Dear Slow Fashion || 7 Things I've Learned In A Year Of Ethical Shopping

Dear ethical fashion movement (slow fashion movement, fashion revolution, whatever you'd like to call yourself), 

This is for you. 

I've been "a part of you" for an entire year now. 365 days of shopping ethically (or not shopping at all). In that short amount of time, I've gone from overwhelmed consumer to passionate advocate to frustrated influencer to "veteran" participant. I began my journey understanding almost nothing about ethical fashion, only that I hoped it was "real" and that it could make a true difference in my life and the lives of the people making my clothes. 

I dove in headfirst (as I tend to do,) without doing much research beforehand — even though, in my initial letter to you, I thought I had "weighed" my decision before making it. I would figure it out as I went, I rationed. And figure it out I did. Not perfectly, not always elegantly. Sometimes I went completely overboard and justified my consumption simply because it was ethically made. I even cheated on you a time or two out of necessity — I felt guilty, I moved on, I learned from it and I told others about it

It's been an entire year, slow fashion, and to be honest, the siren cries and convenience of the fast fashion world seem like a distant memory now. When I said I "dove in," I meant it. I got involved in a community, I engaged with others, I emailed brand upon brand upon brand asking if they'd give me a chance to learn more and advocate for them. I jumped in like it was my job (because, secretly, I hoped it would be one day). 

And do you know what, slow fashion? I'm just as passionate about you as I was on that day I pledged to shop ethically — more so, even. I've seen the ways the ethical fashion movement can change lives, I've met and admired the movers and shakers in the industry (or at least a few I would consider to be), and I've witnessed the quality of a well-made garment created by hands who wanted to create it using materials that aren't harmful to anyone or anything. And I love it. I'm addicted, you could say. Not to the consumption of ethically made goods, but to what I believe the movement can be and what it is becoming day by day. 

True change is possible, slow fashion, and I don't think you would call me a "hopeless optimist" for saying so. 

Jumping into the world of ethical fashion can be overwhelming. Here's how I've made it work for an entire year. And I'm never looking back.

Here are a few other things I've learned this past year: 

1. It's Not Possible (...but keep doing it...)

Hear me out with this one. When I say it's "not possible" to shop ethically, I mean that in today's world, it's simply NOT possible to live a life that is 100% sustainable, ethical, and slow 100% of the time. You might buy Polyester. You might use plastic from time to time. You might buy a bra from Victoria's Secret that you'll wear till it dies, instead of finding an ethically made option that wouldn't fit anyway.

You might mess up, and that's ok. It's not possible to be perfect, but it's worth every good step you take. 

2. "Ethical" has many different meanings

When I jumped into the movement, I was focused mainly on the humanitarian aspect of ethical fashion. I detested the thought the the people making my clothing were likely being mistreated and underpaid. I hated that there was almost no transparency from the brands I was used to buying from. 

But now, I'm realizing that everyone has their own "bent" when it comes to shopping ethically and it's rare to find a brand that can successfully cover all of the "ethical bases". Some are more concerned about the materials used (are they harmful for the environment? Do they use excessive amounts of energy and water to produce? Are they harmful to our bodies?)

Others are concerned about whether or not a product is cruelty-free or vegan. Others only buy from brands who are USA made (or made in the country they call home) in an effort to support their own economy. Furthermore, buying secondhand is it's own version of ethical shopping that many use as their primary way of building an ethical wardrobe. 

Although there are brands who do it all — to the best of their ability — it's ok to be overwhelmed by the depth of the word "ethical". 

3. It's empowering

There are only a few other decisions in my life that I've felt as confident and proud of making as when I made the commitment to give up fast fashion. Now, when I make a purchase, I feel like I'm doing good, not just for myself, but for actual, real, existing, important people around the world. And, selfish or not, there's no better feeling. 

4. My dollars are worth something

"Voting with your dollars" is real. Like my words, my actions, my thoughts, my food — anything, really — my money can be used for good or for not good. This new lifestyle has made me painfully aware of the multi-leveled meaning of "investment pieces". 

5.  It is actually accessible

There aren't just a few brands who are producing ethically. There are so many that I discover new ones each week (every day even).  

6. I'm not alone

Just as there is an ocean of ethical brands, there is an even bigger sea of ethical consumers and influencers who have created an amazing community around ethical fashion. Just browse a few popular hashtags (#fashionrevolution, #whomademyclothes, #ethicalfashion....) and you'll see. 

7. The fashion industry can change, but only if consumers do first

Though it's great that there are so many brands creating ethical products, they only produce to fill the demand created by consumers. The more people stop shopping from fast fashion brands who exploit the hands who make their products (even when their policy states that they adhere to vague safety standards,) and exploit the planet we live on, the less demand there will be for their brand and the bigger the need for ethical brands will be. 

If there's one thing I've learned this year it's that my voice matters, and that I'll never regret using it for something I believe in. 

NOTE: This giveaway is closed, but you can still support Elegance Restored and the amazing work they're doing! 

And to make this post and milestone even sweeter, I'm so excited to share about a fun giveaway happening over at Elegance Restored right now. Their beautiful, artisan-made, handbags are designed and made in Guatemala and retail at nearly $200. If you hop over to my Instagram account you can see more details on how to enter! (Or, if you're a little bit early, check back later today for the giveaway post on my IG). 

Elegance Restored is celebrating the launch of their promotional video and are hoping that this giveaway will help get the word out about the beautiful, important work they're doing to "restore elegance" and dignity to craftsmen and women all over the world. 

Before you enter though, take a few minutes to watch this sweet video about the heart behind Elegance Restored and read about how Kelsey, the brand's founder got her start below. 

I also asked Kelsey a bit more about the background of Elegance Restored: 

"Elegance Restored came out of many different experiences in each of my husband's and my lives that lead up to us being fully prepared for the idea when it came to us. We both have a heart for the discarded people of the world but at the moment we are raising two two year olds and a three year old. We felt we were relegated to sit on the sidelines while not being able to practically do anything for the needs we saw in the world until we were presented with the idea of a fair trade boutique. We let our dreams about it get pretty big and then thought, “why not? dream big or go home right?”
So we dreamt up the idea of a company that was more like a little machine, buying fair trade product and also from impoverished or in need people so that money would be poured into their micro-economy, then using those products to spread awareness to our customers all while stirring up funds for adoptions. Then we realized we would be missing out on a calling if we didn’t jump in and do it.
And we did.. we poured ten thousand of our hard earned, hard saved dollars into the hands of those people who needed encouragement, in Kenya, Nepal, India and Uganda and decided if we never saw that money again we would be glad we just spent it where it was most needed but now we are getting response.. we aren’t the only dreamers out there who want to change the world."

They're a BEAUTIFUL brand doing beautiful things for people around the world. Enter the giveaway here!  

Still with me? 

Let me know in the comments if you've entered the giveaway and where you're at on your own slow fashion journey!

*Note: This post is NOT sponsored by any brand. I'm sharing about the Elegance Restored giveaway on my own and haven't received compensation to do so.*