Saturday, 2 April 2016

New Plan: Buy Less, Buy Responsibly

Slow Fashion:

I've been harping on about slow fashion for years, since I was studying for my Fashion degree. The concept is having a bit of a zeitgeisty moment right now which I am completely behind, and it has got me really thinking again about what it means to be an ethical consumer, as well as helping me think about what I want to use my blog for. See Slow Fashion by Safia Minney as a prime example. 


Wikipedia tells me that "Despite the increased popularity of the use of the term "sustainability", the possibility that human societies will achieve environmental sustainability has been, and continues to be, questioned- in light of environmental degradation, climate change, overconsumption, population growth and societies' pursuit of indefinite economic growth"

So, that's cheery: we talk more about sustainability but in fact we are getting further from it. 

steppingstones Lerryn
It's a Beautiful World, lets protect it!

Why is it important?

As I see it, there are two main strands to the argument for ethical fashion. Firstly, there is the human cost: people all over the world are exploited in order to make cheap clothing. Sometimes it is working in exploitative conditions which even causes their death (remember the huge factory collapse in Bangladesh?). This is unacceptable. I totally don't buy the argument that an exploitative job is better than no job. No, what is better is a supported community, where nobody's health has to be damaged by the job that they do, children are able to receive and education, and workers are fairly paid. 

The second strand is environmental: copious amount of chemicals are used in garment production, from plant growing, to dyeing, printing and distressing fabrics. Many of these are not exactly environmentally friendly, and this is just the tip of the iceberg- for example what about the emissions used to transport all those garments that we don't even need...? What about the amount of water required to grow crops? Not to mention pesticides... 

ethical fashion
Ethical Fashion

Isn't it limiting to buy eco fashion?

Yes, in some ways it is- it is difficult to find absolutely everything you need from a responsible source. It is also more pricey. I won't say it is too expensive, as I feel we have got used to unsustainably cheap garments, and the prices asked by ethical companies are much more in line with what is fair. Higher prices are also likely to limit the amount of stuff that you acquire, and this might be a good thing as many of us have bad habits when it comes to the quantity of things we own. Another plus about a heftier price tag is that as a consumer I feel if you have more invested in an item then you are more likely to hang onto it for longer, and use it until it really does wear out. 

Having said that, there are some really exciting brands producing wonderful ethical fashion. This brings me neatly back to the subject of my blog: keep an eye out for more posts about these in future... I am going to buy ethically if at all possible from now on, and I look forward to sharing my finds with you. 

Organic Clothing Seasalt
Organic Stripes from Seasalt

Home Making:

I've long believed in the make-it-yourself ethos. I feel lucky that I have the knowledge required to make my own clothes and accessories, and this is something that I have really loved passing on to other people over the years I have been teaching. It does take a lot of time to make your own clothes, and sometimes it can be an unsatisfying process. I know I am still learning whenever I make something to wear, but when I have come up with something really successful it is thrilling, and I am proud to wear homemade often now. 

If you have never sewn a garment of knitted a jumper, let me tell you it is an eye opener: the amount of time you will have to invest may shock you. I know domestic methods are not exactly comparable with industrial processes, but even so, you might be surprised just how many seams there are in a jacket!

I know not everyone is able to make their own clothes, but if you can, I urge you to. I am planning to share some general tips, but if you are stuck on a project please consider asking me for virtual help. I am not an expert, but if I can put my education and experience into assisting you then I will. 

handmade fashion
A Hardy Handmade Skirt

But this brings me to an important question: 

Is it green to be a crafter?

I have a stash of fabrics and yarns. It isn't exactly a stock pile, but it is more than I can use in the short term. In my defence, this is from when I was designing a lot, and I did genuinely believe I was going to be able to use everything up imminently, but life happened. I know I am not alone in stashing crafting supplies. The briefest of glances through the ravelry forums will vouch for this, as will any chat with a keen crafter. 

But... surely there is the same problem with over-consumption of raw materials as there is in over-consumption of anything? I suppose it is unlikely that small children have been employed in sweat shops to make yarns in the way that they can be exploited for other industries, but can you be absolutely sure that the people who looked after the sheep for example were fairly treated by the supply chain?I know there has also been an outcry in the past over the production of angora- any industry involving animal products must naturally lead us to question the treatment of livestock. And what about fabrics? Do you know for sure what has happened along the supply chain of that pristine bolt of cotton? The answer in short is that I do not know. Some of my fabrics are made or printed in England, where I am pretty confident in the welfare of the factory workers, but what about the environmental concerns? Again, I just don't know. I'd like to look more at this, so I am on the hunt for ethical craft suppliers as I write. 

So, here is my plan: I stopped acquiring new things for intended projects some time ago, which I feel good about. And now, when I have an idea to make something I am really strict with myself about whether I can make it from the materials I already own. Then, if I really do need to get hold of something, I will try to source ethical fabrics, yarns and even threads. I'm really looking forward to sharing my discoveries in this area with you too. 

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