With all that we know about the Dickensian practices of much of the modern “fast fashion” industry, where chronically underpaid workers labour in barely regulated third-world factories so that Westerners can buy T-shirts for three euros, it is becoming harder and harder for many of us to shop for clothes with a clear conscience.
Regardless of which high-street retailer we choose, a cursory Google search seems to throw up an unsavoury story about manufacturing malpractice. But there are ways of being fashionable while maintaining the sustainable standards you apply to other areas of your life. Let’s have a look at three of them now.
If you’re not familiar with second-hand or vintage shops – you might have been put off by the prospect of sorting through the racks, or even have stigmatised them as being, well, slightly beneath you – it’s time to get acquainted.
It’s true, it can take time to separate the soundly made wheat from the polyester chaff, but your patience can be rewarded in many different ways. Firstly, there’s the thrill of finding a diamond in the rough; that thrill is then doubled by the realisation that your find is unique, a feeling you just can’t get when shopping at the big high-street shops.
Best of all, you can enjoy your clothing in the knowledge that you’ve not contributed to slave labour or an unnecessary harvesting of resources. You can contribute to the second-hand scene by donating your unwanted clothes, too – your castoffs will soon be someone else’s favourite fashion item.
Buy local, if you can
If you’re living in a first-world country, labour laws are such that workers are far better protected than those in the developing world. This means locally produced clothing is far more likely to have been produced ethically than the high-street-ready items produced in Bangladesh or China.
Do a quick Google search to find out about local clothing brands. The recent boom in sustainable clothing has been such that you might be taken aback by the options open to you. If you can’t find anything good locally, however, try to buy goods bearing the Fairtrade logo.
Learn to prize versatility
Rather than buying clothing for very specific purposes and ending up with a ginormous wardrobe stuffed full of pieces that never get used, try to buy items that fit a number of situations.
Can you wear an item to work, and to brunch, and to a bar? Can it be used all year round or is it limited to summer or winter? It’s better to buy a more expensive, sustainably produced item that you can get a lot of use out of rather than assembling a vast collection of dubious provenance.