Today a parcel arrived for me. Now I’m only round the corner from home I don’t get care packages, so it’s always a momentous occasion when I get something in the mail that isn’t a takeout menu or a leaflet on how my bins have changed. Instead my fun new feminist T-shirt had arrived, courtesy of Feminist Tinder (she is both hilarious and thought-provoking, which is a combo I quite enjoy). It reads ‘Oh, that’s a fun double standard’. I love it.
Now, this T-shirt reminded me of the Whistles incident. You may remember the ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ campaign, and you may remember the claim that these T-shirts had been made by women earning 62p an hour. What a win for feminism that was. This claim was later called into question (see here), but the fact still remains that the fashion industry profits hugely from exploited people (see Rana Plaza, and this documentary). But you already knew that- Primark and Nike have been synonymous with sweatshop for a long time now.
This isn’t a rant, or a guilt trip. I’ll hold my hands up and say I could do better to shop ethically. I also acknowledge that I am very lucky to be able to choose to do so. It is often expensive to ensure the welfare of those who make your clothes, and I understand that it is unfortunately a luxury not everyone can afford. I’ve tried to put together a few handy tips and reminders to help us shop responsibly. If you have anything you’d like to add, please comment your suggestions!
Do your research
This is tricky because of the degree of opacity in big clothing companies. However, you can rely on them to spout about their CSR efforts. Check these out and see if this makes you comfortable supporting the brand. Great ethical brands aren’t hard to find online,a bit of googling will find you a brand that matches your style. Some brands also have special ranges with a focus on the fabricators. This is a little bit bizarre because why wouldn’t they do this with all their products, right? But hey, popularity for these ranges will only increase the company’s interest in expanding it. Examples that I like are H&M Conscious and ASOS Africa.
Put pressure on the bad guys
Also tricky. Boycotting a company is a double-edged sword- it sends a message, but chances are that strain on the company’s resources may just lead to unemployment for the factory workers. However, I guarantee that there are many petitions out there you can sign- like this one! Make your voice heard, and name and shame. Write blog posts! Challenge yourself and your friends. We can all do better.
There are so many great local brands out there whose workers are comfortable and happy and respected. For starters, try Scottish brands Isolated Heroes and Dead Sleekit. With smaller companies it’s easier to cut through the corporate bullshit and be well informed on what you’re supporting with your money.
Make your own stuff! In honour of the return of the Great British Sewing Bee, try your hand at creating something wonderful. If you’re useless at sewing (like me), try crochet or knitting (I’m currently halfway through a crochet cardigan). If everything you try to create turns to crap in your hands, pay your crafty friends to make you something! It’s a win-win!
This list is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it gives you a start. It’s really just a reminder that we can be more careful, and we should try a little harder.
P.S. Sorry I’ve been away for a while, the brutal Scottish climate somewhat dampened my enthusiasm to go outside for photos. But now I’m back, baby, and boy do I have a lot to tell you. Stay tuned.