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.
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?