An Intro To Ethical Fashion: My Transition
This post has been a long time coming. I procrastinated on it because I wanted to make sure my words came out right- it's not a subject I take lightly. Before I sat down to write, I wanted to make sure I was 100% committed, and that I'd thoughtfully processed this topic, instead of mindlessly jumping on a bandwagon.
I tend to do that, you know. Jump on bandwagons. I like immediacy, action, and change, so having a cause feels good to me.
But I wanted this to be more than another cause I jump into and then abandon or forget about after a few months. So I've waited a long time to write this.
I also do not want this to come across as pushy, judgmental, harsh, or any other negative word. I'm not saying this is the choice you need to make too. I simply want to keep you updated with my particular journey into ethical fashion and explain my motivation behind it.
As you probably already know, last year I began the process of simplifying my wardrobe (which was very extensive) down to about 37 pieces/season. I absolutely love the concept of capsule wardrobes, that they're so customizable, and the epitome of practicality.
But the further I dove into the "capsule community" (because, really, there is this amazing online community of women supporting each other) I kept coming across words like "fast fashion", "slow fashion", "sustainable" and "ethically made". And I was intrigued.
In the back of my mind I (like everyone else, I think) was fully aware of the "fast fashion" industry and how it not only produces low quality clothing at an incredible rate, but also treats its workers poorly and pays them even less. In fact, women are buying 1/3 more clothes than they were in 2002, most of them from mega-retailers. According to the Huffington Post, the fashion industry is a 3 trillion dollar/year industry, but only 2% of retailers are paying/treating their workers fairly (often abusing them or making them work against their will). It's the reality, and there's no denying it. It's not that I didn't care, its that I'm so far removed from the issue that it's honestly very easy to live without thinking about it. But even though we all know this, we don't really see how we can change anything about it. I mean, the fashion industry is a looming giant that continues to grow the more we continue to buy (and I don't see that completely stopping anytime soon).
But I also knew that there had to be more options out there and that the words I kept encountering had to mean something. So I dove in and researched brands who were committed to using sustainable materials for their clothing, being intimately involved with those who make their clothes, and won't "mass produce" an item just to make a profit.
And guess what? I found SO MANY BRANDS committed to doing just that. I also found bloggers, entrepreneurs, fashion designers and more who have joined the "slow fashion movement" and are making a real change. Many brands are giving back to help others with the clothes they sell, and others are employing victims of human trafficking or exploitation, paying them fairly for their work and teaching them a trade.
So after I got over my skepticism (which is how all of my internal battles begin), I realized that maybe it was possible to not participate in fast fashion, and to buy only pieces made by those committed to ethical production. So many others have done it, why couldn't I?
Money, essentially. It's pretty obvious that one of the huge perks of fast fashion is its affordability. At stores like Target and Forever 21 you can snag a dress for $20 or outfit yourself for a whole season without breaking the bank. And if you look at my past capsule wardrobes, essentially that's what I did.
Ethically produced items are generally much more expensive, simply because they're using quality materials and paying their employees what they should.
But I won't lie, money was my biggest obstacle to overcome. I can't afford to spend my entire paycheck on a pair of ethically made jeans, or a new handbag. And neither can most people.
So I was intent on finding AFFORDABLE retailers that I could legitimately see myself (and others) buying from.
Obviously, I would have to buy less. That's just par for the course with slow fashion. The pieces are great quality, so they last longer. So I can also justify spending a bit more for something that will last me 10 years as opposed to a single season.
So here's what I decided.
I have stopped buying clothes from retailers who don't use ethical practices. That doesn't mean I'm selling everything I own and replacing it with ethically made items. Not only is that an irresponsible use of resources, and not in line with my "living well with less" mantra, I can't afford it.
My closet is already very minimal as it is, so I'm keeping the pieces I have and love and slowly filling in the gaps with ethically made or second hand* ones.
Eventually, my ethically made pieces will outweigh the un-ethical ones, but that will be quite a long process.
To get started, I've partnered with some amazing brands that I'm so excited to support for the reveal of my Summer capsule wardrobe (hopefully next week!) and I'll show you the exact pieces that I've bought or received recently and the ones I'm carrying over.
*buying second hand clothes is one of the best ways to shop ethically!
As counter cultural as this whole slow fashion movement is, (and really, simple living in itself is counter cultural), I think it is a worthwhile movement that will make many small changes multiply into huge ones. My plan is to put together a guide of affordable/ethical options to make it less of an overwhelming task- so stay tuned! (*UPDATE: View the list here*)
It will be a slow process- transitioning from the old to the ethical- but one that I'm fully committed to making.
What are your thoughts on the slow fashion movement? Do you think it's possible to avoid fast fashion? I'm dying to hear your thoughts.