Becoming a more ethical shopper
It’s a Sunday night, 11pm, and I cannot sleep. I’m browsing the Amnesty International website, scouring the internet looking for a protest to join, desperately searching for a way to help…someone, something. Anything. Last week, on Friday the 20th January we were plummeted into the new world of Trumpism, and since that day I’ve seen endless cries from friends, family members and strangers on social media asking ‘What can I do?’ And it got me thinking.
Am I part of the problem? How I can begin to be part of the solution?
I know from past experiences that making huge lifestyle changes overnight isn’t going to be successful. I also know that it is incredibly hard to spend your entire life dedicated to instigating political change, and I know signing online petitions is probably going to achieve nothing.
In light of the women’s marches across the world last Saturday I began thinking about issues that mostly affect women, and that women are mostly responsible for. The fashion industry.
The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world – second only to big oil. It starts in growing the cotton, or manufacturing the synthetic materials, continues as the clothes are made, then shipped across the world. Even once they make it to our wardrobes we wash them regularly, using water and chemicals, before eventually they end up at landfill.
The problem with the industry is that even brands that claim to be ethical are often lying through their nose. H&M conscious for example – H&M still make 25% of their clothes in Bangladesh, and only 13% of the cotton they use is organic. Buying the few products with the conscious label is feeding this not eliminating it – and if H&M were serious about making changes to the fashion industry surely they would have rolled the supposedly conscious scheme out across their huge fashion group and changed their entire business model. They haven’t, they are trying to profit from the ethical fashion ‘trend’.
The only problem is that ethical fashion shouldn’t be a trend. It shouldn’t even be a lifestyle choice. It should be the only choice. Throw-away fashion is destroying the environment, and that’s before we even get onto sweatshops. Sweatshops where millions of workers, the majority of whom are women, are exploited and paid poverty wages so that we can wear that new dress once and throw it away when it’s no longer in fashion or the seams start falling apart.
Is it worth it?
If we are really interested in changing the world, maybe this would be a good place to start.
Now please don’t get me wrong, although I’ve always been aware of it, and often justify my big purchases as ethical shopping – I am 100% guilty of many a Topshop shopping spree, and please don’t mistake this as a ‘do as I say not as I do’ article because that would be horrendously hypocritical, it’s more intended as a way to help people know how to make some changes if they want to.
I’ve put together a little list of ethical fashion brands for all budgets – so next time that topshop or zara dress is calling our name maybe we should take a look at these brands before we splash the cash, and fund exploitation and Philip Greens next yacht!
Nobody’s Child – Nobody’s Child are a great low-budget option. They keep their costs down as they do everything themselves.
- ‘we’ve always known that being an ethical brand would involve more than good intentions alone; it would require planning and infrastructure.’
Reformation – A slightly more pricey option – but I can vouch for the quality, and the designs are beautiful and timeless! Made to last a lifetime!
- ‘We put sustainability at the core of everything we do. Our factory uses the most efficient, eco-friendly and pro-social technologies and practices we can get.’
Beaumont Organic – I often find it hard to find ethical casual wear. This brand has nailed it!
- ‘We are inspired by making changes and paving a way for fashion to have a more sustainable future.’
Nudie Jeans – Denim with a conscious – they also repair your jeans for free to help you make them last longer.
- ‘Social responsibility. Transparent production. ‘
Veja – A favourite of Emma Watson – this shoe brand even have vegan options!
- ‘Despite this green-fronted economy, let’s try to offer a different vision which combines fair trade and ecology and links together economy, social initiatives and the environment.’
Matt and Nat – Vegan leather – beautiful bags and accessories.
- ‘We visit diligently each factory and build strong personal relationships with their owners; they too are a part of the Matt & Nat family.’
We don’t have to start shopping only from ethical brands overnight. We don’t have to become vegan or start protesting outside Topshop immediately. But we can start thinking more. We don’t have to keep mindlessly handing over our hard earned money to brands and companies who have no consideration or care for people or the environment. We can start talking about it more, we can start researching more, and we can start slowly and hope that we stick with it and it helps. We can buy vintage and second hand, we can start mending our clothes rather than chucking them, we can start making informed decisions about what we buy. We can google a brands ethical history before we believe what we read on their website. Eventually wouldn’t it be brilliant if the whole world was full of ethical brands that cared about the impact they have on the planet? We can only get to that point if we stop funding brands that don’t. But we aren’t going to get there overnight, and it is not entirely down to you. We can all make a difference, even with small changes, but we do have to start somewhere. You are not ‘just one person’ together we have power, and if we start asking questions, and spending our money elsewhere eventually brands will have to answer us!
If you think it’s important, and you want to start a conversation read these articles, share them, start talking now.
If you want to find out more read: Grazia’s Ethical Fashion Guide / Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops / Ethical fashion brands you need in your wardrobe / your favourite brands that use sweatshop labour. / Liv Purvis on consumerism