It’s a new year and everybody is making resolutions: deciding to eat less candy, promising to go to the gym more, stopping the habit of being late etc. All those are just fine, but if you want to make a resolution that will have a real positive impact in the world, then I challenge you to change your consumer habits – and clothes are one of the easiest things to start with. By thinking about how you buy clothes, you can really affect the lives of garment workers, contribute to ending modern slavery and help out our planet by making less waste. Having an ethical and ecological wardrobe is easy: just use your old clothes more, buy used clothes and really think about what you buy – do you really need it and will you wear it often? Fix clothes with holes, make old clothes into new items. Find out where your clothes come from and buy from companies that are ethically sourced. There are really no reasons to not do these things. If you think you have a reason to continue unsustainable, impulsive shopping habits, read on and hopefully I can change your mind.
Excuse no. 1: “Ethical clothing is so expensive”
Yes, many ethical brands are pricey, but ethical clothes are made to last, meaning they are great investments. You won’t have to buy as many clothes if you buy pieces that are good quality, so you’ll probably end up saving money. And if you only buy clothes you really fall in love with, then you’ll probably use them more than those cheap clothes you buy on a whim. There is also a cheaper ethical, and often more ecological alternative: second hand shopping. The only positive side-effect of fast fashion is that it results in masses of good quality clothes at second hand stores costing almost nothing.
Excuse no. 2: “Restricting your wardrobe to ethical clothing is too difficult”
No it isn’t. There is an ethical alternative for everything you buy – the only reason these items can be difficult to find sometimes is that there are so many people who don’t care about the origins of their clothes; if more people demanded ethical and ecological clothes, they would eventually become mainstream and thus more easily obtainable. There are many ethical brands with different styles, so you’re sure to find at least one that resonates with you. Also, second hand shopping and swapping or sharing clothes with friends can give you a huge variety of clothing with little cost. I myself have a closet that is 95% second hand and have been shopping at second hand stores since I was 15 and have never found it restricting or felt the need to shop at mainstream stores. You may have to put a bit more effort into shopping if you decide to shop ethically, but at least then you can shop with a good conscience and I’m guessing you’ll feel more fulfilled with items you have picked out with care than with items you bought just because they were on sale.
Excuse no. 3: “How can you even be sure what you’re buying is ethical or ecological?”
This can be tricky, but a good rule is that if the tag doesn’t say “organic” or “fair trade”, it probably isn’t. Fair brands are often on a mission to change the fashion industry, so they want to show it. Unfortunately, a lot of brands claim to have “conscious” clothes, but really don’t – if you’re looking for ethical clothes in a mainstream store, you’re not going to find them. And even if a store like H&M genuinely had some clothes which are made ethically and ecologically, most of their clothes aren’t, so buying from them means you’re ultimately giving money to a company which abuses its workers. Luckily we have the internet and a background check into the ethics of any brand is quite a simple thing to do nowadays, thanks to people such as those at Project Just.
Excuse no. 4: “I can’t follow the newest trends if I can’t shop in mainstream stores”
This may be true, depending on the trend. Fashion always rotates – old trends come back into fashion and trends keep on changing. Old trends can easily be found in second hand stores, so for a retro look, you’re covered there. Unless you’re really good at making your own clothes or transforming existing clothes, newer trends may be more difficult to follow. I don’t really find this a problem, though. I’d much rather create my own style than just follow what celebrities do or what fashion magazines tell us. If you have a classic style that never goes out of fashion, you also don’t have to change your wardrobe every couple of months. Fleeting trends are just another way for fashion companies to lure us into buying more and more – telling us that there are items that are “must haves” one month, and the next month the same clothes are on a “what not to wear” list. If you decide for yourself what is fashionable and stylish, you’re free to wear whatever you want whenever you want.
Excuse no. 5: “Questioning the way I consume is uncomfortable”
It is and it should be. Finding out most of the things in your wardrobe have been made by modern slaves is a harsh truth to face. Pretending that it isn’t true won’t make it any better though. I doubt many people like the idea of modern slavery and buy from stores because they deliberately want to support the way clothes are made nowadays. Clothes are so cheap and easy to buy, you can easily just not think of it as a big deal. But to a lot of people it is – your careless act in a clothes store really affects the lives of thousands of garment workers. To them, it’s their everyday life and they cannot get away from the shackles of their unfair work. The only thing making their horrid working conditions possible is that there are so many people who don’t think about where their clothes come from. Just think about that the next time you see a piece of clothing you like and just stop to wonder for a moment: is it worth it? Do I want this piece of clothing more than I want basic human rights for people? A lot of people are aware of the atrocities that are a part of the modern fashion industry, yet ethical fashion is still a marginal trend. When bringing change can be caused by consumers, there really should be more fashion revolutionaries!