Q: I make a conscious effort not to buy “fast fashion” but find it difficult to find clothing I can afford that isn’t produced in sweatshops overseas. How does one dress ethically if you don’t have a lot of disposable income?
The online Macmillan Dictionary defines fast fashion as “cheap and affordable clothes which are the result of catwalk designs moving into stores in the fastest possible way in order to respond to the latest trends.” People have been thinking a lot about the business of fast fashion lately, partly because of the documentary The True Cost, which premièred at Cannes in May. From the underpaid and often underage workers who make those $7.99 T-shirts — in appalling conditions — to the pesticides used in the production of the cotton, the film should get everyone thinking about where a lot of the clothes we wear come from. (The True Cost has yet to play in Calgary, but you can download it on iTunes; see truecostmovie.com for more information on how to rent it and to watch the trailer.)
A few months ago there was an episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver that also addressed the fast fashion issue. Watching it I learned that the average North American shopper purchases 64 items of clothing a year. That’s a lot of new clothes. Perhaps the first thing we all need to admit is our materialism is completely out of control and we don’t really need to be buying 64 things a year. The fashion media is partly to blame for this — skinny jeans are out and flares are in! — as it constantly promotes the shiny and new. Magazines and blogs that feature celebrities and fashionista’s overflowing closets don’t help either.) What we need is to change our mindset.
Like any addiction, knowing there’s a problem is the first step to recovery! Don’t buy into buying stuff! Most of us own lots of clothing we never wear, much of it bought solely because it was inexpensive. You will probably get more joy out of a pair of $250 made-in-L. A. Current/Elliott jeans that fit great than you will three pair of $49 jeans made in a sweat shop in Southeast Asia that lose their shape after two weeks.
When we do go shopping we should strive to buy pieces we love, produced by workers being paid fair wages and in safe conditions. Those clothes are usually more expensive. If you can’t afford to buy ethically made “investment pieces” that you will wear often and for a long time — Livia Firth, the producer of The True Cost, has a rule that anything she buys new has to be worn at least thirty times — I’m afraid the only other option is to buy second hand. By buying clothes in vintage, consignment and thrift shops you are diverting clothes from landfills and not contributing to the frenzy for $7.99 T-shirts. Lucky for us, Calgary has a plethora of excellent second hand stores — from shops like Vespucci that specializes in designer clothing, to vintage stores like A Vintage Affair, and of course, Value Village.
[“source – calgaryherald.com”]