Fashion Responsibility

I’ve been thinking.  Lots of thoughts are jumbled in my brain and you guys will just have to help me sift through them.  Sometimes, I get overwhelmed with ethical concerns and end up stuck right where I am. Status quo isn’t going to work for me this time.

Kids Clothes Week got me thinking first.  It was realizing that I was making leggings when I could just as easily get some for less than the cost of the materials.  Why make them?  What made mine so special?  How feasible would it be to make all the clothes my girls need?

And then I saw this interview with Russell Brand.  I couldn’t help but agree with some of what he said.  We ARE destroying the earth.  And there ARE so many people suffering in the world.  And it does have to change.  But I wanted to ask him where his clothes come from.  What factory produced that white shirt?  Is it cotton?  Yes?  Organic or not?  What were the working conditions of all the people involved in making that shirt?  The farmer, the mill worker where that cotton was spun, the textile worker where that cotton yarn was woven, and the ones who cut that fabric up and sewed it into a shirt.  What are their lives like?  And if that shirt isn’t sustainable and fair trade, aren’t you participating in that same system you just railed against?

And what’s MY role in all that?  I can pay more for clothes in the hopes that it means that the workers are paid better and have a safe environment.  But I have no guarantee.  A brand’s pricing has a whole lot to do with marketing and not that much to do with manufacturing.  It’s so easy to go shopping and buy, buy, buy.  Fill your wardrobe with 5$ tops and replace them all every season.  And it’s so easy to forget.  When you buy a cheap T-shirt, it doesn’t come with a picture of the people who suffered for you to have fast fashion.  You can pretend you don’t know.  But let’s be honest, here.  If we stop even one second, we DO know.

Click through to read the story if you’ve forgotten!

We justify it, make excuses.  Say we can’t afford it otherwise.  And we work so hard to not look at it.  Because looking at it, admitting it.  That would mean we have to do something about it.

I pulled out some hand me downs for souricette 2.  She has so much.  And she won’t ever wear it because she hates pants with a passion.  They’ll go to Goodwill so there’s that.  I’m not throwing them out at least…  Souricette 1 has so much too.  And still, I fall behind on laundry and what do I think?  “The girls need more leggings” rather than “I need to get the laundry done”.  I put on my favorite exercise pants and think, “I really love these, I should get more.”  But do I actually need more?  Of course not! And yet, there is that thought again.  Buy.

I guess what I’m saying is the first step towards a more sustainable lifestyle is buying less.  Taking the time to think each purchase through.  And when I decide that yes, I will buy some clothes, I do some research.  Sure, big retailers are easy and available.  But I really don’t know what their manufacturing ethics are.  If you ask corporate offices, they might tell you they visit the factories and everything is fine.  But those aren’t surprise visits.  Who knows what goes on when they’re not there.  And how do they source their fabrics?  Being an ethical clothing manufacturer takes a lot of time and work.  I’m pretty sure that if they were really doing that work properly, they would be advertising it loudly.  Screaming it from the rooftops, actually.  So it’s down to smaller companies and you have to seek them out.  And they’ll be more expensive but if you’re buying fewer items, it stands to reason that you can put a bit more money into each one.

And that takes me to the second step.  Realizing the value of clothes.  I knit and I sew.  I used to weave too.  And I occasionally crochet.  Fabric and yarn are expensive when you can’t buy huge quantities.  Besides, there are still issues with the manufacturing of yarn and fabric…

And the time!  Hand knitting takes forever.  Machine knitting is faster.  So you could plausibly make a sweater in a day.  A whole day.  How much is your day worth?  Sewing is even faster but you’re still never going to produce goods as cheaply as a sweatshop.  Sure, you can have better quality and it’ll be perfectly fitted if you put in the effort but the same item could plausibly be purchased for less…  Is it that your time is worth less or that clothes are actually worth more than what we pay for them?  I’ve decided my time is valuable.  That means that the clothes I make with my time are valuable.  Worthy of being repaired and patched up rather than thrown out.  Worthy of being repurposed if I’ve fallen out of love with them or if they don’t fit anymore.  Worthy of having stains removed or dyed over.  Isn’t that what people used to do?  Mend and repurpose?  If I make more of our clothes, they’ll be more precious and I’ll take better care of them.  Maybe the girls will eventually learn the value of their belongings as well.

And maybe that’s just what I needed to figure out.  Buy less, mend more.  I can’t change the fashion and textile industries all alone.  But buying thoughtfully, from ethical manufacturers as much as possible, and caring properly for my purchases… Wouldn’t that be showing some measure of respect for all those workers?  Isn’t that the least I can do?

Creative mommy at home to two wonderful little girls, trying to juggle family, sewing, exercise, family, knitting, photography, and did I mention family?

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Posted in Sustainability, Thoughts
4 comments on “Fashion Responsibility
  1. Karen says:

    I too have the same concerns and have recently downsized my living arrangement and couldn’t be happier. Now when I am out and see something I have to consider exactly where this will fit in my home, how much do I really need this and is there anything I already have that I can use instead. But back to sewing and knitting…I too try to do my research and I don’t always follow up on it. It is so easy to just order that fabric than to spend the extra time to consider all the things I really need to consider. There are so many sewing blogs (and yours is one of them) that have educated me on how to repurpose fashion. And I thank you all for that! I remember my mother doing exactly that while I was growing up and those lessons got buried in my consumerism. I need that reminder on occasion, that “kick in the pants” to get me to do my part even when it is not as easy at providing your own bags at the grocery store or buying the ecosmart light bulbs.

    • Thank you for your comment. Ever since I hit that publish button, I’ve been worried that people might think I’m telling them what to do.

      I would love to downsize! There’s so much we could do without. My girls disagree… I need to set aside some time to go through all my things and get rid of everything that doesn’t add happiness. Then, maybe I can get my eldest daughter on board too. That would be great.

      Ironic thing is, of course, I want to make myself a top out of some stash fabric. But I used up all my navy blue cotton interlock during KCW and would have to buy more. Of course, right when I write a post about buying less, I find myself buying something! (Well, I haven’t actually purchased it yet.) At least I’ve managed to find some organic cotton interlock… But still, the irony of it all is hitting me like a ton of bricks! Maybe I should just make something else from my big old stash of fabric first…

      • Karen says:

        But the most important part is the thought process. It is not mindless consumerism if we think it through first. You may wear that top for years to come. I bought two t-shirts at Target in June and not only do they have holes in them but I mended them so many times it became ridiculous not to put them in the rag box. So if your project lasts longer than those did you are ahead of the game. And no worries about “telling people what to do”, we all need to be reminded of our carbon footprints now and then. You should have seen my garage sale when I downsized. Good luck and it has to be hard for the kids. They get hit with consumerism from every direction and don’t have the insight or maturity to deal with the societal pressure.

  2. […] since I wrote that post about fashion responsibility, I’ve tried to pay attention to my purchases.  I did buy that organic cotton interlock.  I […]

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