Here’s a wee story for you. Whilst shopping in Glasgow I found myself in the infamous low quality fast fashion superstore Primark , after a frustrating lack of affordable metallic pleated skirts (I really want one after falling in love with this Christopher Kaneone) in other shops in the city. I found a decent one that fit, for £13 and on my way to the till picked up a couple of packs of tights and socks, a basic stripy t-shirt and a black playsuit on sale for £5. The queue was typically long, so I took some time to examine my garments. All of them were made in Mongolia, Bangladesh or China. All of them had at least one flaw in the seam or finish. All of them were made of thin, flimsy synthetic fabrics, and all of them were so cheap it would be impossible for a basic living wage to be paid. I suddenly realised that by supporting this company I am contributing to the very problem I advocate against in my work.
On a personal level, I feel very strongly about ethical fashion, both from a vegetarian viewpoint, and from my work at SDX doing everything we can to support local designers, makers and retailers. I think sustainable clothing has this horrible taboo surrounding it, either with the public thinking its only hippies wearing ponchos and hemp shoes, or with brands jumping on the bandwagon/trend and ‘greenwashing’ over the real issues. I hope that my blog reflects my ethics, but I know deep down that I am far from perfect in this area. I still buy my basics from Primark, I still purchase cheap, breakable jewellery and I regularly use non-vegan products. Most of my clothes are not made in Scotland or even Britain, and most of them I haven’t got the famous 30 wears out of.
I realise now that ‘cruelty-free’ stands for more than just avoiding fur and leather, or products tested on animals. It means shopping with the purpose to boycott cruelty to humans, and the environment too. It means dressing in clothing that creates minimal damage to all life on earth, from the design process, to manufacturing and retail, and finally to it’s obsolescence and disposal. Unfortunately, mass-produced fast fashion is generally a result of the abuse of basic human rights, irreversible environmental damage and horrific treatment of animals. Even more unfortunately, it has become the majority of what we wear, due to the high costs of luxury or tailor made clothing, the perceived inaccessibility and ‘uncool’ aesthetics of sustainable fashion, the cheapness and ease of shopping on the high street, and the bucketload of advertising pushed upon our consciousness daily through magazines, TV, billboards, and above all, social media.
For more information about Fast Fashion, and how to be an antidote to that, check out one of my favourite Scottish Bloggers, Jen Brownlie over at Tartan Brunette. On the 31st of August we will be co-hosting the #ScotlandHour twitter chat about the Scottish fashion industry, so hop over to @urbanityblog to get involved! I also really recommend watching the documentary True Cost on Netflix, all about the ugly side of the fashion manufacturing industry- child labour, horrendous pay, abuse and unsafe work conditions.