ETHICALLY CHALLENGED

I love getting new clothes, like a lot of people. I especially love getting new coats and jackets and the amount I have at the moment is verging on obscene. Bear in mind that I don't do extreme sports; I don't hillwalk; I don't ski, but still I have about 30 winter coats.  I spend money on good quality coats and jackets; I pick up second hand beauties; I also pick them up pretty cheap on the high street.

I often do the latter. Not just coats and jackets, though. There is a constant stream of cheap garments coming through my door, often ill-fitting or bought on a whim, or in a state of panic and premenstrual doom, where only something black and loose will do.  Most of these purchases are in store. However, I've got a pretty hilarious and tragic history of ordering shite online. It's not on purpose - the stuff always looks good on Asos and it's usually on sale, and there you go, if it's reduced then that's me hooked.  I'll take one in every colour if I'm getting a fiver off, thank you very much.  I used to have a great catalogue of photos, 'website vs reality' but I've been through a million phones since then and I haven't had a wedding to dress up for, which seems to incur some of my biggest fashion abominations.  In fact, my own wedding dress was a bit of a High Street disaster (Monsoon).  Thankfully it's been skipped since (if I'm being honest, it's probably the least embarrassing aspect of my marriage, even with a Debenhams faux fur bolero thrown into the mix).

I don't rate myself as a stylish person.  My hair is purple and I'm pretty scruffy by nature. I'm mostly in skinny jeans and Adidas trainers; I prefer winter to summer because I can dress up my look with black tights and a beaten up pair of Chelsea boots.  This makes my impulsive and poor shopping choices even more frustrating, because I don't need to have an array of glamorous outfits; I don't regularly do 'smart/casual'; I don't go from 'the office to the dance floor' as Cosmo would say, or at least I don't anymore.

There are bigger issues than me wasting money on metallic bombers and cheap jeans: it's not the lack of space for all this clobber, nor the precious time I waste being 'ruthless' and culling said shite; bigger than me pulling off a good look only a handful of times a year.

Fast fashion. Sweat shops.  Child labour.  Global warming.  Workforce exploitation.  Substandard conditions.  The Rana Plaza tragedy.  Industry loss in the UK.

I get it.  I've been shirking my responsibilities for a long time. I'm smart, I have a social conscience and I have the ability to read labels and news stories.  I understand that there is still a very high price to pay for a brand new outfit, even if I'm being charged less than twenty quid.  I don't want to get too high and mighty because I think lots of us are aware of the increasing numbers of people that have died or endured the most miserable working conditions in order to quench the thirst of 'fashion savvy' Westerners.  Then there's the damage that it's causing to the environment, there's the refusal from tax-dodging retail giants to pay staff a living wage...


Clothing landfill // Image source - truecostmovie.com
Shocking statistics // Image source - globalmarch.org
Child Labour Protest // Image source - truecostmovie.com
I know stores like Primark play an important role for people that rely on low cost clothes.  I understand that people on low incomes, whether in work or out of work, are reliant on low cost fashion retailers churning out hundreds of different styles every month; I see the pressure that families are under to dress their children in nice outfits, or at the very minimum, buy new clothes.  I get that people are bullied on the basis of what they're wearing.  People that are working and living on the breadline in the UK, of which there are millions, are being exploited too, along with everyone that's impoverished by a brutal Welfare system (though that's another article in itself).  I don't think the responsibility of boycotting unethically mass-produced clothing lies with people that need access to cheap wares.  Everyone deserves choice. Drive up the standards of living for minimum wage workers globally, and then we could see a major difference.

However, I feel that some of us are in a fortunate position to make better choices when it comes to shopping.  I know I can afford to spend a bit more money when buying new clothes, especially if I sacrifice another couple of vices.  Plus I love charity shops.   So I'm challenging myself to shopping ethically and second hand for the next six months.

No more Zara. No more Adidas trainers. No more tights from Primark.  For the next six months, I'm committing to sustainable and ethical shopping. I'll be buying handmade goods from independent designers; I'll shop with larger retailers that source and use ethically produced materials, who pay real wages to their employees; I'll be ransacking the finest charity shops in Broughty Ferry and 'borrowing' from friends.  I will also consider 'investment pieces' as a way of shopping ethically with the 'Buy less, choose well' attitude a la Vivienne Westwood.  Clothing, footwear, accessories, home furnishings - all part of the challenge.  I'm expecting a few challenges along the way; for a start, summer is beckoning and I have no sandals.

Wish me luck, I'm freaking out already,

Fay

PS - any recommendations for stylish ethical brands will be gratefully received along with any other tips!

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