Is Zara’s ‘joinlife’ Collection Legit Or Nah?
Spoiler: this ain't nothing but some cute greenwashing.
Okay, so remember when we told you to quit fast fashion — go here if you haven’t checked out the post yet — we still want you to. But we had to share our thoughts on the Zara JoinLife movement. Even though it’s nowhere near the perfect solution, they’re *helping* the push to a more socially responsible fashion industry, if nothing else, because of how relevant the brand currently is to the fashion industry.
Confession: We used to have a Zara problem (seriously, who doesn’t?), so of course, when notifications started popping up in our feed announcing that the brand had released their debut sustainable collection titled JoinLife, we didn’t hesitate getting our hands on a few of the best pieces. Although we instantly applauded them for recognizing that fast fashion is fucking up the entire industry and your closet, we were equally elated and skeptical. After seeing H&M’s cute, but failed attempt at being sustainable, we had strong doubts about another fast fashion company dipping their toes in the socially responsible pool. Sustainable fast fashion is quite the oxymoron and there’s no real way around it. We questioned whether it be authentically sustainable or just be a clever marketing ploy to target millennials and others who are now prioritizing looking out for the future of the planet.
Why this collection kinda sorta not really matters
Hearing someone say they’ve never shopped at Zara is like hearing someone say they’ve never heard of the Kardashians; it just doesn’t happen (BTW, Khloe’s got her own jeans now, did you hear?). Zara is everything when it comes to fast fashion. But a few years back, the dirty truth about the brand’s ethical practices surfaced (you remember the scandal, don’t you?), and ever since their unethical practices made headlines, we’ve had a bad taste in our mouths about our beloved ubiquitous retailer. But we haven’t totally accepted not ever shopping there again. No one else offers current season pieces inspired by top designer collections, but not a direct copy at an affordable price. No. One. Still, how can you justify paying $39 for a top that someone made with their bare hands and got paid (literally) pennies for, if at all? Simple: you can’t.
Like we said, this collection doesn’t smooth out all of our concerns with the brand’s ethical practices. There has been no acknowledgement of with standing labor issues, so the line is clearly more focused on being more sustainable than upholding better ethics. Actually, let’s call it like it is: this ain’t nothing but a marketing ploy.
The problem with that is the fast production turnover and affordable prices from Zara comes at the sacrifice of ethics. However, this whole JoinLife movement is a step in the right direction, and the bottom line is that if we support lines like this that brands put out, more and more brands will make the conscious effort to put out similar lines. Think about it: it’s business. If one company is super successful with a certain tactic and the demand is there, most brand’s are going to look at the results and think one thing: profit. And that’s not a bad thing. Profit is what drives a business, and if they can make more of it by doing a great thing for the environment, why not?
The story behind the line
First, let’s just say, the pieces in the JoinLife collection still have the trendy edge that you expect from Zara. They didn’t sacrifice style to give us sustainability clothes and for that, we commend the brand. It’s the fabrics and materials that are the difference; not the design aesthetic. Typical materials used like wool and cotton are either organic or recycled. Each way, resources are being preserved. They also took a note from Taylor Swift’s go-to brand Reformation and incorporated tencel into some of the designs, which is quickly becoming the poster child of sustainable fabrics.
Although incorporating socially responsible fabrics is a great way to reduce the detrimental effects the fashion industry is infamous for having on the environment, the fact that Zara is still a fast fashion retailer remains. While we know from personal experience that you can definitely find a rare gem in Zara that’s made exquisitely and sewn to last, the brand generally makes on-trend designs which only constructed to be worn a few times, to last only a season or two. Just because the clothes from the JoinLife lineup are made with fabrics that are kinder to our environment doesn’t mean they are designed to endure and last.
Nevertheless, we ordered a few pieces and did our own Googling because we had to know if it was just a gimmick to cater to a increasingly demanding market. In order for the pieces to check out as genuinely sustainable, in addition to being made with better fabrics, they also needed to be of higher quality than the standard fast fashion piece because if they’re not constructed to last, then how can the pieces be sustained?
On how they’re *trying* to do better
Zara openly admits that the goal of the company is to become more sustainable and that JoinLife is one step towards achieving that goal. By stating this, they’re inadvertently owning up to the fact that as whole the company is far away from being sustainable. We appreciate this because our mantra is: progress, not perfection. SO many people are deterred from taking small steps towards sustainability, and it’s really a shame because there’s so much opportunity to make a difference, a real difference.
The bonus is that the entire JoinLife collection is animal-friendly, meaning that none of the pieces were made with materials that animals were specifically killed for. We often hear (or convince ourselves) that leather is a byproduct of the beef industry, but that’s unfortunately not true. Namely in India, millions of cows, goats, and other animals are raised, abused, and killed solely for their skins to be used for fashion.
(P.S. In case you haven’t had a chance to check this post out, we called bullshit on all the so-called “ethical” brands who continue to use animal skins in their collections.)
The only thing better than Zara is potentially a guilt-free Zara. If this were a perfect world, we’d be able to get Zara-style clothes at Zara-level prices, both sustainable and ethically made. Unfortunately, we are just not there yet. What would be incredible is if Zara could have a special “slow” collection that isn’t updated bi-weekly and instead a couple times a year, just like it used to be when retailers matched their design cycles to the runway shows in September and February. Sure it might be a little bit more expensive, but we would be more than willing to pay more for clothes that we know weren’t sewn by children or by someone who was paid pennies for days worth of dangerous labor. Wouldn’t you, too?
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Have you tried anything from the JoinLife collection yet? If so, what’d you think? Also, let us know your thoughts about the hybrid of fast fashion and sustainability – are they strictly mutually exclusive concepts or does this collection give you hope that one day there could be sustainable fashion that’s affordable and trendy?
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