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On being a considerate clothes consumer

I’ll say it straight: I am not really into clothes! But they’re a necessity, and an area where being more eco-friendly and ethical can have a big impact.

The fashion industry is known as one full of bad practice. Underpaid labourers, child labour, ‘sweat shops’ and lack of health and safety to name but a few. It is hard as a consumer to know which companies are better than others due to double standards and the fluff that goes along with advertising.

As a family wanting to go green, we have been considering our options for clothes. Here are our thoughts!

Firstly, Reduce your wardrobe

Only have what you need. By buying fewer clothes, we are consuming less raw materials and thereby reducing our impact on the environment. Most of us, including me, have far too many clothes. We don’t wear them all – we don’t need them all.

Secondly, Reuse clothes that have been made already

Charity shops

Utilise charity shops! Ultimate bargainous place to find clothes. We’ve bagged many a bargain by shopping in charity shops in slightly more upmarket areas, but you have to do your research to find out the best. With children, charity shop shopping has to be restricted to the weekend. Unfortunately, most charity shops that I’ve been to tend to pack in their products leaving no room for a buggy, and breakable things quite often are at perfect toddler reaching height. However, in our home town charity shops are all situated very close to each other (ie in the town centre) so it’s really easy to quickly dash from one to another if you just want to see if they have a particular thing.

Oxfam now sell on-line, if getting out to a charity shop just isn’t an option.

Other reuses

Reuse the clothes you don’t fit or need anymore by donating to charity, passing to a friend or even repurposing for other uses – cushion covers, toys, pillow cases, or bags, for example. Check out the concept of sociable guerilla bagging at morsbags and find a free pattern for using old clothes as a shopping bag. Google ‘t-shirt bag’ for a no-sewing option.

Thirdly, replace high street shops for ethical shops

Buying new, ethical clothes online

Buying clothes in high street stores can be a nightmare for an introvert like me.

The hustle and bustle of crowds combined with not really having a clue what suits me and not knowing whether I am being taken for a clown with prices, makes me a very reluctant shopper. If you love shopping, and clothes, and the high street, check out Moral Fibre’s post on high street shopping.

Online shopping gives me the chance to compare clothes and prices from one site to another, and time to think about my purchase without feeling like I have to make an impulse buy. You can try clothes on in the privacy of your own home. Usually online clothing companies usually have a very good returns policy if it doesn’t work for you even after all that thinking!

Even though you can read a company’s ethical policies on a website, it’s hard to know who are the ‘good guys’. I’ve had a look at the ethical directory and picked my favourite clothing websites.

Children’s Clothing

where does it come from (This website focuses on knowing where clothes come from. Each piece of clothing can be directly traced back to the producer. Pretty cool!)

eco outfitters (See quotation below. EcoOutfitters focus on school uniform)

EcoOutfitters school uniforms are made from 100% Pure Organic Cotton, and certified by Global Organic Textile Standard. GOTS certification guaranties that everybody involved in the production chain is earning fair wage and no child labour is used. By buying GOTS certified products you are not just buying organic, you support sustainability and ethics in textile industry.

ethical sports (sports clothing),

Women’s Clothing

so just shop  (women’s, but also with some baby clothes),

At So Just Shop we believe that everyone should know the story behind the product they buy, who made it, how it was made and where it was made. So Just Shop brings together and supports small, creative, women-led artisan businesses from throughout the world, enabling you to browse and shop for contemporary, high quality and unique products all in one place and to discover the stories behind the women who made the product.

birdsong (women’s, if you like high fashion and can afford it).

Started in August 2014 by a trio of feminist founders, Birdsong sources fairly made fashion, from chitenge-printed bomber jackets to quirky bone jewellery. Each purchase gives 50-85% back to the women who made it, from groups in Malawi to seamstresses on Brick Lane.

outsider (high end and fairly pricey but they devote a whole page of their site to their ethical values)

ethical wares (mostly female clothing with a few bits of children’s and men’s. Run by vegans but seriously, you don’t have to be a vegan to shop there or be more ethical!)

Men’s Clothing

brothers we stand

We believe in celebrating the positive aspects of production without greenwashing, and so each item on the site has a footprint tab detailing its social and environmental impact. We list the use of pioneering ethical practices as well as the aspects of manufacture that could be further improved. In doing so, we aim to provide you with a transparent window onto the supply chain of the products you buy.

My pick of the bunch

fab and fair has the largest selection of reasonably priced clothes and other goods for men, women and children.

Fab and Fair’s underlying ethos is fair and ethical trade, which we believe helps marginalized producers out of poverty through the development of a sustainable livelihood.

Fab and Fair are distinctive by our offering of both ethical products and charitable donations. Customers are able to select a charity from our approved charity list and Fab and Fair will donate up to 10% of the net (pre VAT) sales on their behalf.

 

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