I’m about to share a cause dear to my heart, so I request your audience. You’d think that as somebody who writes a fashion blog, that I’d be constantly on the prowl for new clothes, expanding my ever changing closet, but as I dove into the fashion industry through working in retail, exploring my personal style, and doing my own research, I learned about it’s dark and snarling underside.
As a jobless university student, it’s so easy to resort to stores like Forever 21, Zara, H&M, and Urban Outfitters for low-budget, yet stylish finds. Feeling good in what we wear and staying ontop of trends keeps us always browsing, perusing malls and online sites. For many years, I was addicted to shopping. The result of my countless hours of window shopping and online browsing was minimal, maybe only purchasing a single shirt after five hours at the mall. I remember telling friends that if I hadn’t bought new clothes in awhile (a month or two), I would feel an urge to look at clothes, even if I didn’t end up making a purchase. I would browse and browse, save links to my to-be-purchased tab, rarely ever returning to seal the deal.
It was all the consumerism with none of the commitment.
In January 2017, I made the decision to shop ethically for my clothes. You may ask: What is ethical fashion? The Ethical Fashion Forum defines it as, “an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximises benefits to people and communities while minimising impact on the environment.” (1) Some would expand this definition to include ethical treatment of animals, some deciding to abstain from purchasing leather or other animal products altogether.
It was on a calm Saturday morning, amidst a lull in school obligations, that I looked at my closet and saw clutter. I saw wasted money. Wasted time. Tacky trends stitched into the hems of clothes I wore three times, two of those instances never even leaving the house. A pair of jeans that I bought for the sole purpose of being my “goal pants”.
A flurry of questions pervaded my mind: How much of this do I actually wear? Why did I buy all of this? Who made these clothes? What are the factories like? These curiosities resulted in a Saturday spent purging my closet while listening to auto-playing videos of capsule closets, reasons to shop ethically, and minimalism on Youtube.
The darkness in the clothing industry was not revealed to me on a whim. I remember hearing about the factory collapse in Bangladesh that occurred in 2013, where the production of brands such as Joe Fresh, Primark, Walmart, and Mango were housed. From the building collapse, there were more than 1,100 deaths and around 2,500 non-fatal injuries. I was disgusted to hear that even after cracks had been discovered the day before, the workers were ordered to return to work in light of the upcoming deadlines. (2)
GRAPHIC IMAGES BELOW
Five years later, the rubble has cleared, yet many have continued to shop at retailers that employ workers for pathetic wages, long hours, and hazardous work environments. Many people across the globe choose to live in fear when working in unsafe conditions for a measly paycheque. These images are not to shock you into making an immediate change, but it was crucial to me that we remember our humanity and understand the connection between what clothes we buy and the hands and lives of those who make them, as it is all too easy in this Western world of instant gratification, individualism, and consumerism (of all mediums) to forget.
Ethical fashion has led me on journey to a deeper understanding of my personal style, an analysis of how I find my identity in my clothes, and how I live out my Christian faith. If I am to authentically love people, it means recognizing the intrisic worth of every individual, even those beyond the narrow scope of what my eyes can see in front of me. It means seeing the story behind every garment; everything that I take for granted means somebody else’s access to basic needs.
Since making a conscious decision to shop ethically, I have been looking at clothes less, shopping only at thrift stores and from ethical brands, and researching what makes an ethical brand (e.g. material sourcing, worker wages, working conditions, treatment of animals, environmental impact).
I know that this cause isn’t isolated to just clothes; behind makeup, stationary, food, and anything within our consumeristic world is subject to creating the supply to meet the demand. It’s a small thing and my choice to abstain from shopping from these brands may seem insignificant, but if one has received the knowledge, then it is their responsibility to act upon it.
As always, I greatly appreciate your attention and time spent in my little corner of the interwebs,
EDIT: I have been piecing together this article bit by bit for over a year, and in advocating for transparency from clothing companies, I should be transparent myself. In the past few months, I have bought a few items from brands that are moderately ethical at best. It’s been very challenging for me to find certain articles of clothing from thrift stores, such as athletic wear. My personal journey with this is to take things step-by-step and to do the best with what I have now. I’m still growing and figuring things out and as I do so, I will continue to update y’all, as now I am accountable to you, the reader.
References + Further Reading: