Though I have read much about the environmental and social costs of the apparel industry, especially "fast fashion"—the cheap, trendy and continually-refreshed global brands—the impact of visuals was more compelling. After the oil and gas industry, apparel is the most polluting industry.
I tried to assuage twinges of guilt: Wait, I thought, I don't want more, and I don't buy cheap, fast fashion. Well OK, except for a few Forever21 canvas tote bags. Dang, those are cute.
But though a closet check shows a good percentage of locally-made or fair-trade pieces, I can improve.
My sentiment is similar to Susan Burpee's post, "In Praise of Slow Fashion", on her blog, High Heels in the Wilderness. I sense a groundswell.
Like Susan, I searched for lists of the best ethical and fair-trade brands, though the terms are often fuzzily-defined. When I saw H&M on Marie Claire magazine's list, I wondered: in the film, their PR person could not look her interviewer in the eye and avoided a factual answer when asked what the Swedish chain (the largest of the fast-fashion merchants) pay the Asian garment workers hired via independent suppliers.
|Lillikoi Basic Boatneck|
I look first for locally and Canadian-made; some favourites include Lisette L (trousers), Lilikoi (cotton and bamboo tees and dresses), La Canadienne (shoes and boots), Vèronique Miljkovitch (chic tops and dresses) and Betina Lou (sportswear).
I'm learning more about buying jeans, thanks to Ethical Consumer's site, which publishes a scorecard for some brands. (Sidebar: Just because a pair of jeans costs $250 does not mean that's an ethical choice.)
|People Tree Zandra Rhodes top|
Economist Richard Wolff commented succinctly about the macro-economic issues of late-stage capitalism, though did not provide solutions.
When I started buying my own clothes in US, during the mid-'60s, it was taken for granted that what one bought there was made there. My small town's best shops, which catered to wealthy summer residents, sold some luxury imports: British woolens and the rare, very special French or Italian dress, but also sportswear made from fabric milled in the Carolinas, Ohio, and New York. Now, the world comes to our malls and streets, flooding them with cheap, abundant fashion that promotes a rapid spend-divest-spend cycle.
As Suzy Menkes said after the 2013 Bangladesh factory disaster, "It's not just manufacturers...it's about the consumer. We need to realize it's morally wrong to buy a bikini for the same price as a cappucino."
Many young adults are have rejected the habit I picked up as I blew my summer job's cheques on something new for a dance, a change of season or even just because I had worn the thing too many times.
Oh, that's embarrassing to admit! And that attitude is the shopper's crack: feels good at first, but then it's hell to kick.
|Achilles' Heel par excellence|
She said, "That's the sign I have enough", and her wisdom will stay with me next time I'm tempted by "just one more" of those luscious knits.
How attentive are you to the production behind your clothes and accessories? Does it matter? What do you do, or hope to do?