Cloth and Hide · Musings

Ethics in fashion

With the annual orgy that is Black Friday sales just around the corner and Christmas and boxing day sales looming, it pays to think about the ethics of fashion when you are diving into those deep deep discounts. Sure we all love a good bargain, and with these fast fashion brands springing up everywhere, the prices are lower than ever before. But who is really paying the price?

I watched a documentary recently where Ricky Yates went around the world looking at where sable furs and croc skins come from. Some of the ‘farms’ where they keep these animals are absolutely horrendous. The scale of operations in China are so huge now that real fur can be bought at a lower price than synthetic furs. Live plucking of down has also come under the spotlight recently. Puffy jackets are everywhere these days but that cheap high fashion jacket is most likely filled with feathers repeatedly plucked from a live goose while it’s being held down writhing in agony.

Animals are cute and defenseless so understandably they get a lot of attention in the media, probably more than sweatshops these days. That predistressed pair of jeans you are wearing that was bought for $30? That was probably distressed by sandblasting, and the worker who works in that factory probably has some degree of incurable lung silicosis that will eventually lead to the decline of his/her health and maybe eventual death.

It’s a confusing world but people are starting to become more aware of the ethics of fashion. Companies are also exposed when they try to greenwash their brand. In the end, I guess it is human nature to ignore what they cannot immediately see. That shirt may be made in a sweatshop but it is so awesome and it’s 50% off… What can I do about it? I’m just one man with a love for down vests…

The whole buy less buy better thing is a good start. Sure, buying a good quality pair of goodyear welted shoes may be roughly equivalent in dollars to owning 7 pairs of cheap glued shoes in the same timeframe, but you’ve saved more cows and chemicals. If saving money is as important as buying quality goods, the second hand market is literally full of barely worn items that will last you decades at a mere fraction of the original price.

It also pays to do a bit of research on the brand to make sure it doesn’t use sweatshops and sources materials in an ethical manner. The whole made in America thing has been an easy way to ensure your garment was made by workers with fair wages and good working conditions, and the same goes for things made in other first world countries like Australia, New Zealand or Japan. But then made in China doesn’t automatically guarantee sweatshops either and there’s some awesome products coming from Left Field NYC.

So this shopping season, stop and think: ‘Do I really need this?”

and

“Who’s paying with more than just money for my low low prices?”

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