What I Mean When I Say Ethical Fashion is a Privilege

Merriam-Webster defines “privilege” as a being granted a “benefit, advantage, or favor.” I am an extremely privileged individual. My whiteness, my economic status, my education and my able, thin body all grant me a level of advantage in society.

Some people find ethical fashion bloggers annoying—and I don’t blame them. Ethical fashion is annoying for the same reason that vegetarianism is annoying. Both require a certain level of privilege, certain allowances or advantages, in order to easily participate.

When I write something about ethical fashion with the disclaimer that it is a privilege, I am saying that it is important to acknowledge that it is not accessible to everyone.

So, what makes ethical fashion privileged?

Ethical fashion is expensive. That’s if you’re buying new, sustainably sourced items, of course. By nature, it is expensive to create well-made items without cutting corners. It is expensive to source organic materials that don’t cause an unnecessary impact on the earth. And it is especially expensive to make sure all the workers, every step of the way, are getting paid what they’re worth. A basic t-shirt on a well-known sustainable company’s website could easily run for $100. Prices will eventually go down as as demand increases, but as impact investor Christine Lu acknowledged, in an article for Bloomberg, “It’s unaffordable for the average American to be a sustainable consumer right now.” 

Whether shopping new or second-hand, it is time-consuming. It can take a ridiculous amount of time to research a company or find the ethical alternative of whatever item one is searching for. Even with resources like Good On You popping up, not all brands are documented yet, or documented well. Not too long ago, it took me an hour to find any information on a brand as well known as ModCloth. The other, popular option is to rummage the racks at thrift stores and vintage stores. For most middle-class people, thrift shopping is a hobby. It is a leisurely activity in which one spends hours picking through multi-colored, tightly packed racks for the perfect item. It is a day-long, shop-hopping, marathon event. Not everyone has that time. In a sort of twisted way, an activity that was once stigmatized and done out of necessity has become a luxury. If someone with not-too-many dollars to spend on their wardrobe would rather pick out a new garment at Forever 21, where they don’t have to spend all day looking for something “cool,” that’s none of my business.

There are almost no plus size options for ethical fashion. That’s a generous assessment. Like, when hand sanitizer says it kills 99% of germs, just in case. I haven’t been able to find many, and at least not in the lower (ha!) price ranges of popular ethical brands. Everlane’s largest top size is a 16. Same with People Tree. Size 16 is considered the American average. Googling “top ethical brands” will provide no plus size options at all. Even shopping used clothes provides its challenges. Suz Ellis wrote an insightful blog post about fatphobia in vintage and thrift stores, which I recommend reading in its entirety instead of just reading my regurgitated version. She explains that vintage shops put no priority in curating plus sized pieces, thrift stores are often not organized by size at all, and that thinner girls often snatch up larger sizes for trendy oversized looks. All avenues of ethical fashion have made it virtually impossible for plus sized individuals to participate.

There are a lot of people, and I have been guilty of this too, who participate in privileged activism—zero waste living, minimalism, ethical/sustainable fashion, vegetarianism/veganism—by using guilt tactics to try promote their ideals. The general tone of these movements often communicates, “This is an obvious choice. This isn’t even that hard. Why aren’t you doing it yet?” Those of us who say that it is easy and obvious often fail to follow those statement with an important asterisk: “for me.”  

No one should have to feel guilty for what they aren’t able to do. You are not failing if you don’t have the time, money, or body type to join movements that are set up for those who do. Because society is structured for someone like me to navigate through life with less obstacles, I can worry more about my clothes. Sometimes taking care of ourselves needs that time and energy instead.

All of that being written, I still think ethical fashion is good.

There is nothing inherently wrong with utilizing privilege to participate in activism. In many ways, I feel that it is my responsibility to acknowledge my privilege and use it in every space that I can. If I can afford to shop sustainable brands, and have the time and resources to support them, I feel like it’s kind of my duty to do so. (Of course, using one’s privilege is not relegated only to the ethical fashion realm, but that’s what this blog is about.) What is wrong is passing judgement on others and trying to force my privileged forms of activism onto them.

Let’s make good use of what privileges we have, where we can (and stop assuming everyone else has the ability to do so in the same ways.)

Let’s Talk about Faux Fur

Fur vs. faux fur. As an ethical consumer, faux is the obvious choice when one wants a little furry flair, right? In a 2017 article for the Los Angles Times, Janet Kinosian wrote that faux fur “offers you a chance to look festive … without the guilt.” However, the choice is a little more complex than Kinosian makes it out to be.

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At a glance, the option that doesn’t require the death of animal is the most ethical choice. Duh. But it turns out faux fur is just the lesser of two evils, so it is still, to some degree, evil. The synthetic material that fake fur is made out of is pretty much just plastic, meaning it’s likely to never biodegrade. (Real fur will eventually biodegrade even though it is heavily treated with chemicals to preserve it.) This is an issue in itself, but it is especially an issue when these faux fur coats are bought more for trend than for warmth. Meaning, when people buy them they aren’t planning on breaking them out every winter but, rather, to wear them once or twice for fun. They end up in a landfill in a jiffy.

This coat is made up of 34% polyester and 66% modacrylic. Both of these materials cause harm to ocean-dwellers as well as being toxic to us, as a 2015 study released in Scientific Reports revealed that these fibers were found in the bellies of fish being sold at markets in California. Growing research compiled by Patagonia shows that these micro-plastic fibers are released when we wash any clothing item made from synthetic material, but a coat like this, which sheds without any prompting, will release any especially large quantity of microplastic fibers.

I’m obviously not here to tell you that you need to avoid all faux fur because, as pictured, that would be a bit hypocritical. Instead, proceed with caution. I know my personal style well enough at this point to know that I am actually going to wear a crazy piece like this a ton, and not just chunk it after newness of it wears off. When purchasing, really think about if it’s just impulse or something you will wear a lot. Whatever you buy, buy second hand. It’s best not to contribute to companies creating cheap synthetic fur, as this just send them to signal to keep on creating more indestructible plastic coats. Just continue the life of an old one. I bought this one at Goodwill, and lots of other thrift stores have tons of wacky coats like it. When it comes to releasing fibers in the wash, Patagonia is one of the first companies to invent the “GUPPYFRIEND” Washing Bag–a bag to put synthetic clothing in that catches the little fibers. (This is useful for other clothing, as well.) I have yet to invest in one of these because, full disclosure, I don’t think coats need to be washed too often and plan on climbing that hill when I get to it.

Make whatever fashion statements you want, just make them informed.

The incredibly talented photographer who took these portraits is Kylie Atkinson, who you absolutely need to follow on Instagram this very minutes.

Make It Last: How to Mend Your Own Clothes

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Sewing is a practice of sustainability. You probably forgot sewing was an actual skill-set and not just the punchline of sexist jokes. However, producing, consuming, and throwing away fewer pieces of clothing all hinge on one habit– keeping your clothes for longer. When you dance a little too hard and a hole materializes in the armpit of your favorite top, don’t just throw it away. That’s your favorite top, darn it. A lot of people are held back by the assumption that they are not skilled enough to fix their clothing or that it is a skill that older, more feminine humans are supposed to learn. I do not care how old you are or what your gender identity is, you can and should learn how to mend your own clothing. Emphasis on can.

I may tell you some things that would make my mother’s professional-seamstress-heart cry, but it will get you through. I’m not going to make my own tutorials because there already so many great ones out there, so I will just link you to think ones that are most helpful.

Create a small kit.

This shouldn’t cost more than seven dollars, and should last a long time. Items on this list can be purchased from your favorite craft store, Walmart, or stolen from your grandmother’s house.

  • scissors
  • a package of needles (I always get the widest eyes to make threading easier.)
  • black and white thread (You’ll almost always sew from the inside, so they won’t be seen anyway.)
  • a cheap pin and cushion set
  • a good attitude (You got this!)

How to repair a hole in most garments.

This video from youtuber Koumori No Hime Cosplay is so clear and simple, you’ll get the hang of it in no time. This can go for any hole, not just one in a seem. The ladder stitch makes the thread almost invisible.

How to repair a hole in a sweater, specifically.

This video by Professor Pincushion is a bit similar to the first video that I linked, but it contains some important information pertaining specifically to sweaters. When a clothing item is knitted, a hole could cause the entire garment to unravel, so sewing up a hole takes just a bit of extra care.

How to sew on a button.

I love that giant button. Also, Nicki Callahan’s dolphin simile: 10/10. Anyway, everyone needs to know how to sew on a button. This video makes it super easy to see how it is done.

Ending thoughts: security over beauty. When you’re repairing a garment, you’re usually going to flip it inside out, so you’re not going to see the stitching anyway. Don’t worry about perfection, your clothes will appreciate the TLC nonetheless. If you’re getting frustrated, take a break.

If you’re financially secure enough, you can just pay a tailor to do it. They’ve got to put bread on the table too. It’s important to know how to fix something in a pinch, but it’s no less sustainable to pay a professional if you can afford it.

Handmade and Recyled Holiday Gift Guide

For the good of humanity, I am exposing what I plan to give all of my friends for Christmas. I don’t want you to give your friends another round of body sprays you got on sale at Bath and Body Works this year. You’re better than that. Instead, take a look at how I plan to up-cycle most of the gifts I am giving this holiday season. I hope you’ll see that recycling or hand-making gifts does not have to look cheap and obvious.

Wax Food Wraps from Recycled Fabric


This is the perfect gift to passive aggressively prompt your friends and family to be more environmentally conscious! Wax food wraps have been all over the internet this year and it turns out they can be made fairly easily and almost entirely out of recycled materials. You’ll need fabric (cotton, or anything thick with no stretch), beeswax, and parchment paper. Separate them into gift sets of three or four different sizes, and add a label that explains to wash them in cold water and use around 150 times.

Do not buy new fabric to make these. Instead, turn first to what you have laying around. That bag of clothes you’ve been meaning to take to Goodwill? Search it for pieces you can cut up into squares. If you can’t find anything, thrift. Thrift store usually have tons of fabric in bags on the back shelves but you could also buy clothing pieces to cut up for this too. Just throw them all in the wash before using. I actually already own tons of fabric scraps from past projects, so this is a great way to use up fabric that might otherwise go to waste. There is a way to make these in the oven and with a clothing iron. I’m linking tutorials to both because I definitely didn’t come up with either of these methods. I’m planning on experimenting with some other kinds of waxes for my vegan pals.

Treats to Go With

If you want to try making wax wraps, some kind of baked good would pair marvelously as a gift. Even if you are not much of a baker, there are tons of classic Christmas favorites like chocolate dipped pretzels, which are impossible to mess up. However, I feel like most people have at least one recipe that they really enjoy making, so I say go with what you’re best at doing. This adds a little more depth to the gift and gives you an opportunity to show the recipient how to use the wax wraps.

Books

Books are one of the greatest gifts of all time. From an objective perspective, of course. You can buy them second hand form your local book store, and will probably be able to find almost any book you looking for, or you can take time and dig through thrift store stacks. I think a book that was picked out with the recipient in mind is such a thoughtful gift. Add a note to the book about why you liked it or why you picked it out for your specific friend. Small personal touches make all of the difference when gifting.

Mugs

I am guilty of giving mugs as gift way, way, way too often. But who can’t use another quirky mug? I love finding super weird vintage mugs at second hand stores and antique stores. They are never too expensive and are always unique. I bought my sister one that said “sisters are forever” on it, which is wonderfully ominous. These can be filled with cookies and treats, or paired with some nice tea. If you are feeling more crafty, search Goodwill for some blank mugs and design a personalized mug. Using a sharpie, draw flowers, quotes, inside jokes, or obscure tv references only your friend would understand. They Sky is the limit. Then, put them in the oven for 20 minutes at around 350 degree, and then let them cool inside.

Gift Wrapping

I may be giving you the same advice over and over again, but a lot of people do not realize the variety of things you can thrift. On the back shelves in thrift stores there are giant bags full of ribbons and lace for just a couple of dollars. All of the notions pictured above were from thrift store grab bags. (And for you nitpicky readers, I know two of those are bias tape, but they work just as well as ribbon, promise.) I think tying up a gift in a bow, with no wrapping paper, is a super simple way to make your gift pretty with out a bunch of excess. Try using book pages to make gift labels or wrap small gifts. I also grabbed some pretty colored paint chips from the hardware store to make gift labels. I don’t think this counts as recycling but it is cute and free, which is also nice.

Bonus (for the brave):

Embroidery! It is not as hard as many people assume that it is. Shirts with little embroidered phrases or symbols are all the rage. There are tones of blank t-shirts in all colors and sizes at thrifts stores. Pick one up at Goodwill, a 50 cent package of embroidery thread (that stuff you used to make friendship bracelets in sixth grade) and needles, and just spend a little time trial-and-erroring and youtubing. This is another way to make a super personal, inexpensive, and recycled gift. This video is a super simple guide to a few different stitches.

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I suppose I should end this post with an apology to my friends and family for telling them (and all of the internet) what they are getting for Christmas. I’m not going to do that, though.

How to Know If a Brand is Sustainable, Greenwashing, or Just Hoping You Won’t Ask

Look, some clothing brands are like your toxic ex. They only pretend to clean up their act when they’re afraid you’ll leave them. That’s what we call greenwashing. The term has been floating around for years but is especially relevant as the idea of sustainability continues to gain popularity in the fashion world. In an article for the Guardian, Bruce Watson defines greenwashing as the name for when businesses “present themselves as caring environmental stewards, even as they [are] engaging in environmentally unsustainable practices.” Figuring out who is telling the truth, who is a good liar, and who isn’t even trying can feel messy, so I am detailing a few different ways to check up on a business’s sustainability practices.

Start on the website. Sometimes it is simpler than you think. If a brand is really transparent, they’re going to have the information easily accessible from their homepage. Being a responsible brand takes a lot of work, so bragging is of upmost priority. Compare, for example, the website’s of  Patagonia and Forever 21. “Inside Patagonia” lives at the top of the screen on Patagonia’s main menu bar, linking you directly to their sustainability practices. In contrast, you won’t find any information on Forever 21’s homepage until you scroll all the way to no-man’s-land at the bottom of the screen, where a “Social Responsibility” tab is found. Sometimes these tabs will have titles like “about” or “ethics statement” instead. If you’ve done all the clicking you can on your favorite brand’s site to no avail, then there is pretty much no chance they are sustainable. They aren’t even trying to pacify you. Although sometimes eagerness is a sign of greenwashing, generally brands that are green are going to be upfront about it.

Know difference between evidence and fluff. Ask yourself if the brand is just stating broad claims or if they are answering the question of how. I’m going to stick with our previous examples. Some companies’ whole idea of sustainability is writing somewhere on their website “We love the earth and care about our workers!” But, like, what does that even mean? How? In what specific ways are they proving that they care? If their CEO just sits in an office somewhere and thinks really, really hard about putting positive vibes into the universe, that’s not good enough. Look for meaningful and tangible evidence at a structural level. Sticking with our past examples, Patagonia’s information spans from how their cotton is produced to where their wool is sourced from to what a living wage means to them. That is evidence.

Fluff can take many shapes and forms. Often the brand’s fluff is some type of once a year event, like employees planting trees or a recycling drop-off, which may sound nice but in reality is irrelevant to what we are interested in– how the company functions on a structural level. The article “Selling and Sustainability Primer for Marketers” published by Futerra is actually meant for businesses to read rather than consumers, but it has an easy to read list of commonly used greenwashing techniques to look out for on page 11. Forever 21 is guilty of many of these, such as “Emphasizing one tiny green attribute when everything else is un-green.” It’s like throwing down a smoke bomb so they can run away. The first bullet on their sustainability page states that their shopping bags are recyclable. Cool beans, F21. I’ve never met a plastic bag that couldn’t be recycled. What’s going on in your factories?

Give that bad boy a google. If you’ve read the sustainability page and are still feeling a little uneasy it’s fine to start broadly with Google. If it is a very large company, you may be able to find lots of articles or reports on it. If it has had any scandals, those will pop up pretty quickly. Use keyword like “ethics,” “sustainability,” or “factories.”

Know the difference in expectation for different business models. We have to have different expectations for different types and sizes of businesses. For instance, for a large brand it is important to look for information on factory emissions and fair wages. In comparison, when researching small businesses or local businesses, you may not need quite as much information to know that they are sustainable. When a business is small, they don’t have the means to be wasteful. If items are handmade and the staff is small, then there is no need to reject them for not having factory information because they don’t even have a factory. Unless they are outsourcing, just by the way that they are structured, smaller businesses are not going to be an issue. By the same logic, a fast fashion company cannot be truly sustainable by definition because they profit off of the concept of cheap, fast, and disposable. If you see a cute sweater in the window and know you can check back next week to find it on the clearance rack, the store is functioning under the fast fashion model.

It may feel daunting to do the research at first, but it gets way easier as you get used to it. As consumers, we decide what practices we are willing to condone with our dollars. Don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t matter.

My Top 5 Ethical and Sustainable Brands

We are constantly consuming ads from fast fashion brands all over social media, but sometimes finding those careful and conscious brands seems like a lot of work. I have compiled a list of my favorite ethical brands, big and small, to make finding them a little easier.

Culture Flock

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Culture Flock creates playful and positive graphic tees and sweatshirts designed by artist right here in Missouri. They were an online only store for years, but, as of October 11th, they opened a brick and mortar store In Springfield, MO.

Price Range: $-$$

The prices are pretty typical, around $25 for tees and $45 for sweatshirts. Keep in mind that this is a small, artist run business creating unique and lasting designs, so these prices are not too shabby at all. Older designs will often be on sale for less, as well.

Ethics Statement:

“We design, create, and handprint all of our wearables in a historic warehouse space in downtown Springfield, MO. We print our designs on Bella + Canvas or Alternative Apparel clothing. Both of these manufacturers place a high priority on social responsibility & sustainable practices, which is why we’ve chosen to work with them.”

Uniqlo

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I have no words for Uniqlo. Or maybe too many. Considering Uniqlo is a large brand that can be found in malls, they do as much as a brand of their size can to reduce waste. They create high-quality basics that come in an array of different colors. Uniqlo is a great brand to use as the building blocks of your wardrobe. And might I add, the pieces I own from Uniqlo are all very professional and COMFY AS HECK. Although the best part of shopping ethically is supporting smaller brands, shop here if you need something in a crunch and don’t have time to search.

Price Range: $ !!!

One of the most inexpensive sustainable brands on the known planet, probably. They have the closest rival in pricing to fast fashion brands.

Ethics Statement:

Here is a link to Uniqlo’s sustainability page. It is information overload in the best way possible. The more information a company can give us on their sustainability practices, the better.

Uniqlo seeks to reduce waste by creating long lasting products and making sure their products that are no longer being used are given to those in need if in good condition or recycled if no longer wearable. Their recycling program is much more nuanced and further developed than the gimmicky one put on by H&M. How clothes are recycled is tailored specifically to the area each store is placed.

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Take a look at number 4. “Clothing is delivered in consideration of local needs, climate, culture, and religion.” This program is incredible well thought out and there is plenty more information available.

I could summarize all day, but instead take a look at their site to see further information on their factories and values.

Big Bud Press

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Not to be dramatic, but I love Big Bud Press more than I love myself. Big Bud offers a line  of colorful unisex clothing that is made in LA. They have t-shirts, jumpsuits, fanny-packs, trousers, backpacks and more.

Price Range: $$-$$$

A bit on the pricier side, with t-shirts coming in at about $40 and jumpsuits at $160. But hot dang, those jumpsuits get me every time. You get what you pay for with this brand: a unique item that is packed full of fun.

Ethics Statement:

“All of Big Bud’s products are very proudly USA made and we take pride in our high quality and attention to detail!” This statement doesn’t seem like much, right? So, how do I know that they’re ethical?

They don’t have all the information on their main website, but they are very transparent on social media. There is a highlight on their Instagram dedicated to production, where they keep videos of their items being sewn and t-shirts being printed. As a smaller brand, they do not have to worry as much about producing excess waste. Any defective or messed up items are sold at deeply discounted sales rather than being thrown out.

Everlane

Hip and minimalist are the two words I would use to describe Everlane. They have quality constructed basics, but basics that are very “in”. They offer a few different styles in several different muted tones.

Price Range: $$-$$$

I like to use t-shirts as a comparison point, so note that Everlane’s tees fall around $32 dollars. Denim runs around $68, but they are built to last. I would note that they seem to run a little small, as I has trouble fitting into a pair in my usual size.

Ethics Statement:

“We spend months finding the best factories around the world–the same ones that produce your favorite designer labels. We visit them often and build strong personal relationships with the owners. Each factory is given a compliance audit to evaluate factors like fair wages, reasonable hours, and environment. Our goal? A score of 90 or above for every factory.”

Everlane also offers a break down of how much their items cost to make, and then shows how much they charge in comparison. “Radically transparent” is there motto.

Click through profiles of every one of their factories here.

Patagonia

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Surprise! The choice attire of frat boys everywhere is actually one of the leading brands in sustainability.

Ethics Statement:

“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Patagonia offers ambitiously comprehensive information on their production on their website. They offer insight on everything from the growing of their organic cotton to their fair trade certified factories. They even give grants to grass roots activists around the word to further environmentalism outside of their company as well. They also have a section of their website titled “Worn Wear” which offers used Patagonia gear at a discounted price.

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This is just scratching the surface on brands that offer a plethora of different styles without harming humanity or the only earth we’ve got. If you didn’t see a brand that piqued your interest, I hope you were, at least, able to see that there is no reason to settle for fast fashion brands.

How to Shop Ethically While Traveling

A souvenir does not have to be an “I heart NYC” shirt or a gator head bought at a gas station in Florida. Shopping ethically during my travels this summer was actually helpful to both my wallet and to meeting the luggage weight limit. I ended up only coming home with items that I really loved instead of tons of gaudy chotchkies. Here are some tips I learned throughout my travels this summer.

Thrift stores are unique in every city.

Every city has a unique style. I find that when I am in a new city, I start to notice small details about how the people there dress differently than I’m used to seeing back home. A thrift store will also contain these little nuances, so don’t feel weird about stopping at Goodwill in a new city. Even when traveling abroad, many places have thrift stores that go by a different name, such as a charity shop. A unique item you spend time searching for carries sentimental value and an ability to remind you of your travels (maybe even more than a snow globe). The main difference is that you will actually use it instead of having it sit on your shelf or in the back of your closet.

Keep your eye out for vintage shops.

In New York City I was SURROUNDED by vintage stores. It was heaven. Some of the coolest parts of the city I visited were because I searched for the locations of a few vintage shops online and then just branched out and explore the surrounding area.

Look for local art shops.

No matter where you go, there will probably be a community of local artist trying to make it. Look for places that real people are designing and selling things they make. It is not hard to do a quick google search. You can find much more eclectic t-shirt designs that locals actually wear or just generally interesting items.

Do your research and read the tags.

If you have access to your phone, the world is your fair-trade and sustainably farmed oyster. Google to your hearts content. I am not going to lie to you and say that shopping ethically while you travel is easy, but it is definitely possible and accessible if you are willing to put a little effort into it. I made a practice of reading the tags on items to see if their is any information on its origins, and was surprised to find that if an item is sustainable or ethical, it is usually eager to tell you so. Don’t be afraid to ask store owners or workers about where their clothing is made. If something looks suspicious, it probably is.

Get creative.

Don’t be afraid to bring home more obscure souvenirs. Locally roasted coffee beans (the bag will usually indicate if they’re fair-trade) or books about the new place. If you are traveling abroad, always grab different types of candy and snacks from the country. I have a friend who grabs business cards from all of the different places she visits. You are only as limited as your mind.

 

 

Hot Take: Is H&M Recycling a Scam?

H&M has been advertising a program in which the buyer donates their old clothing to their local H&M for recycling in exchange for 15% off of their next purchase. Sounds pretty awesome, right? Is it, though?

No? Maybe. Kind of.

I’d advise a healthy dose of suspicion toward fast fashion companies in general, but especially when they suddenly advertise their image in a way that is contrary to their entire system of functioning. Being “sustainable” and having a new display of clothing every week is just not compatible. It is important to ask what H&M’s motive is and even to question our own motive in participating.

This fast fashion company has gotten in trouble in the past for the mass shredding of never before sold or worn clothing. The recycling program, which has been going on for a couple of years, if my memory serves me correctly, is part of an attempt to shine up the store’s sullied image. Trying to clean their image is not a problem necessarily, but it is not entirely genuine.

The 15% off coupon is a huge incentive for most people, considering H&M’s already low prices. If a person drops off one bag of clothing and leaves with three new bags, has anything good truly been accomplished? It seems like one step forward and two steps back. It has the potential to create more waste than it eliminates.

It is also important to consider that clothing recycling is not magic. The act of shipping the clothing around and breaking it down for re-use is also a use of resources. A good use of them, but maybe your clothing could have a second life on a friend or in a re-sale shop before needing to reach its final demise. It is a fairly new practice that is rigorous and in need of more research for efficiency.

Recycling is always better than throwing away, but it is not better than not creating or consuming excess in the first place.

The final decision and conclusion is in your hands. Mostly, I urge you to never stop thinking critically.

 

Overall Style (Ethical Update)

As someone trying ardently to support sustainable and ethically conscious fashion, I have been thinking a lot about the effect of repping brands that I do not support anymore by continuing to wear their items. I have not come to a clear cut solution, but let me take you through my thought process. Maybe you will have some insight to offer me on the conversation.

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This outfit is old. I bought all of these pieces around two years ago. The shirt is from Forever 21, the overalls are from the Gap, the shoes were a gift, and the socks from an estate sale. When I bought this shirt, I still had not given up shopping at Forever 21. Knowing what I know now about their lack of transparency and many scandals, my Forever 21 days are long gone. However, I am often left questioning whether or not I should still wear the items that I already have from them, even if I am no longer currently shopping there.

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My first instinct was to say no. For the sake of starting over fresh in this ethical fashion process, I should purge my wardrobe of all of the remnants of my ignorance. I did not want anyone to accuse me of faking it or still supporting companies I claimed to renounce. I thought, if someone liked my shirt and asked where it was from, I would have to tell them I bought it at Forever 21 and then I would be unintentionally promoting them.

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After further thought, I have come to a different conclusion. If I still like the piece of clothing, even it is from a place I no longer support, I am going to keep wearing it until I am actually done with it. There is enough clothing waste in the world to begin with, and I cannot undo my past mistakes by being wasteful with the clothing items I have now. The only purpose ridding myself of the items would serve now is to make myself feel better without actually doing any good but adding to landfills and thrift store piles.

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We may want everything to be black and white, but sometimes the best solution is truly a nuanced one; a solution that takes more thought to arrive. Instead of being ashamed when someone asks where my top is from, I think it could actually be a great opportunity to spread awareness of ethical fashion. I can take the opportunity to briefly explain why I no longer shop there anymore.

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Living conscious of one’s effect on the world is not about rigidity and perfection. Being legalistic will ultimately cause frustration and failure. I am doing my best to hold myself to high standards without creating an atmosphere for disappointment. Have you been able to find a balance in your attempts to be conscious? Let me know your thoughts on this conversation, even if you disagree.

Let’s keep learning together and challenging one another!