Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why Not Ethical Fashion? Tips + Tricks to Ethical Shopping

beyoutiful hope christine tjahjadi-lopez

I suppose we can start with the heated discussion I had with my cousin and uncle about why consciously shopping at stores which they know have bad labor and environmental practices is a selfish and uneducated decision. Or we can start with my personal frustrations in finding ethical fashion brands online which exist (first of all), offer what I want (second of all), fit my style(third of all) and that I can afford(fourth thing in the list). Firstly, let me address the discussion with my relatives. This situation just generally frustrates me and makes me wonder, "At what point do individuals draw the line on, 'Ignorance is bliss?' Is it a matter of convenience and personal hedonism versus justice?" Secondly, put into dialogue with my personal consumer frustration, I ask myself, "If the average Joe(or Christine) sees ethical fashion as even more out of arm's reach then I do, is it really their fault that they don't know anything about ethical fashion?" If all people know is what they see, and they do not see labels barking, "I am ethically made!" or "I was made using child slavery in factories and on cotton farms! I am not ethically made!" then when people go shopping, will they know the difference? If these issues are not on the forefronts of their minds, I say they will not know the difference, nor know how to tell the difference. This is where today's blog post comes in. ;)

What do you think of when you hear the term ethical fashion? Do you think it is all ugly? Looking back when ethical fashion first emerged ten years ago, I would argue that IT WAS frumpy old lady stuff. But it is not anymore. Do you think it is all expensive? Have you thought about how your standard of cheap and expensive was created and the amount of products you value worth your dollar? Ethical fashion will not reach HM or Forever 21's current price points because those companies mass produce apparel and footwear in a way which exploits labor in order to give you, the customer, the cheap-ass price point we have all become used to seeing online and in the mall. That being said, ethical fashion prices range from Target, Pac Sun, or Aeropostale price points to luxury designer price points (examples below). Making the transition to ethical fashion purchasing means giving up those HM price points which means BUYING LESS STUFF. Now knowing this, it is up to you to decide if you want to purchase less, but better, or if you want to continue purchasing at an exploitative price (Charolette Russe or Old Navy). I suppose you wouldn't be here if you weren't at least a bit curious or concerned. Fashion is meant for personal self-expression and gratification. But is it really worth the exploitation of others or the degradation to our beautiful planet?

ethical fashion quote

Okay, Okay, so I admit it isn't particularly easy to make the switch to purchasing less at a higher price points, especially if you are ADDICTED TO BUYING STUFF and are not used to adjusting your budget (as I was). But it is worth it -- what you wear is never worth the exploitation, environmental harm and even slavery of others, including children. Remember the Rana Plaza factory collapse, which collapsed because a lack of regulations in the building, that killed over 1,100 people who were working for low wages with little labor rights in this factory which was subcontracted to sew for companies like HM? The Department of Labor's website shows statistics of the lack of workers protections and human trafficking in Bangladesh. This factory collapse is just one example which caught global news. 

fashion revolution

The dense supply chain (the process in which different stages of production are linked) of subcontractors and logistics is complex and not very transparent, allowing large companies which mass produce, to pass on the responsibilities (and with it remembering that humans sew clothing and dyes kill the planet), to cheaper subcontractors along the chain of production. Just to give you an idea of this production chain we can start from the cotton farmer, or the sheep who are shaved, to the person who processes the goods, to the factory which creates the thread and then sews part of it, then there are the other factories that add the buttons to that shirt. Thereafter the shirt is shipped to a wholesalers and wait, then retail stores purchase the design and ship the shirt and send it to another factory for their label to be placed on the design... then it makes it's way to you. >.< (What a mouthful!) And guess what? This happens over and over again because the fast fashion industry (most stores in the mall) has turned out a  52 season micro cycle of production (which is designed to make you feel out of trend)! Ethical fashion is not a 52 season production cycle, which means yes, there are less choices. BUTTTTTT, don't let that deter you! I too am a self-proclaimed fashionista! Below I listed tips to help SAVE YOU TIME as you learn more about being a conscious consumer and become an ethical fashion shopper!

7 Tips + Tricks to Ethical Shopping

1. Refer to Resource Lists of Ethical Brands

Click here for my list of ethical and sustainable apparel and home goods!

2. Verify Ethical Standards of Companies using Consumer Guides:
  1. Shop Ethical: Your Ethical Consumer Guide
  2. Good Guide
  3. Free 2 Work
You can also find more ethical consumer guides related to the environment here. The thing is, not all of the companies out there are a part of this database. This makes it a bit more challenging. In this case, go to the company's website and...

3. Check Individual Company Websites through Pages Labeled:
  1. CSR
  2. Corporate Responsibility
  3. Transparency
  4. Supply Chain Transparency
  5. What We Do
  6. Sustainability
  7. Our Commitment
My general rule is, the less information available and the more vague the information, the less the company cares, which means the less ethical it is. If you want to go a step further, you can email the company to ask them about their ethical standards. However, remember that they can word their answers in such a way that makes them seem more ethical than they truly are.

4. Wait for the Sales (for those of us on budgets)

Remember that ethical fashion companies set price points at a more fair price, which you can verify for yourself if the company is truly transparent. However, speaking as an on-budget graduate student, every year Black Friday and Cyber Monday occur. Many ethical fashion brands participate in this. My advise is to keep an eye out for pieces you like when you see them, and then make the purchase when there is a sale!

5. Thrift / Vintage Shopping

Remember that shopping second hand is the most sustainable you can shop! Less production (factory contamination), less pollution (harmful dyes used, scrap material thrown away) and less from your bank (it's cheaper).

6. 10 Awesome Ethical Fashion Bloggers (with Great Resource Lists) that You Should Know About:
  1. Birds of a Thread
  2. Dress Well, Do Good
  3. Ecowarrior Princess
  4. Fair for All
  5. StyleWise
  6. The Note Passer
  7. Let's Be Fair
  8. Life Style Justice
  9. Listen Girlfriends
  10. Walking with Cake
I have more ethical fashion bloggers listed here!

7. So What Can We Do to Bring Change to the Industry? Hold Companies Accountable!

As far as changing the industry, purchasing ethically alone will not do it. The industry itself needs to change. However, we can take action and make a difference! As my awesome professor, Dr. Trina Hamilton once told me,

" is important to help support niche ethical markets when you can (i.e. buying fair trade and doing the research when you're making big purchases), but I don't think that we'll change the industry through ethical consumerism alone. I actually think that other forms of activism are more important for creating regulations that cover all manufacturers and retailers, or for getting companies to act responsibly."

Check out her recent Huffington Post article on the Volkswagen scandal, Anger Over VW is Visceral -- And An Anomaly. She also pointed out recent changes that Urban Outfitters (along with Anthropologie and Free People) made after customers and activists took action through Jobs with JusticeSo now what? You can start by signing petitions to corporations and international not-for-profit organizations which are working to change the industry. To send quick letters/join petitions (pre-written, all you have to do is fill in your information and edit if you like) check out:
  1. Slavery Footprint - write to corporations
  2. Walk Free - write to your congressman/woman 
If you would like to be further educated on the supply chain and corporate social responsibility, check out all of these articles and documents by Know the Chain


Before you go, I would love to refer you to one of my favorite posts on ethical fashion shopping by The Tiny TwigA 5 Step Guide to Shopping with EthicsI want to THANK YOU SO SO MUCH for taking the time to read this blog post. Definitely leave a comment below and let me know your opinions on the fashion industry! 

God Bless,

beyoutiful hope who made my clothes
Images used in this article were taken from Fashion Revolution's resource page.
P.S. Thanks Amy for naming this blog post for me!!! >.< YOU ROCK! Also, thank you Erin for pushing me to write this post! ;)
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  1. The idea to transform industry and make then act more ethical is outstanding. It is important to fight for human rights and avoid a work slavery. This article make you see what you don't want to see about our society.

  2. Anonymous20.11.15

    Informative and thought provoking!
    Love, Yumna <3

  3. Anonymous20.11.15

    Informative and thought provoking!
    Love, Yumna <3

  4. Absolutely loved this post! :)
    I can relate with the frustrations in finding ethical brands.

    Thank you for all the tips!! I was looking for more ethical fashion bloggers so thank you for mentioning them too.

    Lots of hugs, A

  5. Christine, I think the most important thing we can is buy less products and better quality... we definitely got by on less when I was growing up... I think stuff weighs you down. I honestly think if I could I would get rid of 80% of my stuff... and I'm all for quality over quantity... this post is an important one more people need to think about xox ♡

  6. I switched to exclusively shopping for conscious clothing about four years ago. It wasn't super easy at first. I definitely wasn't aware of all the amazing brands that I now consistently turn to. However, I had never been a huge consumer of fast fashion so the buying less part wasn't so hard for me. It was just a change in learning to really research where the pieces were made, what they were made from, etc. My closet has finally gotten to the point where I own almost nothing from the days before shopping consciously, and I love the stories behind everything I wear.

  7. This is great! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Thank you so much for the shout out Christine! Do you know I am citing this in my dissertation? :)

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Thank you for the lovely comment. God bless & stay Be-you-tiful!