There are many factors that make up ethical fashion. I tend to classify them into two main categories – people and planet. From what I’ve observed over the past five years, most of the ethical fashion movement has been focused on improving the ways that fashion affects the planet. I think that eco-fashion, as it’s often called, is extremely important, but my heart has always gone out to the people who make the products we buy (though it’s true that people and the planet are intricately connected). When I went searching for “ethical fashion” resources, I found many sites devoted to environmentally sustainable fashion but didn’t find much direction for ethical alternatives that supported human flourishing rather than exploitation.
During college, my concern was sparked by news like this article where 54 people were killed when a textile factory with only one exit caught on fire. And it seems as though the situation for garment workers has only gotten worse since then. Last year we experienced the worst disaster in the fashion industry’s history, when 1,100 garment workers died in a building collapse in Bangladesh.
After graduating college in 2009, and before I landed my first job, I had some time on my hands – so I decided to make a list of all the brands that manufactured the clothes in my closet and research their labor practices. Just by searching the Internet, I was appalled to find that most of the brands I wore had human rights violations. I was upset, but I honestly wasn’t sure where I could go to shop in an ethical way.
Fast forward to July 2012 – I decided just to take the plunge and start somewhere. I vowed that for one year, I would buy only ethically manufactured clothing. I decided to focus primarily on clothing that was either second hand, made in the USA, or fair trade. With second hand clothing, I knew that I wouldn’t be supporting exploitative labor practices – so that was a safe alternative. But I really wanted to support companies who were treating their employees fairly, and vote with my dollar. By buying clothing made in the USA, I would affirm the laws and regulations in my own country that protect employees, regulate fair wages, and promote the safety and well-being of garment workers. In addition, I wanted to support people in developing countries – so I included fair trade and artisanal companies that were working to create much needed opportunities and sustain traditional crafts.
At first it was extremely difficult. I realized that all of my go-to brands were manufactured (very cheaply) in China. When I did try to research “made in America” or other exploitation-free clothing, I just found really frumpy/expensive clothing that I wouldn’t want to wear or couldn’t afford. In time, I was able to find clothing that was not only ethically made, but also allowed me to express my style and individuality. One year passed and then two years, and I am still buying apparel that meets these ethical standards.
I decided to create a blog as a resource for people who feel the same tug on their conscience and want to use their purchasing power to support products that promote human flourishing. There is a lot more for me to learn, as this issue is complex and not at all straightforward. This blog will be my motivation to learn more about the social ramifications of clothing manufacturing, as I will share my discoveries with you. It will also be a fun and inspiring resource that will show you how to find the clothes that represent both your style and your values.
Thank you for taking the time to hear my story. I hope you’ll join me on this journey of discovering conscious style.