It’s no secret that rules & policies have to be bent to give you, the consumer, those cheap prices you find at fashion retailers like Forever 21 and H&M. But what does that mean? Well it can be one or a combination of the following: Someone is not getting paid enough. Working conditions are below standard. Non-sustainable material is being used. Ownership of textiles or designs are not being credited. And the list goes on. Unfortunately, when you don’t grow up with a lot of money, as I did, this is not the first thought that comes to mind when making a purchase at the mall. Discovering ethical fashion has given me the language and perspective to analyze my experience with fashion.
MORE CLOTHES ≠ MORE WEALTH
I can still remember when I first realized that fashion and the way I looked mattered to me as a pre-teen. Aside from “looking pretty” or presentable for certain occasions, I was finally developing a sense of fashion and that goes hand-in-hand with developing a sense of how much clothes you own. When you don’t have a lot of money, the easy way to look like you do is to have lots of clothes. Some of my friends were very good at trying to maximize the amount of outfits they could make with their closet. However, I always felt this desire to buy more clothes, but nice clothing can get expensive. So my mother, who also raised me with the idea that I should never pay more than $12 for a shirt, got me onto clearance/sale shopping. I would just go look for the sake of looking and I’d buy $3 shirts that I knew I had no intention of wearing more than once. Now it may not surprise you that teenagers are victims of fast fashion, but I also see so many adults doing the same, including my mother.
In college I had to discover on my own that more clothes does not automatically imply more wealth. It was a quite a shocking fact for me, but it eventually made sense. I go to a private university so I see my fair share of wealthy students and I see what they wear on a daily basis: more expensive name brands. At first I thought as long as my cheaper clothes don’t state a brand name & look high quality enough, I can pass. But after researching how it is that some clothes can be sold at such low prices, I realized that I didn’t care for name brands. I cared about social responsibility. I had to do research on fashion retailers to understand the negative effects of some fast fashion retailers. Investing in more expensive clothes was beyond name brands; it was about people & the environment. But how do you convince someone with a limited budget to save up for a better quality item for the sake of social responsibility?
WHAT DOES IT TAKE?
I believe that it’s possible to make anyone consider socially responsible fashion retailers, regardless their budget or style. Not being able to find trendy items or everything being ridiculously expensive is not true about socially responsible fashion retailers. So what’s the hold up? It really becomes a matter of motivation & understanding. It’s about changing paradigms of perceived wealth, global responsibility & accessibility. It’s about showing that quality does beat quantity, that what happens to someone else affects you, that delayed gratification is worth it. But how do you motivate someone? It’s starts with informing them. Now it might not be easy or pretty to say, but it sure won’t be forgotten. Sometimes we excuse ourselves from caring by saying that something isn’t accessible to us right now, but thinking about it doesn’t take any money. I personally love to share this information with my friends & family because they’re more likely to listen. Over time and with a little research here and there, these thoughts will develop into motivation. Money still hasn’t changed, but values about their purchases have changed. Then, it’s a matter of having the resources to do it and accepting that it will be a process or transition. I am working on a detailed how-to guide for transitioning to socially responsible fashion [here] & creating a list of companies at different price ranges [LINK COMING SOON]. Knowledge is the most powerful tool you have. Use it, but use it wisely.
Thanks for listening