For most of us, the tragic incident in Bangladesh in May opened our eyes to the darker side of the garment industry. As over 1,100 factory workers died in the rubble of the biggest factory collapse to date, many of us began to realise the high price of cheap labour, forcing us to reconsider our shopping choices.
As busy consumers, shopping ethically may sound a time-consuming task, but it’s actually very simple to master when you know how, plus the benefits of having a good conscious are priceless. Fast fashion may dominate much of the high street, but that isn’t to say that we aren’t without options. There are ways that we can be ethical without compromising our style or spending ridiculous amounts of our hard earned cash. Here are a few suggestions:
Purchase Wisely & Make The Most of What You Have
Firstly, don’t feel like you have to throw away the clothes you bought from Primark, H&M or any other fast fashion outlet. Make as much use of them as you can, and prove that fast fashion items can have longevity if you buy wisely, and select carefully. Make a conscious decision to think long term, rather than trying to keep up with trends. Place more focus on staple pieces that are versatile and that you won’t stop loving after just one season, rather than impulse buying.
Support Local Labels
Support independent designers by buying locally. Emerging labels don’t have the funds to mass-produce on such a scale, and more than likely their manufacturing process will take place within the UK. You’ll be contributing towards the community, while purchasing something much more special than the typical high street trend led designs. You’ll be surprised at what some local boutiques have to offer. Make the most of the sales and get to know the faces behind the label.
Swap Till You Drop
Swap events are held all around the UK. The way they work is that you bring a bag (or bags, depending on how many unwanted items you’re willing to part with) of clothes, and/or accessories, and swap it for something you love and know you’ll get lots of wear out of. One’s trash is indeed another’s treasure!
Vintage & Charity Shops
The most popular option is to buy second hand. If you overlook charity shops, you’re really missing out on an ideal opportunity to find good quality pieces. Places like your local Oxfam will often have a few gems if you really take some time to sift through the rails, and not only will you be helping a good cause, but you can revel in the fact that your purchase is a fraction of any high-street retailer price tag.
East London is a treasure trove for vintage lovers, and vintage fairs take place all around the UK. Markets are particularly great for finding some really stand out items for something truly one-of-a-kind. Even ASOS has its own marketplace section where you are given the opportunity to set up your own shop as well as get your hands on some great pre-loved pieces. Last, but not least, let’s not forget Ebay and Etsy for some bargain vintage and current finds.
There are many labels that push eco fashion, or ‘slow fashion’. Companies like People Tree have been around for years, and although prices are slightly higher than the high street, you will find that there are regular online sales. Don’t forget that you’re buying into the quality and ethos behind the brand, so you’ll get what you’ve paid for in addition to knowing exactly where the clothes came from and how they were made. You’ll also find a number of fair ethical fashion websites if you do a bit of browsing through Google. UK based company, Fashion-Conscience.com stocks ethical brands, promoting talent from across the globe at reasonable prices.
If you want to make more conscious decisions when we purchase our clothes, it all comes down to doing the research. Educate yourself about companies’ policies and their ethical stance. If you’re worried about shopping fast fashion, have a look at the price tags of each individual item. If the price shows single figures for a t-shirt, then it most likely hasn’t been produced in the most ethical way. Blogs such as Ecouterre and Ecosalon are great for getting clued up on industry news regarding all aspects of sustainability. It’s up to us to be socially responsible and aware of the bigger picture. With just some minor adjustments to the way we shop, it can make a major difference to encouraging a more sustainable world.