Ethics are such an emotive issue and we all have very different ideas of what they should be. The ethical issues in fashion that are most written about are living wages for workers and cotton growers, forced or child labour and safe working conditions. However, for me ethical fashion is not just about people, it’s about the planet too, and so in my opinion, environmental and sustainable practices should be equally in debate.
Fashion on a budget
These days we all want to pay less for everything as our incomes stagnate or shrink so spending more than we have to is often not seen as an option. “Giving up “fast fashion” is something privileged people can do because privileged people don’t have to agonize about where they shop.” [i] Being on a very limited budget myself I can completely relate to this, but for me ethical fashion isn’t always about spending more, it is always about thinking more.
Some would ask “Are ethically produced clothes a privilege for the wealthy?”[ii] Yes, maybe some of them are. Most people associate ethical fashion with Fair Trade or organic clothing produced by the more well-known brands such as Zady, Reformation & People Tree. Most of their clothes are substantially more expensive than a Primark alternative, but for good reasons: they guarantee an ethical and sustainable peace of mind for the buyer.
The high cost of ethical fashion is also arguably a misconception. Back in the good old days we had fewer clothes, looked after them and wore them longer. The cheap clothing most of us buy now doesn’t last long, so we buy more of it and sometimes in different colours to suit every mood! Investing in new ethical or even designer pieces from sustainable fashion champions such as Stella McCartney & Vivienne Westwood will set you back a few bob but they will last a lifetime and you will cherish them all the more. If you consider cost per wear then that pretty top from Zara you can’t live without doesn’t seem quite so cheap.
The need for the new
In the west we are constantly bombarded with sleek advertising for the next new thing, upgrade your phone, get the latest look, keep up with the Kardashians! These fast changing trends are cleverly replicated in the massive turnover of low quality clothing in fast fashion stores encouraging disposability. This craving for the new begs the question “Are new clothes a right or a privilege?”[iii]
A 2015 survey found “the average woman typically spends £64 per month - or £768 per year on clothes - most of which are left languishing in wardrobes unworn.”[iv] Surely we have reached peak stuff! In order to live more sustainably every one of us needs to consume less and so this desire for the next new shiny thing has to be challenged.
Affordable ethical style
Happily, there are so many ethical alternatives that don’t cost the earth (financially and literally!) Second hand shops, vintage fashion fairs and online auction sites, clothes swaps and of course revamping, repairing & renovating what you already have are worthy options. We could replace that joy of finding a bargain in the sales at Zara, with joy at finding a beautiful Dolce & Gabbana coat in a second hand shop for next to nothing (I spotted one recently in a charity shop on my local high street!)
Buying from local makers or products that are made in your own country is also another good option. I am not suggesting this from any patriotic or protectionist standpoint but because the carbon footprint of the garment will be lower and be easier to check on whether it’s produced ethically. It helps support the local economy whilst maintaining skills and crafts that may have been around for generations. Most towns and cities will have a Fair Trade shop which often sell ethical clothing alongside their hand crafted ethnic goods. Would it not feel better to line the pocket of a small business or talented craftsperson than a greedy global fashion corporation?
Many ethical fashionistas would be horrified at this suggestion but if you really can’t tear yourself away from your beloved fast fashion brands some now have greener lines and initiatives that (although they have a long way to go) are a step in the right direction. H&M’s Conscious collection is made from organic cotton and Zara’s JoinLife range even uses recycled wool. I say this with the caveat of really thinking about the purchase first. Asking yourself if you will get lots of wear out of it, whether it’s versatile and is classic enough to still be worn in 5 years’ time should ensure that it won’t disappear into your wardrobe never to be seen again. I will also add that there are other big brand names such as ASOS who probably deserve your hard earned cash much more: so be brave and step outside of your comfort zone!
The real fashion victims
If we are debating fast fashion in relation to the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ we also have to put it into a global context as the impact of our trend-driven, throwaway culture disproportionately affects the poorest in the world - whether it’s the garment workers who barely earn enough to eat, the 6 year old who stitches sequins on the floor of the factory or the wider communities that are blighted by the effects of climate change. “Those of us who are privileged have more power than we think and are the ones negatively impacting those in the Developed World without even knowing it.”[v] Therefore it is imperative that all of us, irrespective of whether of wealth or lack thereof need to embrace and champion ethical clothing in order to fight fast fashion to help save our planet and all it’s inhabitants. We can all make a difference.
This article first featured here on the ethicalbranddirectory.com
Who made my Jeans Pt1
Who made my Jeans Pt2
Save the Children
#EthicalFashion #FirstWorldProblems #SocialIssue
[i] The Struggle With Fast Fashion (And Other Problems Of Privilege) – Joni Edelman 30/03/17
[ii] Is Fast Fashion A Class Issue? Tabi Jackson Gee 27/04/17
[iii] Is Fast Fashion a Class Issue? Tabi Jackson Gee 27/04/17
[iv] Throwaway fashion: Women have adopted a 'wear it once culture', binning clothes after only a few wears (so they aren't pictured in same outfit twice on social media)- Maybelle Morgan DailyMail on Facebookhttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3116962/Throwaway-fashion-Women-adopted-wear-culture-binning-clothes-wears-aren-t-pictured-outfit-twice-social-media.html
[v] First World Privilege Drives Fast Fashion – Saba Ritzvi & Dee All 17/08/16
Lately, I have been feeling overwhelmed by the state of the planet and tired of fighting what seems like a losing battle. I sometimes think that however I live my life or whatever I say or do will not make any difference especially against the backdrop of global corporate and state-sanctioned destruction of the environment. I often feel like a modern day Cassandra or the weirdo on the street wearing the sandwich board saying ‘The End of the World is Nigh’ who everyone avoids, as so many people don't seem to care or want to know. It feels like there is very little good news right now with the devastating effects of climate change becoming evident through the global summer heatwaves, the vastness of the plastic pollution problem, the recent shocking IPCC report, and so on.
I do put some of this eco-exhaustion down to the fact that I am more informed now than I have ever been. I am consuming news and opinion via news apps and social media several times a day and the more I read the more despondent I become. It seems I am not alone though, that the depressing and frightening messages and information overload that we are bombarded with is now creating ‘apocalypse fatigue’ amongst many people.
“If governments or policymakers repeat the same message too often, people just tune out after a while."[i]
This is sometimes compounded for me with the environmental and ethical minefield that is everyday life. Is it better to buy local produce or organic food?[ii] Is switching to an electric car a green option if you are selling your old one that will still be polluting the planet? Deciding what to do for the best takes so much effort and is hard work.[iii] So how do we continue fighting the good fight, and engage others in it too?
Turning away from some of the news media’s negative reporting could help counteract this problem. It’s not a case of ignoring the threat of catastrophe but oversaturation of it in our information filled world makes us feel helpless. Actively seeking out positive, constructive messaging or at the very least filtering the information we take in can give us hope that we can still do something and that we still have some control.
“This fear, this guilt we know from psychology is not conducive to engagement, it’s rather the opposite.”[iv]
If you seek out these alternative narratives you can find that, as opposed to the scaremongering in the media, positive change is happening. Although the US did pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, over half of their population lives in areas that are committed to those goals. Alongside this, renewable energy is going from strength to strength with many countries seeing less reliance on fossil fuels all the time. Trillions of dollars are also being divested every year to add to this booming industry.[v] And what’s more, grass roots activism is become more prevalent now, with people finding their voices on wide range of issues. This has a real potential to change the world as people stand up for what they believe, when they now know that corporates and governments will not do it for them.
“One key factor in keeping people enthused in the fight against climate change will be local, collective action…in a group of like-minded people they have the support, accountability, peer pressure and the shared experience of others to help make the change”[vi]
Community projects like 10:10 Climate Action turn local into a force for bigger changes. They also gather these stories of hope to inspire others and maintain momentum in the movement. [vii]. Joining others in such projects is a great way to feel part of something bigger and not so alone in our struggles.
“We need to change the way we talk about climate change.”[viii]
An effective way to approach other people’s disconnection or lack of involvement with environmental problems is changing how we frame such issues. Talking to parents about the effects of pollution on their children’s health or to businesses about energy security makes the problems relevant to them. It’s then not just about polar bears on the other side of the world, but real and tangible.
Another way to overcome the psychological barriers to real environmental change is using the power of our own social networks. This is where our small, individual actions do actually count. Behavioural science has proved that knowing what others around us are doing greatly influences us. When environmental actions or messages come from people inside our social networks, rather than scientists or politicians, they have a much more powerful effect.
"The ripple effect from person to person doing visible, positive social acts becomes central".[ix]
Utilising this could move many people from apathy to action. Using tools like the carbon footprint calculator and sharing your results with friends, family and social media followers may spur others to make their own changes. If you want to measure your footprint try it here: http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/
"Inspiration rather than guilt, then, is the most effective antidote to eco-fatigue.”[x]
I hope then that through my blog, the Boy Wonder brand and it’s social media presence and also the way I live my life, I can inspire others to live a greener, more ethical lifestyle. Maybe you can too?
And lastly, the best reason to stay positive is…“because hope beats fear”[xi]
#climateoptimist #ecofatigue #carbonfootprint
I love autumn. It's such a beautiful season with the leaves changing colour and a time to get cosy with warm jumpers and blazing fires. Here is my pick of the best tops for this season from eco-minded brands . Hope you like them x
Reversible Bambi hoody in eco-friendly 100% baby alpaca by Oeuf NYC
Sunny Season Sweatshirt in 100% GOTS organic cotton by Nadadelazos
Owl Sweatshirt in 100% GOTS organic cotton by Boys & Girls
Wild duck sweatshirt in 100% GOTS organic cotton by Mini Rodini
#autumnfashion #boysfashion #organiccotton
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