, and then it has to be spun.
And then that yarn has to be woven, and then it has to be dyed and finished into an actual textile that we will use. And all of that requires enormous amounts of energy, and we're doing it in places like China that still rely on a heavily coal-based power grid.
And in these fields and factories where the cotton has grown, and the factory where the fibers are aligned, it's not exactly air conditioned, hunky-dory, everybody singing kumbaya, I take it.
No. In the textile factories, there aren't very many people. It's very machine-heavy. And in the cotton fields, it's also... Depending on where it is. So if it's in the US, you're not going to see a lot of people. The stripping is done by machine. If you go to a place like China or India, that gets picked by hand, because it's cheaper to do it that way.
But the real kind of labor issues tend to be in that next stage, where that textile is cut and sewn into a garment. Because what people don't realize...
I'm looking at your shirt now. Look at all of the seams, just where the arm is, around the neck. There's no judgment here, but all of those seams, I'm pointing to them on my computer now, are stitched by a person, usually a woman sitting at a sewing machine in a big assembly line.
And that is not a hunky-dory environment. It's very intense work. These production lines, the industrial engineers have timed each movement that garment worker's making by the second and nanosecond so that they're all working in unison, but it is very exhausting work. And then depending on the factory, it's not just exhausting, but they can be operating in non-air conditioned facilities. They can be operating at home. They can have hours that go on endlessly.
The US Department of Labor put out a report in modern day slavery and child labor, and the fashion apparel industry is a leading industry of child labor and modern-day slavery. So it's not great conditions.
It's hard not to feel guilty so far.
So now, it's a finished jeans, and it's going to be shipped to America in a ship that is polluting, right?
If the product is shipped and not air freighted, it is actually a pretty negligible amount of impact, because you can put a lot of product on a ship. And when looking at the full life cycle of the garment, you don't have to feel guilty about that part.
And then what? It ends up in Macy's, or... Well, it's not in Penney's anymore, that's for sure.
So now it's sold, and then what?
So once it's sold... And Amazon is the largest apparel retailer by number of customers, so it's likely going to go through their facilities, and there's labor challenges there. But once it's come out of there and you've clicked purchase, you wear it, maybe.
The real challenge in this... You were saying you're not a fashionista. I'm sure you are. But it's young people, young women in particular who are targeted the most with the advertising on this. They have a very disposable relationship with clothing.
So it's hard to find hard data on this, but there's surveys out of the UK that one in every three young women find clothing old after wearing it just once or twice.
So we're not wearing it a lot anymore. And then when we get rid of it, we've been, at least I was, trained to believe that it was a benefit. Like you're donating your clothes. And when you do that, the real secret is that only a tiny fraction of the clothing that gets donated ever gets sold by the donation centers, and much of it is baled up and sent to the developing world, where they have a real challenge getting rid of it. And it ends up a waste problem for the developing world.
If you were to take a pair of jeans... Let's say it's Levi 501s. And so after a time or two, you're tired of it. You donate it to Goodwill.
Goodwill really will sell that pair of 501s, right?
Not necessarily. I mean, if it's a Levi's 501 that isn't completely torn up, that will likely hit their sales floor. But they're already vetting, because we think that there's value in our clothes. But even the stuff that they put on the floor... And a big percentage, won't even make it on the floor, because it's of too low quality that they know it will never sell. Sometimes, it doesn't even make it on the sales floor, let alone get sold.
So I take these pair of 501s that are not saleable for some reason. So not even Goodwill will put it on the floor.
What does Goodwill do with it?
The sorters there will say, "Is it sellable, or is it not?" The non-sellable stuff will go in a pile.
It's a volume business, those donation centers. It will take up to six weeks to sell. And if you are an insider of Goodwill, there's tags that show what week the product has been on, and what percentage discount you get based on that. If it's not sold within those six weeks, it will join the stuff that never made it on the floor to begin with, and it will get baled up and sent off to another sorter/exporter, which will then sort those products out by weather.
Because if it's summer things, they're sent to Africa. And in the US, a lot of it goes to Latin America. Or if it's winter things, it would be sent to Eastern Europe. And so then it gets baled up by season and by gender, like women's summer tops, things like that.
And when it ends up in South America or Africa, should I be picturing happy children wearing my jeans as they frolic and play in nature? Or is it one big, massive dump that's a blight on the earth?
It's a bit of both, with a bit more of the latter.
So what happens is the clothes are baled up, and it's baled in opaque plastic. So the buyer of said bales don't get to see what's inside of them beyond that they know they're buying a summer women's tops. But they don't get to see what is in there.
And what ends up happening is they then do their own sorting of first selection, second selection, third selection, and under being stuff that they know they can't sell.
And so that goes directly into a waste pile.
I went for research for the book to Accra, to Kantamanto Market, which is one of the large markets in Western Africa. And you will see if you walk, depending on the time of day, just piles of garments at each store intersection, and those are all products that are going to be sent off to the landfill.
The shop sellers have to pay to use the landfill, and so some of it doesn't make it to landfill in a just illegally burned. Some of it gets sold, and that's a big market and it finds a home. But there's very little research on this, because who's actually funding research on this?
But there was work by the OR Foundation in Accra, and they had found that 40 percent of the garments that come into this market, Kantamanto, never gets sold.
And when I was in Accra and I went to the landfill, it was on fire. And the whole thing burnt down while I was there, because the safety measures that had been in place were thrown out the window, in part because there was just this inundation of our excess clothing.
So to put it mildly, a baby boomer who's taking a stack of old clothes to Goodwill should not exactly be congratulating himself or herself about helping poor children in Africa.
Wow. I have to say that your book is the most compelling argument I have ever encountered for nudism.
I was wondering where this was going. This is not what I wanted the outcome of the book.
Well, you have to take your victories where you find them.
Your book is shocking. What is a person to do? Now that people who are listening to this podcast have this information, what's the message?
Consume less, basically? Don't even make this piece of cotton enter the system, because once it enters the system, the odds are it's a bad thing?
So it's not to be nudist. That is not what I am advocating.
I am, in fact, a big fan of great design and of beautiful clothing, and I'm advocating for that.
I'm advocating for people to really understand this system in which they are a part of, and a real invitation to love clothing again.
Because especially for young women, they are being targeted with a lot of ads, and at a very impressionable time, at a time when women want to feel like they fit in. And when you have algorithms and the industry of influencing combined with young women's brains, that's a very problematic setup that is really fueling a lot of this.
It isn't meant to instill guilt. It's really to be able to have a little bit more power and awareness in one's own wardrobe and wardrobe decisions. It's really supposed to be an invitation to love one's clothing again.
If we slow things down, at the moment, between 100 and 150 billion pieces of clothing are produced every year. So that's like a throwaway wardrobe for every man, woman, and child on the planet. And of course, we know wealth isn't equally distributed.
It's really just to slow down and be aware, and then to also really lean in as citizens to not just make our own personal purchasing choices, but that we can start putting some basic rules around how we set up our fashion industries.
I realize that this is a risky answer.
Do you have any rules of thumb that says you can feel pretty much okay if you buy two pairs of jeans a year, or five pairs a year, but not fifty, not twenty-five? Or maybe you should buy only one pair of jeans, and you should use it for at least ten years.
Do you have any rules of thumb?
That's a great question. I don't have the line in the sand of where I will draw that line. There is a vast difference between being a nudist on the one hand, and young women who are considering their clothing old after wearing it once or twice.
The basic idea is that you are buying in something that you see not as a disposable good, that you are seeing it like you would your refrigerator, or something that is not so consumable, something that you do intend to wear for a long time. And then go, and by all means, enjoy it. We need to enjoy it, but we can just be a little bit more thoughtful about what we really like and want.
We're twenty minutes into this interview, and we've only covered one pair of jeans so far. And we're not finished with jeans yet.
So my next question is: What about if I buy a pair of Patagonia jeans? Should I be thinking, "I did the right thing. I didn't buy Wranglers or Levi or Lucky, and Patagonia is cool. They're doing the right thing"? Or am I deceiving myself?
That is a great question, and I tend to not focus on the brand.
And that's not to say anything negative or positive about Patagonia. There's no company that is perfect. Of course, Patagonia has shown a lot of leadership on some aspects, but not all of the issues facing the industry.
And when you start going down this route, the conversation ends up being like, "Oh, I just need to shop from these brands, and then I'm fine," when that isn't the question we should be asking ourselves. The question we should be asking ourselves is, "Do I really want this? Will I wear it a long time?"
So if I were you, or somebody asking me this, I would say buy the product regardless of where it comes from that you're going to wear the most.
That is a great, pragmatic answer. I love that.
Now, I'll put words into your mouth. You address the concept of basically, bullshit auditing systems, where large brands that we won't mention are saying, "Yeah, we're socially responsible. We have auditors," blah, blah, blah. And you burst that bubble.
So what's happening in the auditing system that brands tout as proving that they're socially responsible?
So first, to understand the auditing system, it helped me to understand the history of how that tool became so popular.
So what happened was that in the 1960s, 95 percent of clothing Americans wore was American-made.
Then the world opened up, and we had globalization. And the globalization is not the problem. At that time, companies argued to not include any environmental or social standards in these trade deals.
So that was the beginning for the fashion industry of this race to the bottom. And why the fashion industry kind of gets highlighted in all of this is because unlike, say, the technology space where you need a lot of capital to set up a factory, you just need a sewing machine to set up a factory in apparel. And you don't even need a factory.
This can be women working in their homes. And because it was very low capital to start up, it was very easy to do.
And so companies could just find wherever the labor was the cheapest, the environmental regulations were the lowest.
When this happened, it didn't take journalists long to find evidence of the sort of sweatshops, maquiladoras, that were talked about in the nineties.
Nike, at that time, got into trouble.
This is when the auditing industry really took off. Because the auditing industry, which is a multi-billion dollar industry, became very important then. It created distance between the brand and their suppliers. And so a company, if there was an issue in a factory, they could say, "Hey, we had this code of conduct that was audited, and that factory failed our code of conduct," instead of recognizing that they had any relationship with the factory being able to even comply with the code of conduct.
And so when I went to go speak to factory owners across Asia, the universal response that I got was, "You know, we get two separate teams that come in here. We get a team that is the social responsibility team and wants to see the audits, but then we get the supplier, the purchasing team. And it's the purchasing team that has the power, and they don't care what the auditing team has said." And they continue to want to cut costs.
And in such a low-margin business, there's just a lack of recognition in the fashion space, in the apparel space, that the purchasing practices of the brands have an impact on the factories' ability to comply with these codes of conduct.
So if I may summarize, are you saying the whole thing's bullshit?
I never want to imbue bad intent when the best spin of this, it's a very unintended consequence. I would like to think that, because I would like to think that the industry will change. And if they don't, that regulators will require them to.
I don't mean to turn this into one big downer, but people should know this.
So how about when a brand says, "We use plant-based dye and recycled plastic bottles"? Should I be impressed and relieved, and feel good about myself? Or is that bullshit too?
The second one in particular is most likely bullshit.
So let's take the recycled plastic bottles, because this has been a little personal bee in my bonnet as I uncovered this stuff, and just found it quite shocking.
When you look at brand websites and they talk about recycled plastic bottle clothing, they almost universally talk about how many plastic bottles out of landfill that translates to. And so the story has been sold, or is being sold, that recycled plastic bottle clothing diverts plastic bottles from landfill.
Whether that plastic bottle goes to a landfill or gets recycled is not about the brand, it's about whether you or I put that into a recycling bin, and it entered the recycling stream.
The more frustrating part of this narrative is that the companies, when you actually dig into this, as I have done, is that the bottling industry, the beverage industry like Coke and Pepsi, they have set their own targets for recycled materials.
And what ends up happening, what is happening on the ground, is that the beverage industry and the apparel industry is competing over this limited resource of recycled plastic bottles. And to make things worse is that there's not enough of the recycled plastic bottles to go around.
There's reasons for that as well, but a plastic bottle can be recycled into another plastic bottle again. That industry can do that at scale. Once you've turned that plastic bottle into a recycled polyester garment, you can't do anything with that at scale. There is very limited ability to do that, and it's very expensive, and so that ends up just being trash. And so you're actually taking a product that can be a closed loop, and making it a linear one.
So it's not only bullshit, it's bad.
What's bad about it is that they're framing it as a good thing, when it's not amazing.
Well, I have the impression that there's an unlimited supply of what could or should be recycled, and now you're telling me there's a limited supply. What's limited about plastic bottles?
So the plastic bottles is not limited. We have obviously way too many plastic bottles. So do not read into anything I'm saying that we have a lack of plastic bottles.
The beverage industry has actively lobbied against any legislative efforts to increase recycling rates. We have a lack of recycled plastic bottles. So we're not getting enough of the plastic that we're using to the recycling stream, and so that has become the more precious commodity.
Because we don't recycle. We don't put them in the recycling system. I'm pulling up now the percentage. We only recycle 27.9 percent of our plastic bottles right now.
When you say "we," is "we" America, or "we" the world?
It's United States.
That's a high number. I'm surprised it's that high. So 27 percent of plastic bottles are recycled?
Yeah. But you have the whole beverage industry that has their own targets for using that material. And so now, you have not just one, but two industries that are competing for this one product.
Oh my God.
So let's say that Maxine goes out, and she wants to drink water. Is it more socially responsible to get a plastic bottle of water and then be sure that it's recycled, or to drink a LaCroix in an aluminum can, which is also going to be recycled?
I'm going to go with the LaCroix aluminum can.
Is that how you say it?
Yes, as somebody who's originally from Minnesota, and LaCroix is a Wisconsin company, and who has a French husband, so we've had this deep discussion. LaCroix is the perfect French pronunciation of the word, but it is a Wisconsin brand based off of the LaCroix River.
Well, this is good to know. I learned another thing today from a remarkable person. Huh. That's like in photography, there's a whole controversy whether you call it bouquet or bouquet when the background is out of focus. But I won't go down that hole.
But anyway, so LaCroix is the better thing to drink. No, LaCroix. What'd you say?
I would drink this, because that has a very good recycling system. You don't have to deal with microplastic pollution, either. And the problem is really that we need better legislation that would allow for better collection systems.
So it's not that both industries are not doing great things, the beverage and the clothing industry.
And what kind of legislation would make it better?
So California has a deposit system.
So deposit systems then provide a fee to the people collecting that can, or that product. And so that has been found in all of the states that have those collection fees to significantly increase the plastic bottle recycling rates.
And do you think that the rate increases because baby boomers are turning in their cans, or because some homeless person is collecting those cans as a source of income?
It is usually pickers that are coming through and taking them as a source of income.
So far, every population that I'm associated with is at fault. I'm going to be a thirsty nudist pretty soon. Have most of your podcast interviews gone like this?
Do you want this to be over?
So let's try to put a lipstick on this pig here. So, what can we do? What should I do to be more socially responsible?
So I buy clothes that I'm going to wear for a long time. I drink out of aluminum cans. What else? Give me some hope here.
I will happily give you hope. So the real thing that we need to focus on here is legislation, because we will not be able to solve these issues each individually.
And if you look at the auto industry, that was a sector that had fuel efficiency requirements imposed on it. And as a result, the landscape has changed quite dramatically. That is the same type of thing that the fashion industry and other highly polluting industries need. This stuff can be regulated. And it's pro-business, because what it's doing is it is making these things a requirement of doing business.
Where the problem is that now, even though companies talk about sustainability as a win-win, you don't make money from paying workers a living wage. You can still make a profit, let's be clear, but there are some costs involved. Not hugely significant costs.
The research on this is... For example, to pay a garment worker a living wage would be something like increasing a t-shirt cost by five cents. So these aren't enormous costs, but in an industry that's operating on profit maximization, these things need to be baked into the rules of doing business so that as a company, you are not put at a competitive disadvantage by doing the right thing, which is what at this moment, without regulation, you are.
So that's why we really need legislation in this space, and that from what we're working on now at the New Standard Institute has become a big focus. And we need people, and support. And having your voice heard as a citizen to your legislators that this is an issue is the first step in making that a reality.
You brought up the automotive industry history, and I guess there was Ralph Nader, but I would say that the person who has changed the automotive industry the most in the last twenty years is probably Elon Musk, because Elon Musk made us get electric cars. No internal combustion engine company would've gone electric were it not for the pressure that Tesla brought upon us.
So my question is; is there an Elon Musk of the fashion industry that's going to force everybody else to change?
So it's Elon Musk, for sure. We needed that very sexy car, that very sexy technology to have people adopt, but Tesla benefited from having these fuel efficiency requirements coming from legislation.
So it's really a combination of legislation and then innovators in the space.
And the difference between the auto industry and the apparel industry is this isn't a technology problem. We have the technologies that are needed to increase fuel efficiency, energy efficiency in the factories, and move those factories to green energy.
So it's not a technology that needs to be adopted, but there will be innovative companies that recognize that this is the future of things, the future of legislation, and where consumers want to be.
And they will benefit from that kind of brand positioning and making... There were electric cars before Elon Musk, but they weren't sexy. And Tesla certainly did that. And so to make sustainability or low impact sexy in the fashion space.
And fashion is all about sex appeal. That's the whole thing, is it's really supposed to be about painting the future and what is attractive, and so there will be companies that come out at the forefront and benefit greatly.
Well, I'm trying to wrap my mind around the concept of sustainability and social responsibility as now being sexy, that Kim Kardashian is now endorsing a product line because of that.
What am I missing? I'm not seeing that.
Had I spoken to you fifteen years ago, when you talked about electric cars, you would've had the same exact facial expression talking about cars.
True, absolutely. But that's why we need an Elon Musk in fashion.
Let's make it a woman this time.
But absolutely, I do think what is important to recognize is that it both takes the culture, innovation, and making a product look cool, and it requires that legislation to benefit from it as well.
Obviously, Elon Musk and the mileage requirements, or the emission standards worked hand in hand to get us to where we are. It wasn't just Elon Musk, and it certainly wasn't just the EPA.
Exactly. But it was that combination that has made it so hugely successful.
I have another kind of off-the-wall question. You're going to call your publicist up and say, "What the hell? Why did I agree to schedule this?”
Having had this conversation, I would make the case that Marie Kondo is part of the problem, not part of the solution. She's telling you to go through your closet and say, "If that doesn't bring you joy, throw it out." Isn't that creating this consumption wheel?
So Marie Kondo has missed out one important element. So I don't think what she is saying... No, I'm going to leave it at that. She's missing one important element.
And the one important element is that if you go through all of her steps, do you find joy in it? If you do not find joy, make peace with it and let it go.
She has four steps. You can add a fifth step, which is a recognition of the resources that have gone into that product. And that is going to slow down your next purchase, because whatever you've already consumed, that's happened. And you shouldn't live in chaos because you feel guilty about it.
It's really an invitation to go Marie Kondo your closet but be aware that it's not this precious gift that you're giving away that you can feel great about.
You should have some sort of recognition that there were a lot of resources that were put into this thing that won't necessarily have a happy life. And that it's not the what do you do right now, it's what do you do today, tomorrow, the next day, and with that thoughtfulness of the next purchase that you make or choose not to make that matters.
Do you think that prior to making a purchase, someone could really ask themselves, "Is this going to bring me joy?" Can we do the pre-Marie Kondo, as opposed to the post-consumption?
That is my hope as you're doing the cleansing to notice that there were resources put in, is that it makes you more conscious in your next purchase to say, "There is a lot of resources that have been put into this. Is this something that is really going to be of benefit to me for the long-term? And if it's not, I'm going to not choose that."
Now, it seems to me that our discussion impugns maybe 100 percent of the influencers. What is an influencer to do? Influencers are all about consuming, and we need influencers who say, "Don't consume, and don't buy."
I can see that's going to be a really lucrative position.
You bring up an industry that hasn't received enough attention, and that is the influencer industry. So of course, when you speak to advocates, they will point the fingers most at the largest companies. And fair.
If you look at the Forbes billionaires list, it's filled with people who have made their money off of a lot of cheap clothing. But the engine of this clothing consumption machine are these influencers, and there has not been enough attention.
There's been such a focus on how much influencers can make, and the Kardashians of the world. And Paris Hilton, she was even quoted as, "I don't want to just be a multi-millionaire. I want to make billions or trillions," or something. And that type of single aim on making the most money as possible really trickles down to everybody else.
And then the machine in which to do that, which is selling us stuff, trickles down to everyone else to the point where we get to young women feel clothing is old after wearing it once or twice.
So I do think this implicates the entire influencer industry, and I do think there needs to be a come-to-Jesus moment within the influencer world of, what are we selling, and why?
Speechless over there.
This is a very heavy podcast episode. Usually, it's all full of light and pixie dust and unicorns farting, and just-
I want to get to that farting unicorn place, so that's why we need to get through this stuff.
Take me into where unicorns are farting pixie dust.
What happens now?
This is what happens. We all rally together. It doesn't have to be all of us, but the people listening to this podcast say, "This is something that I want to change." They start participating and would be great if they follow along with New Standard Institute, because we can help guide on this. They have their voices heard with their legislators, and we start having basic rules of how the industry can operate.
Then from that, instead of this auditing system, the companies have mandatory due diligence. So instead of just saying, "We have a code of conduct that a factory hasn't followed," they actually have to show and investigate where their risks are in their supply chain. And they have to work with their suppliers to ensure that the factories are safe, that wages are being paid, that workers have happy lives, that chemicals are being treated before they're going out into the product system, and that they are operating within the Paris Agreement by setting science-based targets.
From that, in ourselves, in our own world, we start to shut out the noise of all of the advertising that has been targeted towards us, which has just skyrocketed the amount of ads we are exposed to, especially young women. And we come to gain a healthier relationship with the purchases we make, and we actually start loving our clothing again.
Then we have water that is clear and teeming with fish instead of dead rivers. There might even be a unicorn jumping up and down in there. We have workers who live healthy, happy lives, and we get to clothing that we love.
That sounds like a pretty good world to me.
That sounds like a very good world. I hope it happens in my lifetime.
I hope so. We need it to.
I don't know what else to say. I'm just going to be naked and thirsty. That's the solution that I see.
You're going to be feeling very hydrated, very good, and not having to be stressed out about what you are wearing.
But seriously, so right now, I probably own ten pairs of jeans. I'm sixty-seven years old, so it's not like I bought them all last year.
But one of the ironies of the pandemic is that I appear physically in person so few. I hardly ever buy clothes anymore. Most of the time, you only see me from chest up, so I only need to buy shirts.
I won't ask what pants you're wearing, Guy.
I'm wearing Lucky jeans right now. But let's say I have ten pairs of jeans. So at this point, your thought is, "Well, love those ten pairs of jeans to the day you die."
Guy, again, you are not the problem. You and your ten pairs of jeans that you've accumulated over decades is not the issue.
It's that the industry is headed towards this very disposable fashion industry from companies like H&M, Zara, Shein, Boohoo that are hyper-trendy, where literally a company like Shein produced thousands of different styles every single day. They release thousands of styles every day.
That's the problem in the industry.
How can you release thousands of styles every day?
Go on shein.com, and you can filter the products that came out today. It is thousands of styles.
Huh. I'm obviously not the target market.
You are not a fifteen-year-old girl.
Any more wisdom? Any more thoughts or insights? Because man, my head is about to explode here.
Unraveled is meant to be a hopeful book, in that I wanted to be clear about this state of the world of a product that we all engage with every single day, unless we're the nudists, and that have been produced in places that are out of sight, out of mind.
And we can both recognize and see where we are today, and really see that as a lawyer, I can see that these things change. And in other industries, they have changed. You had everybody smoking cigarettes, and every influencer of that time would make a lot of money promoting cigarettes. And there was regulation around that, and that limited the advertising. It made it less interesting for celebrities of the day to be advertisers. And now today, smoking has really slowed down.
So these things can change, and that really is the point of the book, the point of the whole story.
My last question. So this is something I clearly cannot answer at all, which is, let's suppose I am a fifteen-year-old girl. Let's suppose I am listening to this, and I want to say to you, "Give me some advice. How do I withstand the peer pressure?"
That's a great question. And this is something...
Though I'm not a sixteen-year-old girl, what I have done, because I'm also somebody who is open to being influenced, is I spoke to psychologists who focus on behavior. And they said, you don't tell people, "Don't do this thing." If you're trying to have a diet and eat healthier, the dietician doesn't say, "Don't eat hamburgers." What they will say is, "Avoid the cues to make those choices." So if you are trying to avoid a hamburger, then don't bring hamburgers home to your house. Or drive around, so you're not seeing a McDonald's.
That's the same type of lesson that we can then transfer into this space.
And what I have done is... You end up getting signed up to a lot of emails for fashion companies, and so you're getting all these cues. You are getting a ton of cues from social media on Instagram, especially companies like TikTok.
So I have been very conscious to unsubscribe from fashion company emails and to unfollow the fashion brands and influencers that I know are just going to get me to subconsciously make a purchase, or get that sort of Pavlovian response in purchasing.
That has helped me a lot. And so the fewer cues you have to make that purchase, the less likely you are to actually fall into the trap of just mindless consumption, which a lot of this is.
I agree. I'm like that with surfboards, so I can't walk past the surfboard store, which I know has terrible impact on the environment.
I bet you never anticipated an interview like this for a podcast.
Thrilled that it has gone this way.
I hope I left it on a sufficiently hopeful note, and that next time I see you, you will be fully dressed.
In some very old jeans.
Yes, very old jeans.
Wow. I have to admit, this is the most convicted I've felt in an interview.
All the stuff that I've given to Goodwill, all the clothes that I did not need to buy, all the implications and ramifications of those clothes. Wow.
Anyway, not that I'm going to be a nudist, but I am drinking water out of cans now. In fact, let me interject a little plug.
The canned plain water that I drink is called Liquid Death. I found it on Amazon. I'm not kidding. That's the name, Liquid Death. Check it out.
Anyway, my thanks to Maxine Bedat for opening my eyes to the implications of fashion.
I'm Guy Kawasaki. This is Remarkable People.
My thanks to Jeff Sieh and Peg Fitzpatrick, to Shannon Hernandez, Alexis Nishimura, and Louis Magana, and Madisun Nuismer.
If you're ever in Santa Cruz, ping me. Maybe we'll go surfing. Maybe Madisun will drop in on you.
Until then, all the best. Mahalo, and aloha.
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