Growing Up and Growing Out

So I suppose that graduating from university and starting a full time job, as well as looking for a “big kid” apartment calls for a new “big kid” wardrobe.

I mean, that just makes sense, right?

Growing up in my household, with a dad who loves shopping, but also loves bargains and with a mom who is frugal to an extreme, but still loves designer brand purses, gave me an interesting mix of sentiments about shopping in general.

I love it.

I do.

The sort of adrenaline rush you get from scoring an item with a friendly, big, red sticker that marks 50% off the original price…nothing beats that.

I admit, it’s a kind of disease. I have to contain myself still from purchasing items if they’re on sale and I even remotely like the cut, fit, or pattern.

It has made keeping my promise to purchase sustainable, socially conscious items really difficult. But I am still trying my best.

Which brings me to my next point.

I am trying my best. It is ridiculously frustrating when the companies surrounding you consistently utilize irresponsible and unethical working conditions for their laborers and source materials just as unethically. And the worst part is that even though you try and work against it, those options are so easily accessible compared to the more ethical, fair trade, sustainable versions.

Luckily, with being a real life adult now, I’ve tried to make some concessions.
Sacrificing cheap alternatives that you know have been produced through slave labor, under arduous conditions, using materials that are not sustainable or healthy for people or the planet is so much more worth it when you get a quality product that does some social good. I’m still trying to push this lesson into my mind and shift my perspectives, but it is a definitely a learning process.

I have come across some really wonderful companies that are working to do their part in making the fashion industry a more globally and socially conscious industry.

After the jump, I’ll dive right into them!

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A List of Helpful Links and Guides for Sustainable and Ethical Fashion

It has become increasingly difficult for me to avoid the lures of constant corporate consumerism.  As a fashion-lover and avid online “window” shopper, I need to find ways to be more knowledgable about the brands I buy and support.

I thought I would be relegated to thrift shopping and splurging on a fair-trade item every once in a while. But, hopefully these links will help me sort out this whole sustainable and ethical fashion thing.

  • Ethisphere’s list of World’s Most Ethical Companies – a pretty extensive and complicated scoring system behind picking these companies…I’m surprised that Gap and H&M made it on the list!  I’ll still proceed cautiously if buying from them, but certain sections of these companies are safe for sustainably minded people (H&M’s conscious collection).  Plus, Gap (owner of Old Navy, Athleta, and Banana Republic) is on the Public Eye Awards‘ Worst Company list…so there’s some conflicting information going on here.  So unfortunate…can’t Gap just comply with the Fire and Building Safety agreements? Goddamn.
  • Eco Fashion World extensive list
  • Ethical Fashion Blog‘s list of 50 brands…includes some affordable ones too!  And I had no idea Oxfam International had an online store of cute goodies!
  • GoodGuide rates a bunch of products and brands and is pretty extensive
  • SUPER comprehensive blog about the Bangladesh factory collapse and companies to avoid/support.
  • Companies that signed the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety
  • Domestic Sluttery‘s list of ethical fashion brands…
  • Humane Society‘s list
  • Green America’s Responsible Shopper
  • Vegan Peace‘s list
  • One Green Planet‘s list

I’ve noticed a lot of ethical fashion brand lists are UK-based…it makes me sad.

And ultimately, this little piece from Jezebel sums it up nicely.

Conscious Consumerism: A Commitment I Can Keep

Ever since I was young, I knew the value of a dollar–and that dollar could buy you a lot if you knew how to navigate sales racks and bargain bins.

In a world of fast fashion, I quickly became immersed in a desire for more, more, more.  New clothes gave (and still does to some extent) a kind of euphoria I never knew how to explain.  Materialism and American consumerism at its finest.

And yet, as I grew older and learned things about child labor, unfair wages, and unethically sourced materials, the satisfaction of getting that $5 top rapidly shrank.

I tried my best, though, to push those thoughts aside.  Those issues never became a reality for me.  It was and is easy to slip back into the mindset where you think your impact does not matter.

But let’s face it–the decisions we make, especially the decisions about what we buy and what companies we choose to support definitely do matter.

After returning from Kenya and Costa Rica, I find it extremely difficult to justify buying something for cheap if I know the person who made it could never afford to buy it for him or herself.  And it is equally difficult to justify knowing just how much the fashion industry pollutes our environment–that I know our unwanted donated clothes are actually shipped off to developing countries, purchased for cheap, and then sold in markets to families in poverty.

It is still difficult for me to reconcile the differences in what I am so passionate about.  Fashion is something I find to be such a vital part of creative expression and the human experience, though if it comes at the expense of our environmental sustainability or social well-being, I don’t know if it’s worth it.

It’s not to say that I would never buy clothes again, though.

Which brings me to the commitment I’m hoping to keep–and that I’m hoping you too can join me in.

 

I commit to minimizing the negative impact I will have on our earth and global society.  I commit to not buying items that are not sustainably sourced and where workers are not given a living or fair wage.  I commit to sticking to thrift stores if I am seeking cheap thrills, and investing in companies and clothes that are people-friendly (not made using slave or child labor) from companies that commit to minimizing their carbon footprint if I feel the need to buy something new.

I know it will be difficult, especially as a struggling university student and soon-to-be graduate.  But in the grand scheme of things, is the sacrifice I’m making really a sacrifice?  Ultimately, not really.

I will document my experiences here.  Please let me know if you decide to join me in this.

Cheers!