How many times have you actually wondered where your clothes come from? Who makes them? Is it all machines? How much are they paid? Where do the extras, the leftovers, and the wastes go? For all the glitz and glamour of the fashion world, there are a few dark recesses that have recently been up for questioning.
Ethical shopping today isn’t just a philosophy anymore. It is a reality that designers are consciously imbibing to ensure that workers in third world nations are paid fairly and work in humane and safe conditions. From womb to tomb, the whole process of mass clothing involves enormous wastage and pollution that affects the environment in ways one cannot imagine!
Since child labour, tannery chemicals, and blood diamonds aren’t a gruesome relic of the past, the one thing we can do as consumers is to begin questioning and shopping responsibly. While this may seem like a Herculean task, small, tiny conscious changes can actually make a huge difference.
- Do your research
Turn your retail therapy into a conscious experience. Go online and do your research on company policy, their trade, and wage policy. A number of websites offer an exclusive list of organic, vegan, fair-trade brands. You can also choose to shop at government-subsidized stores that ensure that the artists and artisans are paid a fair portion of the earnings.
- Buy directly
Indians artists have a hard time getting credit for their work. Be it Chikankari, Batik, Ajrakh or Tie & Die or any other indigenous craftwork, the artisans get peanuts compared to what the customer pays finally. This cycle can be cut down if you buy directly from the makers, lowering the selling price as well as ensuring that the artists get exactly what they want for their work.
- Repair, reuse, recycle
We find a tear in our clothes and throw it away. The concept of repair and reuse in clothing seems to have been forgotten with the previous generation. There is absolutely no shame in mending a piece of perfectly good clothing and making them last a little longer. You can also have a trading system with your friends. Buying second-hand clothes ensure that not everything is turned into rags for stuffing and shipped off to third world countries.
- Shop online
Now shamelessly shop online! Most online shopping brands transport in bulk without the middleman and retailer in between. This significantly cuts down on additional charges and ensures that the least amount of resources are being wasted. Most online shopping brands transport in bulk without the middleman and retailer in between. This significantly cuts down on additional charges and ensures that the least amount of resources are being wasted.
- Fabrics that work fine
Tanning of leather is a community occupation in some areas of the world, where most people don’t live beyond the age of 50. Look for low impact textiles like cotton, silk, hemp, linen, khadi, and wool which ensures that the minimal amount of toxins are leached into the environment. Alternatives like pineapple leaf leather are slowly becoming popular enough amongst the masses and you could consider giving it a go!
Donating to NGO’s and watchdogs ensures that the garments get back into the cycle and don’t end up in a rubbish heap just to be mindlessly burnt away. A lot of NGOs use the collection to fund other causes and donate to the needy.
- A Capsule Wardrobe
The idea behind a capsule wardrobe is that you own only a few pieces of classic timeless, high-quality pieces that can be mixed and matched into new combinations as much as you want. With the fashion industry being so volatile, it is impossible to keep up with every new trend, without completely disregarding the old. So, with a wardrobe only full of well thought out clothes that you can see yourself wearing at least 30 times you won’t be running out to the nearest store screaming “I have nothing to wear!” for the next party.
- Rent your couture
How many times have you spent extravagantly only for a gorgeous piece of clothing to sit in your wardrobe for ages?! A number of online services offer exclusive designer wear which you can rent and return. This way, you don’t accumulate excess clutter and put the garment back onto the market, once you are done with a statement piece.