As global citizens, living in a every time more and more connected planet, mainly through international trade, our choices as consumers have more impact in our world than ever before. What you choose to buy today, has a strong influence in the lives of people in the most remote areas you can imagine. So how can you shop for clothes more consciously?
The new fast-fashion business model adopted by most of the big brands (H&M, Forever21, Zara, Wal-Mart, Primark, etc.) – using manufacturing middlemen to produce their clothes – is making it very hard for them to track down any compliance violations since they no longer know who exactly is producing their clothes. You may have probably already heard about the collapse of that clothing factory building in Dhaka, Bangladesh where 1,132 people died and thousands more were injured, or about all the child labor involved in the production of our clothes. You can read more about these issues here and here.
1. Be an informed consumer
Thanks to the Internet you now have loads of information at the tips of your fingers. A friend of mine introduced me to Justine Leconte’s YouTube channel. Justine is a super friendly French designer that provides tons of insightful information about the fashion industry as well as practical tips to shop more ethically and consciously. The video below gives you an intro to what fast-fashion is and what you can do to avoid the trap. Some of the next points I touch are also mentioned in her video.
2. Go for quality, not quantity
Most of the fast-fashion brands offer cheap, low quality clothes that don’t last long, forcing you to shop again and again. When you buy high-quality clothes made responsibly, not only do you get to keep your clothes longer and save money in the long run, you also stop using clothes with toxic chemicals that harm you, the people who made it and the environment.
I love the concept of a capsule wardrobe and I have just begun working on it (will write a series of posts on my progress). It consists of shrinking your wardrobe down to ideally 33 good quality pieces per season that match with each other. That way you are certain that you will use all the clothes you buy and also save a lot of time in the morning. Justine mentions it in her video above and she also has a series of videos taking you through it step by step.
3. Know your style
Knowing your style and what fits you will make sure that you always feel comfortable in the clothes you buy. It will avoid regretful purchases and save you money 😉
Here Justine once more with awesome advice on finding your style.
4. Buy locally and ethically produced clothes
The thing with the big brands is that most, if not all of them, produce their clothes in bulk in third world countries to save money (the profit margins are insane!). Considering you’re going for the capsule wardrobe, investing in locally and ethically produced clothing will not be too expensive in the long run. In Germany, where I live, there a plenty of brands and stores that you can choose from. My favorite brand is Armed Angels and I love the avocadostore. You will definitely find similar stores online in your area.
5. Go vintage – for real
I mean vintage vintage, not urban outfitters vintage (sigh). It doesn’t have to be really old, antique clothes, just used clothes- recycle! Visit thrift stores, flea markets or exchange clothes with your friends. My boyfriend recently acquired a new wardrobe from his buddy who gave him 20(!) barely used t-shirts he no longer wanted. I also got a kickass jacket last month while in Amsterdam from the waterlooplein flea market – picked out by my grandma for the amazing price of 3 euros!
Heck, you can even throw a party at your place and invite a bunch of people to bring the clothes they no longer want. You will end up pimping your closet for free and have the perfect excuse to drink a glass of wine or two.
Remember, where there is a will, there is a way. Get your pretty consumer butt together, inform yourself and use your buying power to create real impact.