Six Ways to Become an Ethical Fashionista
1) Check your labels
Grab five items out of your closet and check the labels to see where they are made. If they are clothes from the high street or mass produced labels, I bet the tag reads ‘Made in China’ (or PRC). I did an audit of my old clothing and shoes about 18 months ago and I was shocked to see that 80% of it was made in China! While we should be ever so grateful to the people in China who do work hard to make our products, I don’t know how grateful we should be to the companies that choose to manufacture in countries where they can:
- pay staff less
- make staff work extraordinarily long hours
- employ or use children
- use hazardous work environments
I make sure the labels on my clothing come from a country I am confident has more laws in place that monitor factory working conditions. I will not buy clothing made in countries where factory working conditions are shady and unlikely to be enforced. If I do buy any clothing made from countries such as China or India, I make sure it has been certified fair trade by an organisation such as the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO, formerly known as IFAT) or Made-By.
2) Check your fabrics
Did you know your ‘regular’ jeans contain about 2/3 of a pound of pesticides and your t-shirt contains 1/3 of a pound? – Del Forte Organic Denim website
‘An estimated 1 million to 5 million cases of pesticide poisoning occur ever year, resulting in 20,000 reported deaths among agricultural workers and at least 1 million requiring hospitalisation’ – Environmental Justice Foundation
These statistics were enough to convince me to immediately switch to organic cotton purchases. There are so many stunning fashion items being made today from organic cotton that there is no need to keep using normal cotton.
Another natural fabric, I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t stopped to think about was silk. I don’t like to list disturbing and gruesome information about the way some animals (or living creatures) suffer for things such as fashion, so if you want to learn more about silk, you can read this information provided by PETA. You can buy Peace Silk or Ahimsa Peace Silk instead, which is just as beautiful but is ‘made from the cocoons of caterpillars who have completed the moth stage and flown away.’
I’ve started to limit the amount of bamboo derived clothing on Green Lashes and Fashion after reading articles such as the following:
Treehugger featured an article, ‘Is Bamboo Clothing Truly Green?’ in which Michael Lackman of Lotus Organics stated, ‘the growing of bamboo is environmentally friendly but the manufacturing of bamboo into fabric raises environmental and health concerns because of the strong chemical solvents used to cook the bamboo plant into a viscose solution that is then reconstructed into cellulose fiber for weaving into yarn for fabric.’
3) Check where you shop
I used to enjoy popping into H&M and finding cute pieces at cheap prices but I no longer visit high street, big name shops due to where the clothing is made and the fabrics used to make the clothing. It wasn’t too hard to end this retail relationship once I saw the benefits such as:
- less chance of running into another girl wearing the exact same outfit as you (the ultimate fashion nightmare)
- increased fashion creativity. Interpreting fashion trends and outfits I see in magazines or on the street with clothing I already own (and a vintage accessory or two).
- the thrill of finding a designer item or high street label at Oxfam for half the price and in excellent quality (perfect for moments when you may be tempted back to the high street).
- supporting ethical labels by shopping at their sites and parading in their eco clothing looking simply fabulous, will increase the popularity and profile of ethical fashion which will then increase the market and lower the prices! It’s a win / win!
Your Resources: If you haven’t checked out ethical shopping online, you may want to check out the following stores (which are also featured on a longer list of shopping sites I have on the side panel of Green Lashes and Fashion).
4) Check what you really need
Before you reach for a pair of harem pants or other ‘must-have item this season’, ask yourself the following questions:
- Will I still be wearing this in a year’s time?
- How often will I wear this?
- What other items in my wardrobe will it go with?
When shopping for new pieces, it’s important to purchase invaluable pieces that will suit your lifestyle. It’s also better to spend more money on one good quality item than several cheaper pieces that will date, loose their shape and / or colour or fall apart.
5) Check out vintage and second-hand stores
This is the greenest option by far because you are using fashion that already exists and not creating a demand for new items to be produced which can impact negatively on the environment and the people making them.
For anyone that thinks vintage is expensive (yes, it can be in big fashion cities) but I’m sure you will find some cool vintage stores in your town or online vintage sellers at Etsy, who will all prove just how affordable vintage can be! You can put together a whole new, fashion forward outfit from Etsy’s vintage sellers for less than $50.
6) Check out your sewing abilities
Upcycled clothing (clothing made from reclaimed fabrics, vintage clothing, end of line fabrics) is exploding in the fashion world right now. What better way to save the planet and look stylish and unique whilst doing it? If you or someone you know can sew, your fashion creations will be limitless but if sewing is not your thing, you’ll be pleased to know you can look online and find many sites and labels are producing some stunning upcycled pieces (see below for listings).
Check you have have a pretty reusable shopping bag for your ethical fashion purchases! You probably have your reusable bags for your groceries but why not keep an extra one solely for clothing purchases in your handbag?