How to shop more ethically. That was the original title of this post. It's so neat and concise and I only wish the solution were equally as elementary. In the past few months I've been thinking a lot about where the things I wear are made and who is making them. The relatively easy part is changing the way I shop and wear clothes and the really messy part of it is that I work in the industry, so my blog is dependent on advertising dollars of retailers and designers and my styling work relies on my go-to resources for certain pieces. It can be such a downer to think about how dismal the situation seems to be, but the good news is that there really are things we can all do to have a serious impact on the situation. Plus, every day there are new companies coming to the market who are creating great fair trade options. After a lot of thought and conversation with people tied to the issue, I thought I would offer up what I've learned so far, as well as a few go-to resources for shopping ethically. (If you're curious about more of my thoughts on the issue, you can read here.) Here we go!
1. Don't buy something unless you need it. Simple enough, right?
2. If you need it, try to find it used. A lot of people say they can't afford to shop Fair Trade or Slavery Free but it doesn't get much cheaper than shopping second hand. (Ebay, consignment or thrift stores are great resources.)
3. Buy ethical if available. This is where things get foggy for me. It's can be a challenge to figure out if a brand you're shopping is ethically made. If you're buying a t-shirt that costs $4.90 then of course it wasn't, but just because it cost $90 doesn't mean it was either. Then of course there are the levels of ethical-ness. How were the fibers grown? Where was the fabric sourced? What factory then constructed the garment? Does that factory abide by green environmental standards as well as ethical practices for it's workers? How in the world is the average shopper supposed to know all of this?! (Keep reading below for some great brands that have been vetted as ethical.)
4. Support the small business owners. A lot of times small business goods are more likely to be made ethically because their small orders aren't large enough for the factories that are able to churn out such low prices. Also, $100 to a smaller business means so much more to their success than it does to the larger chain stores. You're supporting an individual and not a mega machine of overly paid executives.
5. If you do need it and you can't find it used or ethically made or made by a small business owner, then buy it well made so that it lasts a long time and you don't have to replace it any time soon.
I think the biggest challenge with this issue is feeling like our average/meager shopping budgets aren't going to change anything. My refusing to shop at Forever 21 isn't going to put them out of business. However, taking my spending dollars and giving them to small or ethical businesses is going to make those businesses more successful. When ethical businesses are successful, it shows other business owners that there is a model that does good for people and for the environment and that it can be successful and profitable. The goal isn't to take business away from all of these other countries, it's the hope that businesses will continue to do business there and offer their people a living wage and dignified work and conditions. The more we support small businesses doing good, the more employees they will be able to hire. And while H&M might not go out of business because of this blog post, if large chains continue to see dips in their sales and focus groups report that consumers care about where and how things are made, it does put pressure on these companies to make better decisions. Or better yet, maybe we should just get Taylor Swift on this issue stat.
And now for some really practical solutions. Here are some great brands that are ethical shopping options next time you feel like going on a spree...
Everlane Noonday Collection Nisolo Beaumont Organic Aiayu Ace & Jig
Smallable Audrey Blue Purse and Clutch Bhava Osborn Bibico Maska
Threads for Thought Diarte Nomadista People Tree Eternal Creation
Stella McCartney Tea Collection Sseko Fed by Threads Groceries Apparel
Cause Gear Yana Dee Sole Rebels Free Waters Toms Winter Water
Factory Freshly Picked Sonnet James Cuyana To The Market
Indigenous Designs Eileen Fisher Thread Harvest
This is another resource and so is this!
Know of a great brand that's not listed here? Email us at [email protected] and let us know, so we can add it! Hopefully this can become a great resource for people looking to make a difference with their spending dollars.
Photography by Belathee
Hanna Baror-Padilla says
THANK YOU for writing about ethical fashion!! I hope this topic becomes more mainstream among fashion bloggers because it is important to be conscious of our actions that affect other people and the environment. I've been only shopping ethically made clothes for over a year and it is beyond liberating, even therapeutic because I'm no longer shopping out of boredom or insecurity.
There are so many great brands that are producing ethical clothing! I have a page on my blog http://goldpolkadots.com/where-to-shop/ with links to all of the brands I support. I'm also launching a women's clothing line, http://sotela.co/ next spring with pieces that will adapt to your life. Every item will span several sizes so that we don’t ever have to worry about having clothes that won’t fit!
Would love to see more ethical fashion posts! Thanks for addressing an important issue.
Jen Pinkston says
Thanks for commenting Hanna! I will add this link to the post!
Maggie @ encapsulated.me says
What a thoughtful post. As a natural minimalist but newly minted capsule wardrober, I find the "buy less" aspect of conscious consumerism the simplest. As a Mama to three small children, the logistics of buying thoughtfully are more challenging. The relative ease of hitting "submit" on a Gap order that covers me and my littles vs. the pain of taking said littles thrifting (I confess, not for me) or the time required to research... Thank you for sharing the resources that you have, and for the reminder that it's far more important where I do spend than where I don't.
Thanks so much for this post, Jen! I adore your blog and I'm so happy you shared these thoughts.
We are a fashion and lifestyle blog based out of Cambodia. My bestie/blog partner and I started it because we had this shared love for the local textiles available in the region and a growing desire to engage in slow fashion with a focus on good design and good practices when it comes to today's clothes.
With that in mind, Cait (who is now in fashion school in London) has been designing beautiful custom pieces for our friends wardrobes! You can see these outfits on our blog! There's a culture of bespoke and tailored fashion in south east Asia. And with such a base of talent here, we work with local seamstresses who are super knowledgeable at making clothes for the Western female's body (you know - boobs, hips, butts, varied torso and leg lengths).
So nearly everything in my wardrobe has been hand made by Cambodian seamstresses who know a good stitch and can make things last forever. The textiles have been collected from all over, from kitenge that friends bring back from work trips to east Africa, or my search for batik in Indonesia to Cait's amazing embroidered textiles that she sources from artisans in markets in Myanmar/Burma. It's been great working with so many natural textiles here. It's so hot here (nearly 100F or 50C) that polyester and many other synthetics aren't great when it comes to the sweat factor. But working with 100% cotton, silk and related blends has been a godsend.
For the past few years, we've both lived in this part of SEAsia where there isn't a Gap or Zara nearby, but there is constant news about the mistreatment of garment workers whose factories are just a few kilometers away. As a result, having clothes made when we need them has become a routine part of life here. The time it takes to find a quality fabric we like to the design that Cait makes in consultation with clients, to the process of working with a seamstress to make that vision come to life through consultations and fittings makes each outfit so worth it. I get to take the pictures throughout that process and I love that there is a story behind each piece.
So while not everyone has the opportunity to have this relationship with their clothes, you can come quite close to it by purchasing through ethical businesses, and I'm so happy that you raised this topic on your site!
Jen Pinkston says
Cait and Tiff! Thank you so much for this. I so enjoyed reading and can't wait to check out the looks on your blog!
this was such an eye-opening post! and it's something i often think about but can never really wrap my mind around doing--especially when it comes to maternity wear. totally just went on a little zara, h&m, and gap spree for this growing belly. excited to check out some of the new-to-me designers!! xo
Jen Pinkston says
Erin, I totally get it! We all have our go-to places and it's hard to get into a groove of finding new ones and figuring out how to budget for them. I can be such a sucker for Gap and Zara-- especially when it comes to Parker. Baby steps!
I will be pinning this post! I love Everlane tees. I have 3 v-necks & 2 u-necks. The sweatshirt is next on my wish list.
Jen Pinkston says
Yes, love Everlane! Love that sweatshirt too! Maybe this fall... 😉
Thank you for this list, I'll definitely be consulting this!
Thanks Jen...great post and very educational as well(bonus for the small business for shopping brands) xx