Earlier this week, as I sat watching The Undateables in my blissfully unaware Monday night state (dressing gown, Quality Street and a middle-of-the-month chin spot appearing), I spotted a tweet from Callie talking about Dispatches. It had just been shown on Channel 4 and was discussing ‘Britain’s Cheap Clothes’- something I hadn’t seen advertised but was keen to catch up on after beginning a chat with her and Hannah about the ethics of fast fashion, consumerism and feeling guilty being part of an industry that flourishes from it.
I mean, let’s make it clear- as part of my ~job spec~ I promote clothes. Perhaps as a fashion blogger I’m in no position to talk about this, but this isn’t a blog post about being someone who is ‘doing it right’ or telling another how to live (I know how it feels to be spoken to as if I’m ‘the bad guy’ and feeling on the defensive is never fun). I know I am part of an issue, and an industry that can promote excessive consumerism. It will always feel strange writing a post about the ethics of fashion that will inevitably be sandwiched between two outfit posts and a video about clothes (even if the sole purpose of the post is inspiration over shopping)- and I know I’m in no position to preach without feeling on the edge of hypocrisy. But saying that, if I can never speak out about things like this- when will I ever be able to start? As someone kindly tweeted me, ‘being self aware isn’t always about being hypocritical’ and making a tiny bit of difference is surely better than making none.
And I’ll firstly be honest here: I love clothes. I love beauty- and honestly, I like most things. I love shopping, My god I do. I have a deeply engrained shopping habit and love talking about clothes- a minimalist I am not. COME ON NOW. I do a video series about shopping, and it genuinely excites me talking to people about clothes- old, new, handmade and what have you (have I said shopping enough, or?) When discussing this on Twitter, someone tweeted ‘buying isn’t a crime, but buying en mass constantly is not sustainable’- which did make me feel marginally better and did make me think. Additionally, my friend Michelle, who also writes the blog Daisybutter wrote a post about ‘haul couture’ and the spending associated with writing a blog, and like her- I never want to fall into a mindset, or allow people to think that you have to spend money to create content. Because lets face it, that’s not why I started.
Before writing this, I was introduced to a podcast called ‘The Guilty Feminist’– a podcast in which different topical issues are discussed weekly, with one of the most recent episodes focusing on ethical fashion. The (bloody hilarious) hosts spoke about the mindset of ‘don’t tell me’ and feeling as if buying something for a low price can sometimes feel like a ‘guilty secret’- knowing someone had to suffer to make it. We hear about disasters such as the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, undercover reveals of poor working conditions and unsafe environments and we cannot turn a blind eye. As Pandora Sykes said in her post about sustainability in fashion, ‘can caring become cool?’ Something that brands such as Reformation are trying to tackle by designing, manufacturing and creating better supply chains from their downtown L.A factories (all whilst using dead stock, vintage and sustainable fabrics).
Don’t get me wrong- I’m not trying to be Miss World after writing one post about this topic. Trust me, I know. Yes, it’s ~hard~ for me to write a post about something sensitive that I essentially contribute to, but not nearly as hard as it is for someone working tirelessly for £3 an hour for 12 hours days, 7 days a week. 85-90% of sweatshop workers are women, which, in light of the recent women’s marches that happened this time last week- mean that these are some of the people we are marching for- and need to be considered into our daily narrative. And that means for everyone. Whether you’re working in a factory, behind a till or on the internet.
So let’s start. Whether that’s asking questions to these retailers, buying less and buying better or really digging into these chains to find out that little bit more. I know it’s easier said than done, but I think we can make smaller steps and change and develop a healthier attitude towards buying. It’s often hard to speak up about something you don’t feel fully informed about (heck that’s why I worry about ever talking about the P (olitics) word) – but starting the discussion, and a conversation with other people with similar thoughts is definitely a step. At least I like to think so anyway.
Grazia on Ethical Fashion / Emma Watson’s favourite ethical fashion brands (including some of my favourites)/Pandora Sykes on ethical fashion / Rosalind’s posts here and here (although she has many, all of which are equally fascinating and eloquent)