“Nothing unethical is ever coming into this house again!”
I recently made this declaration as I slammed down my laptop screen in frustration over not finding something sustainably made and safe for my children. I don’t even remember what I was searching for – likely an item of clothing or a toy.
Since we’ve committed to eating local, sustainable, and ethical food, I’ve expanded my understanding about a sustainable lifestyle in general. This includes a fairly broad dissection of all of the things that come into our home. Nothing is exempt from the scrutiny and questions.
How are our textiles grown and milled? What is the level of plastic in one item or another? Was slave labor used to create some item or another?
Understanding where the things come from that we use on a daily basis is important to me. As a consumer, I want to make the most informed purchasing decision possible. However, this rabbit trail has consumed a pretty large portion of my time, if I’m going to be honest.
As it turns out, commerce is hardly as simple as walking into Target or logging onto Amazon and filling up a cart with things I like. Sure, this is a way to shop. But I’m no longer convinced it’s the best way – or even an acceptable way.
If you’ve spent much time around the food movement and are familiar with the concepts of local, sustainable, organic, ethical farming practices, then you’re already familiar with the concept of slow food. Slow food is good. Slow food ensures that we’ll have farms to give to future generations and food to feed our children.
However, a slow lifestyle hardly begins or ends with what we put on our plates. While this is important, – perhaps is the single most important change to make, if you’re going to make any move toward a more ethical and sustainable lifestyle – it’s certainly not the only way to use your spending dollars to impact our world.
Another movement growing in popularity is the slow fashion movement, which I was first familiarized with through my growing exploration of the world of fiber crafting. Recently, I watched the documentary The True Cost. If you’ve seen the movie, you probably already know where I’m going with this.
If you haven’t watched The True Cost, I highly recommend that you do – it’s on Netflix to make your life that much easier. I won’t get into a ton of detail on this doc, but to summarize, it’s an honest view at what goes into making the clothes that we buy and wear each season.
The crux of The True Cost is the revelation of how much we hurt our earth and the other people who live on it in order to keep up with the revolving door of style trends. The information contained in the documentary isn’t exactly new, but the way it’s portrayed is indeed a bitter pill to swallow for those of us accustomed to cheap, practically disposable garment shopping.
Trading Convenience for Ethicality
In addition to hating spending money on clothes that wear out ridiculously quickly and look and feel cheaply made, I’ve become convicted about the ethicality of the clothes that I wear and choose to put on my children. I can no longer simply pick up a cheap Carter’s onesie for my children when I know that it means an underpaid Bangladeshi woman had to literally give her children up in order to keep the factory job where my children’s clothes are made.
The fashion issue brings to light many moral implications. For example, why can most clothing companies not make the bold statement “our garments not made with slave labor” somewhere on their websites or clothing labels?
The concept that we blindly accept slavery through offshore factory exploitation is astounding to me. We really like our cheap, convenient lifestyle.
As with our slowing food lifestyle, I’ve realized that we have to slow our fashion and textile consumptions, as well. In a perfect world, we’d slow everything, from our pizza cutters to our furniture, but we can’t stretch our budget that dramatically all at once.
Searching for Slow Fashion Solutions
Right now, my focus on ethicality and sustainability is limited to slow food and slow fashion, since the things we put into and onto our bodies absolutely must be clean, safe and healthy. For us, slow fashion also includes all textiles, like blankets, towels, and sheets.
Already our foray into sustainable clothing has taken hours of research per purchase. While there are a growing number of companies that are committed to using sustainably farmed fibers and ethically managed factories, they take a bit of sleuth work to find. Search engine results filter queries by sites that get the most action, and for huge high fashion brands, this means near total dominance when you look for one item of clothing or another. Smaller sites that are more committed to doing good by the earth and by people typically don’t have the manpower or budget to push their content to the top of search rankings, thus they can be hard to find.
As a consumer, this makes my job a little harder. The first thing I needed to purchase after making our slow fashion decision was shoes for the kids. The search for shoes took me an entire day.
There are some bloggers out there who are trying to make searching for ethical and sustainable clothing easier. Unfortunately, there are not many US based bloggers writing about sustainable fashion, and while the recommendations that others might offer are great, there are some limited options when it comes to shipping choices and international purchases.
As a US mom who’s pretty passionate about finding the most sustainable, ethically sourced clothing for my kids and myself, I’d like to create some resources for other likeminded parents. From this point forward, I’m going to chronicle my research into posts that’ll help you find ethical clothing and textiles, if that’s your game. If not, I hope that I’ll at least inspire you to consider some more friendly clothing options.
I don’t intend to go back to the “old way” of shopping – bye bye Amazon, Target, and Kohl’s – so I’m hoping to eventually cultivate a large body of resources from which to draw. I’m not currently seeking sponsorship or affiliate programs for any of the brands I’ll recommend – my recommendations will be mine alone, unless explicitly mentioned in an individual post.
If you’re interested in learning more about sustainable fashion and the brands I love, go ahead and subscribe to get the latest updates right in your inbox.