Ethics in Fashion
-inspired by Alexa Chung
However, this doesn't really explain what it means to be ethical when dealing with what we wear. Ethics, and it's place in fashion relates to which materials are used, how/who makes the clothes, the way they are treated and general morals. Most big name shops in the UK do not have their clothes made in England. They come from all over the world, commonly the far east.
When on my work experience in London last year, I worked with a company who are pretty much the 'middle men' of knitwear in the UK. They work with ASOS, Topshop and Next to name just a few. While there, I learnt that most of the clothes were made by factory workers in places like China or Turkey. Towards the end of my week there, my supervisor was due to fly out to these factories and make sure they compiled with morals and legislation, which basically means making sure the working conditions are appropriate and that the workers get a fare wage for the hard work they put in.
sneak peek inside my wardrobe
Since then I've tried to be careful where I shop but it's hard to know which shops are worth investing in when it's no secret that there are businesses out there, such as Primark, who have an awful reputation regarding morals and fair trade. To work around the fact that there is little information out there on the subject, I try to stick to the shops that my work experience company worked with, as I know the process behind how they get their knitwear and have little reason to suspect it's anything other than ethical. Unfortunately my only other rule, is "don't trust cheap shops". Never mind the fact there is little satisfaction to be had when picking up a poor quality pair of jeans for a tenner, as a general rule, clothes are not cheap and if a shop is offering you visually the same as another but at a much lower price, does that not make you suspicious as to what they do differently in able to charge that price?
I won't pretend to be an expert on the subject, in fact I could be entirely wrong about Primark but if I don't know where the clothes I'm wearing have come from or who has made them (and in Primark's case why it is so cheap), I don't enjoy it as much as a piece that I know has been made by a happy worker in good conditions with a fare wage. That said, there isn't much else you can do regarding where your clothes come from and I still feel rather guilty for my ignorance on the matter!
Alexa Chung, a fashion icon to say the least, has spoken out about the subject in a recent issue of VOGUE that grabbed my attention:
"I was first made aware of the appalling conditions factory workers are often forced to work under while filming a documentary in 2008 for Channel 4.The idea was to recreate a sweatshop environment in a makeshift Covent Garden factory, in which we then invited high-street shoppers to work. Most grumbled about the dirty water, sweltering heat, poor pay and forced overtime. A good few quit almost instantly. Questionable ethics isn't the only disturbing factor in the production of the clothes I love. Ecologically sound brands try to limit the vast carbon footprint that production and distribution create, while fair-trade brands ensure that nobody in the creative chain is taken advantage of financially."
Now you're probably wondering why I'm telling you all this when it seems there isn't much you can do about it. Well yes, unless you're going to go on a world wide tour of all clothing production lines and give them a good talking to, there isn't. But there are things you can do regarding the other area of ethical fashion; the earth.
Admit it, we're all guilty of running into our favourite shop, immediately seeing what our brain tells us is a 'to-die-for' item and then staring lovingly at our new purchase in our wardrobe, where it stays...for the foreseeable future. Okay so maybe it wasn't a 'to-die-for' piece after all but hey at least I'm up to date with the trends, right? Actually, wrong. No one suits everything, and taking the time to try on and browse clothes will not only benefit your appearance but is also much more ethical. (hooray!)
Quick and easy guide to being ethical
You've found the most beautiful item of clothing in, like, forever and are ready to get in line and hand over your cash for it but should you really be investing in it?
here's a check-list to help you decide:
1) Do you own anything that you can wear it with all ready?
yes = buy
no = hold back
2) Can you, on the spot, imagine the item being styled/worn
in at least 3 different ways?
yes = what are you waiting for? buy it!
no = maybe not
3) Do you love it because YOU love it or because it is just
I LOVE IT = yes
um... = no
Asking yourself these questions before you buy will enable you to spend your money on timeless buys, things that will last and be given opportunities to escape the wardrobe more than just once. It also, means someone who that item really suits can have it instead, which means 1 less has to be made. Most materials ARE NOT sustainable and we're all to keen to forget this, especially when it comes to clothes. When you finally are done with an item, don't just chuck it away. A charity shop will be entirely grateful for anything you take to them and it won't do your conscience any harm either!
"Statistics suggest that on average, UK consumers send 30kg of clothing and textiles per capita to landfill each year and that 1.2 million tonnes of clothing went to landfill in 2005 in the UK alone. Moreover, textiles present particular problems in landfill as synthetic (man-made fibres) products will not decompose, while woollen garments do decompose and produce methane, which contributes to global warming.
As textile consultant Kate Fletcher points out ‘Fast isn’t free – someone somewhere is paying’ It’s also clear that the environment is suffering too. .."http://www.ethicalfashionforum.com/the-issues/fast-fashion-cheap-fashion
If Fashion addict Alexa can do it, so can we! Today I reworked my cream shirt (see #3) into a comfy and casual 'rainy day' look. I loved the layering effect it created especially with the rolled up sleeves. I felt it bought something new yet so simple to the outfit, which clenches my thirst for new clothes a reasonable amount!