Shopping strategies (part deux) : ethical & green - beginners guide to save the world.
Lady Beatrice always exhibits a keen interest in my shopping expeditions and is highly critical of my purchases.

shopping strategies: ethical & green fashion for real life

Rosie and I were having a chat over a cup of tea. About this and that – and ethical and green fashion. Half way through the chat we realised that we were talking about quite different things. What I thought was ethical fashion was not at all what she meant.

Some people think the way to make ethical fashion is in small batches, located in remote villages, labour intensive, hand woven cloth, providing valuable employment for the locals, – who might otherwise turn into poaching tigers. The designs can often be described as a little ‘weird’, the clothes are not always terribly inspiring, but hey – it’s a fad and there is the niche and the ‘goody two shoes’ market for it. So thats ethical fashion for the few. For the rest everything else it is somehow ok to be unethical. Underpay the workforce, squeeze suppliers, and rip off customers with substandard products. As long as it’s cheap, there is profit, keep churning things out and everyone is happy. Of course, cut costs ( & corners ) in every possible way, pollute the water supplies, destroy the air quality and abuse animals in every despicable way. We just keep buying from you as there are so few options.

It is however a relief that we don’t all have to wear ecru coloured cotton or purple tie dye kaftans. (though of course if you want to…organic fair trade cotton is very lovely indeed- I can see a fashion post coming. How to wear ecru cotton…)
The goal is to make ethical fashion the mainstream norm, rather than the exception, for a few eccentrics who care about that sort of thing.

(little) Steps towards ethical and green fashion

Influence the big retailers & fashion houses.
As a minimum standard, demand from your retail shopping solid proof that they are ‘sweat shop’ free. (No small children exploited, no underpaid adults, safe working conditions and living salaries. Can you really live with yourself knowing that what you bought was made by exploiting children?) Some of The big companies have already made a difference and improved the general standard of working conditions in parts of the world, where regulations are non existent. (Marks & Spencer, for example, traces it’s supply chain and has measures in place to ensure fair pay. http://plana.marksandspencer.com/we-are-doing , moving in the right direction for success. Simply by contacting the Head Office of favourite brands and asking them to provide their fair trade credentials and policies. – will make a difference. The big boys may ignore us at first, but sooner or later, enough fashion people will demand it and things improve. This makes sense in more than one ways, if the retailers were unable to rely on ‘cheap’ and unregulated labour from abroad, producing things locally would once again become competitive creating more jobs.
http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/buyersguides/clothing/clothesshops.aspx

Amend shopping habits
Buying clothing with more awareness and discernment is the green option. What has the least environmental impact is buying less. Just because we can afford 11 acrylic mix jumpers, ‘they are so cheap! Look at all the colours!’ It doesn’t mean that we should have them all. Just the one jumper; and keep the rest of the money. If I do this enough times, may be next time I will be able to afford the ridiculously expensive organic cotton, made by the skilled well paid artisan. (which, lets face it, looks a lot better anyway) Buying the occasional, quality second hand /vintage items is also good. Personally, not a fun of everything vintage look, I have seen perfectly normal, pleasant people turn a tat obsessive  when it comes to hunting for second hand. Vintage works best in small doses, for example I’d happily buy a lovely second hand wool jumper, a nice quality bag, but not socks or undies…

Develop other pastimes & hobbies
Ensure that shopping does not become an all consuming passion. Refusal is elegance they said. Showing discernment always shows well, and accepting that things will cost a little more now or we shall all pay later. Like a lot of us, I was brought up, to view retail shopping as ‘retail therapy’ and leisure time, – developing other hobbies will most definitely help with ethical fashion choices. (Ideas for shopping free enjoyable weekend here) It will also help with developing a more coherent, well put together style. People who shop excessively never manage to look well dressed, and often look ‘overdone’.

Eliminate cruel and ostentatious trends
Do you think fur can be ethical and ‘green’? The use of fur in fashion is a remnant from our more barbarous past – fine for Eskimos but just not acceptable around town any more. The way fur is produced is cruel beyond normal comprehension, disrespectful of life itself, as well as destructive to the environment. The fur industry has tried to re-brand itself as ‘green’ claiming that fur is a renewable and biodegradable resource. In truth, chemicals used to process fur, are toxic (much more toxic than leather tanning) related to an assortment of horrible diseases, including cancer. God forbid what would happen if those chemicals were to get in the general water supply. (you can read more about this here:  http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainable-fashion-blog/is-fur-trade-sustainable )

Shopping strategies notes:
#contact favourite brands asking for their fair pay, sustainability & animal welfare policies. I ve made my list… Join me and let me know what responses you get.
#Buying less clothing altogether, refine my style and develop discerning taste. (divine and all that!)
#Buying things that can be fixed, from responsible companies who offer aftercare and repairs. These things have a longer lifespan, therefore more green than their disposable equivalents (For example longchamp will fix your beat up le pliage, Brora will mend your old cashmere) I already do this to some extend but will research more companies, let me know if you unearth any hidden gems…
#Tailor made clothes, require more thought and planning, promote local skills, provide local employment and save on carbon imprint. Ultimately will look a lot better and will help cultivate patience and appreciation.
#good clothes maintenance and green washing methods to look beautifully polished. (Wardrobe Maintenance: handbag easy care post here– cashmere green care post here)
# fur shows a lack of compassion and lack of environmental awareness, exuding an air of extreme selfishness – not a good shopping strategy.  Unthinkingly, I have bought things in the past with fur trims and pom poms (quelle horreur) – trying to work out what to do with them…

lady Sarah’s: shopping strategies (part one) here

(Note: sheepskin is not classified as fur, in the UK sheep are free range and most have a decent quality of life. Angora, though technically fur, can and should be harvested without causing distress to the rabbit. (unfortunately that is not always the case
Affordable & delectable, ethical angora socks and cashmere gloves
 here – lovely cashmere and angora affordable prices 
High end designer ethical angora:
here – designer angora high prices equally high quality
and if you would like to knit your own: ( so relaxing)
here – knit your own fluffy angora scarf & jumper
 

for ethical angora- beautiful quality and happy bunnies.
http://www.selinascott.com

eco friendly, super ethical, stylish jeans, merino wool & sportswear (great for cycling)
http://www.howies.co.uk/info

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14 thoughts on “Shopping strategies (part deux) : ethical & green – beginners guide to save the world.

  1. Tabitha

    This is a quote to live by “Just because we can afford 11 acrylic mix jumpers, ‘they are so cheap! Look at all the colours!’ It doesn’t mean that we should have them all. Just the one jumper; and keep the rest of the money. If I do this enough times, may be next time I will be
    able to afford the ridiculously expensive organic cotton, made by the skilled well paid artisan.”
    So many times on my blog when I have shown a Chanel or Hermes bag, I have heard ” beyond my price range” but so often that is from folk who spend every single month on rubbish, they have a much larger discretionary income than I do, but don’t see that by, holding their retail fire for a few months, they could buy the supposed object of their dreams.

    Reply
  2. Virginia

    Wonderful post. I stopped wearing fur many years ago, the thought of it upsets me, and I am always disappointed that designers still use it. So frustrating, also, that it is a challenge to find goods ethically made and attractive (to me). Great idea to contact brand and find out their positions on these important questions.

    Reply
    1. ladysarahinlondon Post author

      Marks and Spencer is a huge company with a good variety of mainstream fashion reasonably ethical practices, but I think all retailers will change if the customers demand it. You know about fur, though I would not dream of wearing a full coat, I bought items with little fur trims, without even realising it! Disgusting really…

      Reply
  3. Pret a Porter P

    I actually made a list for the new year of other past times. I should probably move it to my desktop and not buried away in some folder (on the computer). I do agree it’s better to buy 1 quality item than 5 pieces of crap. But I firmly believe quality (and crap) comes at all price points.

    Reply
    1. ladysarahinlondon Post author

      Firmly agree with you- quality (and crap) comes in all price points. I love most things CHANEL, but simply shudder when I see some of their costume jewellery and what they charge for it. Likewise I have a trench bought 4 years ago from H&M – it’s the most flattering cut ever for my body type. Much better than its famous & wealthy cousin, the super hyped Burberry trench.:-)

      Reply
  4. Cressida K

    Excellent suggestions about taking the initiative with favourite brands. I don’t buy fur, but still have old pieces, not ready to part with. Hardly ever wear them though.

    Reply
    1. ladysarahinlondon Post author

      It is more difficult with existing pieces. I think it’s important never to buy any new FUR. I ve stopped wearing vintage as well, as I fear it simply glamorises what is a horrid industry. So much unnecessary cruelty involved, why perpetuate it.

      Reply
  5. hungryhungryhippo404

    Great post with some excellent points! I am particular anti-fur, and it’s upsetting to think that it’s still a profitable industry. We need to keep the conversation going in regards to it, and make sure the brands hear us! Julia 🙂

    Reply
  6. Sarah Sky

    really enjoy your thoughts on this. Vivienne Westwood says buy quality, not more. I agree. On the fur topic, I live in Louisiana and we are trying to encourage people to wear Nutria. I know its not as nice as most furs but the nutrias degrade the marshes and are an invasive species that are killing the wetlands.

    Reply
  7. Philippa

    So I guess I’ve found my answer to my last question! (on rabbit fur). I’ve never bought a fur per se, but I have a favourite coat – from one of my favourite shops, in the sale on the day the weather turned and I was desperately in a need of a decent winter coat – which has a rabbit fur trim to its (detachable) hood. I’ve often thought of getting someone to remove it and edge the hood with something else – velvet? – but the coat is now wearing away too much at the cuffs and pocket edges to make it worthwhile, methinks.

    My grandmother had two fur coats which, when she died, no-one would touch with a barge pole. My dad, at a loss what to do with them, asked around, and a Danish friend suggested sewing them together into a silk-backed blanket. (A deep knowledge of cold changes attitudes to these things, I think). My sister found the idea too disgusting so they have languished in a wardrobe ever since. Someone might pay good money for them now, but still we hesitate, unwilling to get involved, unsure what to do next. My uncle suggested burning them but this, too, seems somehow wrong. I have asked too many questions already today, but if you have any thoughts, let me know!

    (PS So glad I found your blog. I am enjoying very much reading my way through your archives. Can you tell?!)

    Reply

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