My Ethical Boundaries
"There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness." -Gandhi
Remember that book I talked about a while back, Wear No Evil? Greta Eagan, the author, does a good job at creating a formula with which to shop. In recent years, I have been more devoted to intentional buying and looking for ethical alternatives. However, it is hard to shuffle through the green washing when marketing is not necessarily representative of the product. Wear No Evil, on the other hand, breaks down 16 ways to be a conscious buyer. Here is a list of considerations: natural dyes, natural fibers, organic, fair trade, local, social, upcycled, recycled, secondhand, convertible garments, no waste, cradle to cradle, vegan, reduced water use, transparency, and slow fashion.
This is quite an extensive list to consider with every purchase, but I have certain areas that I focus my efforts on. You can probably tell from my blog that I emphasize natural fibers (even better when they are organic), fair trade, low impact dyes, second hand, and slow fashion in my wardrobe. I believe that these are the most considerate of the environment and the people involved in the process. BUT they all intersect; you just have to define your own personal cause.
SO how do I know that my clothes are what they say they are? It is pretty easy to know that a second hand garment came from a thrift store or is a hand-me-down from a friend, but how do I know if something is slow fashion or uses low-impact dyes? You will have to do some digging!
For slow fashion, I look for classic, luxury made pieces that I know will last. I also look for companies that pride themselves on slow fashion and only have 2-4 seasons that they release a year. Companies like People Tree pride themselves in slow fashion; they reuse lasting silhouettes while changing the print or material weight depending on the season.
To know that something is dyed with low-impact dyes is a bit trickier because companies don’t have to list the makeup of the dye on the fabric tag. You can use a process of elimination though - if a garment is super bright, as in neon colors or bright reds, then you can guess that is it dyed with harmful chemicals. Many companies that use low-impact dyes are happy to tell you and usually advertise it on the item.
By checking the tag, you can determine if your clothing is made of natural fibers - many companies with organic fibers are happy to label that too. Blends aren’t the best, but something that is 95% cotton and 5% spandex is better than an acrylic sweater. I would avoid anything 100% synthetic unless it is recycled, and in that case it is going to be polyester. Polyester is also the only recyclable fabric.
I have also talked quite a bit about fair trade. Anything that is truly fair trade will have the fair trade logo on it. Some businesses have gone even further to connect face to face with people and develop direct trade. This ensures that a middleman isn’t profiting off the backs of the workers.
These are my ethical boundaries and I try to intersect as many causes as I can when making a purchase. Relating to my previous post, I emphasize style first and foremost. Knowing your aesthetic and the versatility of your own clothes will keep you from always having to go out and buy new stuff.