After the recent factory disasters in Bangladesh, I became more aware of how my fashion choices affect the lives of others. My concern for people, animals, and the environment pushed me to make some important decisions and I dedicated the month of September to researching the issues and my options for being a more conscious consumer.
Pleased at finding a plethora of resources and options, I have challenged myself to shop ethically for clothes, shoes, and accessories from now on. This challenge is forcing me to reevaluate the way that I shop. I created the graphic below to visually represent the questions I ask and the choices I make when I want to buy something. Mapping it out helped me work through the decisions and options available and I hope it will help others too.
First, I ask myself if I really need the item that I want, which slows down my consumerism (a financially positive side-effect). Maybe I already have something similar. Maybe I'm just impulse buying. Depending on what it is, I might just upcycle or borrow. If I determine that I really need the item, I'll then decide if it needs to be purchased new; getting something that is already in the consumer stream is the best option and there are many places to find second-hand or vintage options:
If it turns out I can't find it second-hand or need it to be new, I'll look for an ethically-made option. This is where all of my research comes in handy. If it turns out I can't find an ethical version, I at least want to buy a quality item rather than a cheap, throw away version. There is a great movement happening for USA-made, quality, artisan work with companies like Made Collection and Archival. Buying local is another responsible alternative.
To some, this may seem like deprivation, but I have more than enough clothes, shoes, and purses. For perspective, compare my challenge with The Uniform Project or Free Fashion Challenge! Thrift and vintage shopping have been filling in quite nicely and I love the serendipity of scoring a great find. Otherwise, I'm abstaining, refashioning, getting remixing lessons from friends, attending swap parties, and gathering my go-to sites for when I really do need something. I don't feel deprived; I feel invigorated by the challenge and at peace with my choices.
I'm hoping this process will become a habit over time. Here's what I want: I want to shop less, but when I do, I want it to be ethical. I don't want to harm people, animals, or the environment with my consumerism. I want my purchases to be not only harmless, but helpful. I want to support companies that pay a living wage, artisans furthering a tradition, animal welfare, entrepreneurial cheerleading, partnerships with developing countries, education, fair trade, organic farming, sustainable processes, and so many other good practices. These are the choices we all make when we shop.
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