Utility in the Afterlife

The backside of a recycled repurposed jacket created and modeled by Jessica Thompson

By Jessica Thompson Photos by Jon Hopper

Two strokes before midnight: the fast fashion industry as a ticking time bomb

Boo factory is approaching system bleed out.

Democracy is coming to America through a tear in the sky.

You better prepare your utility vests, dust masks, cargo pants, and creeper boots.

Post-apocalyptic fantasy has always been a fascination of mine and I would very much like to keep it within the science fiction realm. However, this is the product of exploring high fashion when fast fashion and industrialization ceases to exist as we know it, due to the effects of catastrophic climate events. This is a combat throw-away culture conceptualizing a hyperreal perception of societal futurism. Individualized from park-bench pants to my grandfather’s naval jackets, 100% handmade with no electricity and no hot glue. 

Society needs to wake up. 

Emergency on planet Earth. 

The currency is murder. 

Don’t chase an illusion.

Our nations are hallucinating.


Cheers to the patriarchs.

And the marble arch.

Playing their part.

The gatekeeper’s march.


Marxist corporate greed is exploiting the land. According to the federal court case, Juliana v. the United States, our institutions are failing us because they have violated our nominal due process rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by continuing to abdicate for the refining of fossil fuels. We need grassroots, society needs new visions and categories of assessment that do not assess progress with material wealth.  There is a certain mystical power behind appreciation and admiration for the fragility of human life and the imaginative capabilities to stratify its conditions. Focusing on structures and influences like Earthships, bioremediation permaculture communes, and free markets with fair labor and trading laws. Environmental apocalypse. The planet in peril. Earth in the balance. These familiar phrases about human impacts on the global environment have been popularized in many media forms. Given recent discussions of climate change, humans are running full speed headlong toward environmental Armageddon.

The past three centuries of progress have been powered by coal, oil, and gas. Burning much of what’s left will lead to environmental and economic catastrophe. Will all the fugazi in the media from skeptics to deniers, the concept of climate change is so extreme there is no middle ground. All we know for certain is that if we don’t change the system the consequences will be apocalyptic.

 Where does the fashion industry lie in the climate change debate?

Clothing is produced on shorter timeframes with new designs appearing every few weeks to satisfy mass-market demands for the latest trends. This inexpensive clothing produced rapidly is typically produced with exploitative working conditions, staffed primarily by impoverished women and children, according to UNICEF and the International Labor Organization, an estimated 170 million children are currently working in the clothing industry all over the world. This demand for nonstop production of clothing pushes workers to the limits. All so, clothing retailers in the United States and Europe can keep their costs low.

Many brightly colored fashion accessories that come into the US from overseas often contain lead-based paint and dyes. Items like plastic jewelry, hair accessories, and purses could possibly contain toxic chemicals.

According to the Pulse of the Fashion Industry Report, the fashion industry was responsible for 1.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2015. This is more emissions than international flights and maritime shipping. Over 60% of textiles consumed by the clothing industry and a large proportion of clothing manufacturing occurs in China and India, countries which rely on coal-fueled power plants. There are many facts to be contributed to the footprint emissions of a garment, shipping, and production, are some of the many. However, the raw material stage is where the majority of the harmful climate impact is sourced from. About half of all fabric productions come from the non-biodegradable man-made fibers like polyester. Since fibers like polyester are common plastics derived from petroleum processing the raw material to make it is highly energy-intensive.


According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we must reduce our carbon emissions by 30% by 2030 to sustain a living planet. It is clear to see that if we do not change mass-markets like the fashion and agriculture industry, society can anticipate our impending doom. Synthetic fibers and many genetically modified organisms are enhancement’ mechanisms to increase profitability and control consumer sovereignty.

In December of 2018 in Katowice, Poland, The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change created the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. This charter will help build initiatives that include areas like policy engagement and manufacturing/energy to set an example to other sectors that require a strong level of commitment to combat the climate crisis (signatories of this charter included brands like H&M, Adidas, and Burberry).

Reaching zero net greenhouse gas emissions will require far-reaching changes in human activity, which in fashion terms includes changing both the way we produce clothes and how we consume them. 

Things to consider when purchasing fashion items are where they came from, what they are made out of and how we will dispose of them. It is always more ethical and more sustainable for  consumer’s to thrift locally from stores like Suitezero, Runway Fashion Exchange, OSU Folk Club Thrift Shop, and Goodwill.

Remember to be conscious while shopping this Cyber-Monday and holiday season.


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