Creating A Fair Wardrobe (Part II)

It’s time for part two of Creating A Fair Wardrobe! Yay! If you missed part one you can find it right here. I’ve said this before and I will say it again and you will probably hear me say it twenty more bajillion times between now and the end of time but here it is:

I love that we can literally make a difference in the lives of others through what we buy.

From where I stand right now, deep in the world of mothering little kids, volunteering or going overseas or working with a non-profit is kind of out of reach. But this – changing how I buy so that someone else can have a good life – this I can do. You might be in a similar situation, lacking time or resources and not feeling like a world-changer but stop being silly. Seriously. You have value. You can do something. The end.

Now, on to part two…

fair-wardrobe-part-2

Creating a fair wardrobe is about buying clothes that are thoughtful of other people. It might take a bit more effort to switch your shopping habits but I happen to believe it’s worth it and pretty rewarding too!

Once upon a time ethically-made clothes were limited to hippie dresses and the like – not exactly on the radar of my very un-hippie like closet! But over the last few years fair fashion as evolved into something amazing. Pretty much anything you need or want is ethically produced somewhere. Building a wardrobe that is beautiful AND people-friendly has never been easier! Here are some tips to get you started.

 

Fair Wardrobe Tip #1: Be Intentional

One of the reason there are sweatshops in the first place is because of our collective desire for more. More clothes. More shoes. More this. More that. Whether you love to shop or generally avoid stores, there is a little part of all of us that is constantly desiring something new. With the vast amount of stuff vying for our attention it’s so easy to snatch up whatever we think is pretty or “need”, without giving it a second thought. But all this consumption actually has a hand in fueling unethical labor. As factories race to fulfill massive orders and stay competitive with retailers they force workers into long hours and reduced wages. Bleh.

One of the most important things you can do in creating a fair wardrobe is to STOP. Stop consuming without thought. Stop buying something just because you think it’s cute and at a ridiculous price point. Just stop.

Instead, buy with intention. Before you add another outfit to your physical or virtual cart ask yourself: do I need it? Do I like it? Will I still like it in a few months? Is it the best quality I can afford? Will it match anything else I own? Do I know the conditions it was made in?

I read once that if you really want something then wait a month. You will either have forgotten about it or realize you want it even more. Waiting a month may not be practical in every situation but I love the idea behind that practice: think before you buy.

before-you-buy

Fair Wardrobe tip #2: Quality over Quantity, One Piece At A Time

The best way to create a fair wardrobe is to slowly incorporate new pieces as you need them. When you have gaps in your closet that need to be filled look for high-quality pieces that you truly love and that are fairly made. Happily, one of the benefits of fair clothing is the attention to quality! Since most ethical clothing is produced on a smaller scale, there is more control and you end up with a higher quality garment.

buy-less-choose-well

I love that quote. Buy less, choose well, make it last.  If you invest in good clothes they will be with you for years. Look for classic and simple pieces that won’t be out of style by next season. Chose colors that blend well with the rest of your clothes.

 

Fair Wardrobe tip #3: Find New Places To Shop

You probably know this by now, but creating an ethical closet means shopping outside the normal retailers. You won’t find what you are looking for at the mall or in your local Target. But that’s okay because there is so many other places to discover new (fairly made) clothes!

THE INTERNET (of course)
The Internet is hands down the best place to find ethical clothing. I get practically giddy when I find a new store with pretty clothes and fair standards! It never gets old. (Wanna know my favorites? Look here.) Beyond the fair fashion world there are some pretty awesome second-hand clothing websites too. Some of my favorite places to window shop are: Vinted, ThredUp, Blogger’s Closet and the vintage section of Etsy.

The hardest part about buying online is knowing how the clothes will fit. It’s still trial and error for me (if you have any tips I would love to hear them!). All I can say is reference the size chart and know what the return policy is!

thrift-store

THRIFT STORES
Thrift stores have been some of my most loyal friends over the last few years. It’s such an easy way to give back to your community, as most stores support local outreach: women’s shelters, disadvantaged youth, etc. Thrift stores offer up amazing clothes at stellar prices and are the perfect alternative to traditional shopping venues. Yes, you sometimes have to overlook the junk and quirky smells but it’s so good when you find what you were looking for. My favorite wool pencil skirt was a classy thrift store find for just a few bucks!

LOCAL ETHICAL BOUTIQUES
Not every city may have an ethical or fair trade shop but they are becoming more and more common. We have one here in Boise and our local Whole Foods carries some ethical brands as well. If you are lucky enough to have one close by, go check it out! They are handy because unlike online retailers, you can try on clothes before you buy!

Action Point: Get Started!

Ethical shopping can be a whole lot of fun. Weed through your closet and pare it down to what you love. If you need to add a few items, find the fair alternative. Dig through your local thrift store. Window shop your way across the internet. Or just make do, be content and love the clothes you have. Because that’s important too!

Further Reading:

If you need some guidance on simplifying your wardrobe and developing your style I recommend all these ladies on my Creating a Wardrobe Pinterest Board.

Here are some great tips on thrifting from the ladies at A Beautiful Mess and The Secret Life of Bee.

The Note Passer has a great infographic on making ethical shopping choices.  She is a goldmine for ethical clothing advice too.

Got any ethical wardrobe tips?  Share away!

Creating A Fair Wardrobe (Part I)

It’s finally spring you guys! The air is still a little cool around here but the sun is warm and the trees are turning beautiful shades of green again. Since we are going to be putting away our coats and sweaters soon (some of you probably already have, lucky ducks!) I thought this would be the perfect time to do a short series on creating a fair wardrobe. All through this month we will cover topics like why fairly-made clothes matter, how to create a thoughtful wardrobe, where to find ethically-sourced clothing and more. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on all this but it’s a topic I am passionate about so hopefully we will all learn something together!

Let’s get started. Brace yourself…this first post is going to be a long one!

creating-a-fair-wardrobe-1

A Bit About The Garment Industry

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you probably know that most of our clothes are manufactured overseas. A quick glance in your closet will show clothing from far-flung countries such as Thailand, India, Nicaragua, China and Bangladesh. It’s hard to get a grasp on what the garment industry is REALLY like from all the way over here in the United States, thousands of miles away from any clothing factory so I want to stop short of going crazy and declaring that every single factory is a sweatshop and that manufacturing overseas is a horrible idea and it’s all just bad, bad, bad. Because I honestly don’t think that’s the case. There are many factories that pay a decent wage and follow safety regulations. Being a garment worker may not be the most glamorous job but it’s a viable option for thousands around the world. Unfortunately, right alongside these decent factories are sweatshops that get away with paying the workers as little as possible. The employees work long hours (60 or more a week), receive no overtime pay and are denied things like maternity leave and medical benefits. The factories are not up to code on safety regulations (as we saw last year with the Rana Plaza incident), workers are often harassed and in some extreme cases, barred from leaving the factory.

Garment factories are such a mixed bag, which makes it difficult to know if the clothing you pick up off the rack was made in a sweatshop or by a fairly compensated worker. To complicate the situation even more, major clothing companies sometimes work with a hundred or more different factories (Nike has reported working with 600!). While companies attempt to audit the factories, this is often an outward appearance of goodwill, as many of these audits are scheduled in advance so the factory has time clean up its act to appear legit for the review. Companies also have a difficult time tracing exactly where all their products were made, due to the volume of factories they work with and the practice of sub-contracting (when a factory parcels out some of their work to smaller, questionable factories to reduce workload, often under the radar of the retailers. This is frowned-upon but still happens. This incident is believed to be a case of sub-contracting.).

Since not all companies have “boots on the ground” to verify the conditions and supply chains of all their factories it’s hard to know what is the truth and what it being covered up. Some clothing companies do a decent job with ethical sourcing, thought almost every well-known clothing brand has been caught using a sweatshop at one time or another. It’s such a tangled web but it’s just how the industry is, unfortunately.

The good news is we can do something about this problem. And it starts at someplace as simple as your closet. At the heart of a fair wardrobe and ultimately, a fair lifestyle, is the desire to create good through our lives and our actions. We are so wealthy, you guys. We have access to so much and how we spend our money really has a lasting impact. We can choose to let things be as they are and just consume as we always have or we can step off the well-traveled path and chart a way through new territory.

More than ever I want to blaze a path of thoughtful, intentional purchases. I want to consume in a way that brings life to others. It feels wrong to amass more and more for our enjoyment if it allows someone else to remain in poverty. Are you with me?

We can choose to live a little differently. We can shift how we buy to reflect how we value others. It’s simple. And it can start right here, in our own homes.

Harrison-quote

Action Point: Your Personal Ethical Standards

Now that you know why buying fairly is important, it’s time to think about where YOU stand. We all have different lifestyles and resources so what a fair wardrobe looks like to one person may look entirely different for someone else.

For some, you may feel convicted to buy everything ethically.

Others might commit to buy only thrift or consignment clothing.

You might decide to support conventional retailers that are taking serious steps to ethically sourcing their products (H&M is a great example of this).

Or you may chose to take baby steps and change just one area of your wardrobe at a time.

I firmly believe there is no right or wrong way to approach ethical shopping.

Take a minute to think about where you stand in the whole ethical spectrum. Don’t feel pressured to base your standards on what you think you should do according to what other people say (including me!). Make it something that you can believe in and put into practice every day. Your convictions may not look like someone else’s but they don’t have to because they are YOURS. Any step you take toward buying thoughtfully (however big or small) is amazing!

If you are wondering, I fall somewhere in the middle of the above convictions. I am committed to buying fairly, which is most cases means shopping at a local thrift store and occasionally, if my budget allows, through a fair trade/ethical retailer. Every now and then, when I can’t find what I am looking for in the ethical shopping world I make what I feel is the best possible purchase from a normal retailer (case in point: this rug).

Further Reading

I highly recommend reading Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline. I mentioned it before and I bring it up again because I thought the book was fascinating! I learned so much about the fashion industry and ethical clothing through this book.

For more information about fair labor and ethical news you can check out these websites:

Ecouterre

Clean Clothes Campaign

International Labor Rights Forum

Huffington Post on Sweatshops

As we dig into this series on fair clothing, I would love to hear from you! If you have any questions or comments about fairly-sourced clothing please share away in the comments below or send me a note and I will hopefully address them later on this month!

Favorites This Week

Happy first week of April, y’all!  I had plans for a real post this week but last Friday my husband discovered a lovely little virus on our laptop.  So fun.  After spending a few days in the repair shop our little baby is bug free and I can get back to blogging!  Yippee!

Starting next week I am introducing a mini series on creating a fair wardrobe.  I am super excited about this because sweatshops and ethical clothing are something that has been close to my heart for years now.  I can’t wait to go deeper with this issue and teach you guys what (little) I know about building an ethical closet from the ground up.  It’s gonna be fun!

In the mean time, here are some of my favorite things I read across the internet this week:

Wildly Co. Goes Wild // The Tiny Twig  (about the launch of a super cute ethical children’s line…)

 

16 Years A Slave: A Father Set Free to Build A New Future For His Family // IJM.org

 

I Put Down My Phone Just As I Was Told // Purse & Clutch (good thoughts on the Tap Project Campaign)

 

Embracing An Open Door Policy: Your Guests Aren’t Judging You // Apartment Therapy (because I need to remind myself of this)

 

 

How To Be A Super Sleuth: investigating the ethical policies of your favorite companies

Growing up, I loved reading – especially mystery books.  I am pretty sure I wanted to be the Boxcar Children at some point.  Anyone with me?!  And I read Nate The Great until I was much too old to be reading Nate The Great.  So reading up on the ethical policies of companies comes deep from my investigative heart!

super-sleuth-ethical

A few weeks ago we talked briefly about fair trade labels and what they represent. But what if a company isn’t certified? How do you know if they are ethically sourcing their products? There are many, many companies out there that do not have a fair trade label for one reason or another yet still produce quality products that are fairly made. Here are some steps I take to investigate the ethics of my favorite companies:

 

Read their “about” page.

When I’m shopping online the first place I visit is the company’s “about” page. Or “our commitment” or “history” page…any section that gives insight into the way the company operates. If they are committed to treating their workers fairly this information should be really easy to find. I kinda love reading the stories behind the company and their products. This may sound silly but when I know how they operate and who they are empowering, buying from them makes me feel like part of that story. What I bought all of a sudden has much more value than something I would’ve bought straight off the shelf any ordinary store. It’s pure awesomeness.

I do want to mention this: almost every company has some sort of ethics policy or “code of conduct” in place, even companies like Walmart and Gap. How well the policy is followed and how much it covers varies from company to company. When it comes to apparel, since major clothing brands don’t “own” the factories that make their clothes many have repeatably pushed the ethical responsibility the factory owner and turned a blind eye to the practices of the factories. Unless, of course, their practices make front page headlines. Which leads me to my next investigative tool… (I totally feel like a detective, ha!)

 

Look up them up in the Green America database.

Green America has a helpful database to check up on your favorite companies. If you search the name of the company in question it will bring up any known social or environmental violations with a link to the news article to learn more. I personally like this because it gives me an unbiased insight into how the company REALLY acts. Actions speak louder than words, right?

 

Google them.

Did you know Google is my best friend? It is. I mean, anything I want to know Google can find for me! It’s amazing. When I want to get more information about a certain company I search their name plus a term like “sweatshop violations” or something similar. If they have been connected to any human rights violations, Google will usually bring it up for you.

 

Check the label.

When you are at a store and need to make a decision on the fly, check the label. If it’s imported there is always the chance that unethical labor was involved. It’s just like that, unfortunately. If you have the option, buying something made in the USA is a safer choice. Things produced in America aren’t completely immune from unfair labor but the standards the US has in place for wages and work are far more advanced and people-friendly than overseas countries.

 

The bottom line is just this: do your research. Know your companies. When you are shifting to ethical and fairly made products it’s not as easy as walking into the store and buying whatever you like. You definitely have to take extra steps but I soooo believe they are worth taking. Since you are going to buy something anyway, why not do a bit of research and make a more ethical choice?

Do you need a place to start? I’ve complied a list of some of my favorite ethical companies right here. I also have a few go-to websites that I use for finding new fair companies. You can find them in this post.

I’m curious, do you do research on companies before you buy?  Have any tips to share?

Weekend Reads

It’s Friday!  Here are a few things that caught my eye this week:

 

Meet The Woman Raising 32 Street Children // RelevantMagazine.com (I love how much she cares and believes in the children that she cares for.  She really believes they can be “diamonds in the sky”. It’s beautiful.)

 

Room Service Atlanta Reveal // The Hunted Interior  (This is almost a year old but just caught my eye.  This is such a great example of using what we are good at to do something amazing for someone else.  This post explains Room Service Atlanta, FYI)

 

Great Intentions: Take A Trip // Fair For All Shopping Guide (Did you know there all websites dedicated to fair trade tourism?  Me neither!  Now you know.)

 

Happy weekend y’all!