Sharing My Ethical Struggles with Anyone Who’ll Listen | Top: Ethically Made Jeans: Second-hand Sandals: Greenish
You’ve seen the ethical/sustainable fashion documentaries, you’ve read the facts and finally decided you’re done with fast fashion, but there’s still a few questions on your mind. I know, because I’ve been there, so here’s my quick guide to delving into the world of slow, ethical and sustainable fashion.
Sustainable? Ethical? Fair trade? I don’t know where to start…
You have to prioritise what you stand for. Do you want the clothes to be made under fair working conditions, from sustainable materials or all vegan? All three is possible too, no judging here. You set your borders dependable on where you are in life and what you can accomplish.
It’s a time-consuming, not convenient or shops don’t offer next day delivery.
Every change takes time, you’ll try, fail and learn but it’s really not as hard as you think. Even ASOS has green brands on their site – you just need to know which ones they are. To start with there’s Faithfull for boho style dresses and skirts, Matt & Nat for bags and even Monki jeans use 100% organic cotton so if that’s one of your priorities there you go. Zalando is one step ahead and has actually tagged their sustainable clothes. But you’ll need to do some research as they’ve tagged 100% ethical brands like ArmedAngels, Underprotection and Patagonia and slightly less green brands like Mango and GAP who are on there because they’ve done some kind of greenwashing (little ethical steps mainly used for marketing purposes).
I want to, but it’s too expensive.
Maybe it was a few years ago, but these days there are enough affordable brands out there. It’s not supposed to be super cheap, fast fashion has warped our values. With ethical and fast fashion you have to keep in mind that you’re paying for workers’ wages and for resources to be sustainable.
The Fine Art Of Slow Fashion | Jacket: Really Old Dress: Pre-loved & Altered Shoes: No excuse
Do I need to throw out my wardrobe?
Of course not, it’s about making things last. I’m wearing out my basics and replacing them with ethical versions as I go. And yes, some of the new items may cost a bit more but I’m hoping they’ll last longer. I also prioritise choosing for UK brands as I think it’s important that items don’t come from far away. I love what Everlane in the US is doing and have ordered from them, but now I stick to UK and Europe-based brands first.
What brands are the best?
Here’s my experience with some of the UK’s affordable sustainable and ethical brands:
People Tree – sustainable fashion brand you’ll see top every list as they are pioneers and offer everything from shirts to dresses and basic tops.
Lara Intimates – comparable to cheap ASOS lingerie, £20 for panties and £48 for a bra can be a bit more pricey, but if you keep in mind that it’s all produced in London using deadstock (leftover) fabric in an all female factory you can justify it. Go Lara!
Thought– my go-to place for the softest basics. From socks to tights and tops all made from cotton, bamboo, and hemp.
Green on Green Action | Top: Ethically made Skirt: Vintage Shoes: Really old.
What about on trend items?
While you can purchase the latest trends with sustainable and ethical brands, this might hurt your bank balance as each season adds up. Why not opt for second hand, vintage or preloved? You could argue this is the best option in terms of waste, as the items are already in circulation. High street charity shops are your best bet for this option and thanks to Marie Kondo they should be full to bursting at the moment. Or if you prefer online, try DePop, eBay and Etsy. At the time of writing there are over 8000 results on eBay for slip dresses, all between £0.99 and £12. Also, most of them look like they’re original 90s garments, making them more unique and less likely for you to turn up at party with the same dress as your bestie. I do have some issues with second hand shops – but I’ll save that for another post.
It’s not making a difference
Don’t you dare! According to a recent study by Thredup, 56 million women bought second-hand products in 2018 compared to 44 million in 2017. That’s an increase of 12 million new second-hand shoppers! Now this is US data but we’re all copy the US, so I’m sure it’s the same (Western) world round.
A few months ago my Twitter and Instagram exploded as everyone who saw Stacey Dooley Investigates: Fashion’s Dirty Secrets started questioning the clothing hanging in their closet or even clothes they wanted to buy. Though a few bits of the documentary are questionable (if BBC is looking for a fact checker: hiiii) I am happy it has opened some eyes and led to new conversations.
I do feel guilty about being so easy with booking a flight, buying a chilled plastic bottle of water or just being a basic white girl in certain countries so at home I try to compensate as much as possible and one of those ways is by buying clothes that are ideally produced in ethical environments and as sustainable as possible. Now I am probably in the top 10 least fashionable people and I’ve never seen myself as a shopaholic, but I do love beautifully crafted garments and I want to make ethical choices so I’ve started educating myself on this topic as much as possible and minimalised fast fashion buys. I think I’ve done a good job as only 5/19 clothing items I bought this year are not from ethically produced/sustainable brands or not second hand/vintage (pat on the shoulder)
Fast Fashion Documentaries To Watch
You’ve seen Fashion’s Dirty Secrets and then you probably saw The True Cost on Netflix. But what’s next? If one of your 2019 resolutions is buying less or going for the green road then I can highly recommend the below documentaries.
Full Episode Fashion Documentary – Sweatshop
It was after seeing this Norwegian documentary that I decided to try to buy my clothes as ethically and sustainably produced as possible. This film shows the lives of sweatshop workers in Cambodia through the eyes of three Norwegians students and whose perspective is forever altered after a few days of living, working, and speaking with fellow human beings who spend most of their lives working long hours up to 7 days a week for only a few pounds a day in sweatshops.
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj
On Netflix, Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj has devoted an episode to fast fashion and how our desire to look good is taking an environmental toll, as well as how brands are greenwashing us with labels like H&M Conscious and Zara Join Life. It goes through a lot of stats in 30 minutes, but all in form of jokes and infographics, so more likely to hit our brains quicker and stay there
Marketplace: How donated clothes are sorted and reused
What happens to clothes which charity shops can’t sell? Or to the clothes you donate? It’s a common misconception that old clothes donated are sent to developing countries as good will. No, instead they get sold to those countries, where they end up on the markets or landfill … because they are low quality and hard to sell. This insightful documentary guides you through what happens to donated clothes that Canada sells to Kenya.
The Price of Free
In-between all the Christmas movies I watched The Price Of Free and cried my eyes out as it’s just heartbreaking to see how cruel the world is if you are born on the wrong continent. The documentary follows Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s journey to liberate every child slave in factories. Though this is not only limited to fashion factories it’s a must watch.
And to close off with one with a bit different tone. This 13-minute documentary gives a much-needed look into what happens when people in the West throw their clothes away and the Indian recyclers turn the huge bales of clothes into yarns. The garment recyclers don’t understand where so many, practically unworn clothes come from? Is it water shortage in the West? Or is it because we don’t like washing our clothes?
Is this a topic you’re passionate about? Do you have any favourite documentaries on the subject?
Everyone and their grandma have jumped on the sustainable travel bandwagon – it has become more accessible than ever, with lots of people preaching on the topic and telling you how to do it! During my trip to Georgia last week I had to come face to face with the reality. I mean, sure I supported the locals by staying in guest houses, taking taxi instead of Uber and eating local. But I also failed at really simple things…
Water bottles ⛲
Caring around my refillable Dopper bottle has become second nature. Yet, I barely refilled it in Georgia. It’s a shame as almost every park and monastery has a drinking fountain, but their set up made it impossible to refill a bottle and at other times yours truly was craving cold refrigerated water that only plastic bottles could provide. Should I feel ok that sometimes I did refill those plastic bottles? No? I’ll go stand in the corner and have a think.
Throwaway sandals 👡
This happened before I left actually, but since I had to face the consequences in Georgia I might as well add it. So, one of my 2018 goals is to make sure 80% of the clothes/shoes/accessories I buy are produced ethically and not by children’s hands. This requires more research and planning, something I hadn’t done for summer spring shoes. So when it got hot a while ago I ran to the high street and grabbed the first pair of sandals that fit. And I paid for it in Georgia as on day 2 and 35K steps later they were completely worn out.
Plastic bags ♻️
In addition to buying plastic bottles, I also got given a fair amount of plastic bags with almost everything I bought. My logic said it was ok as I could use them to store my trash, but now I’ve added those to landfill as well. Like everyone I cried when I watched the tragic Planet Earth episode, but it obviously didn’t guilt me enough, so I need to save the turtle photo on my phone so I can’t forget I must say ‘No to plastic.’
Now I know Manchester is famous for Joy Division, Manchester United and Coronation Street, but no one mentioned how many brilliant vintage stores the city has to offer! I am always on the hunt for vintage shops – and began my city trip with just one recommended place to visit – but as I headed into the Northern Quarter I noticed more and more great examples. My curiosity won me over and I had to go in to see what the fuss was about and have to say that they did not disappoint.
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