Today is the 7th anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory tragedy in Bangladesh. Today I ask, “Who Made my Clothes?” because never again can 1,134 people lose their lives from unsafe working conditions.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about supply chains, because so many people worldwide are involved in the manufacture of clothing and textiles.
Cotton is grown and harvested, spun into fibre in mills, woven into fabric, cut into pieces, sewn into garments and then sold in a shop…it’s a lot of steps and a lot of people are involved along the way.
I don’t buy very many new garments. To be honest, tagging a brand today doesn’t make very much sense.(The last new piece of clothing I purchased was in October.)
The majority of my wardrobe is vintage, thrifted or home sewn, so, I’ve been thinking about the supply chain in my own homesewn garments. What kind of impact does the fabric I use have? Who made that fabric? Who made my thread? Who made my buttons and zippers and snaps…
Fabric in some ways is actually harder to trace origins as there usually isn’t any indication as to where it came from. I would love to be able to walk into a fabric store and easily see where the fabric came from, how it was dyed, whether it was made in a closed loop…
Do I have any answers for how to get from here to there? Not really, but it’s a question I’d like to start exploring more. Just being a bit more mindful with new fabric purchases, taking time to seek out fabric companies that are doing things right, buying 100% natural fibres, and in the meantime using up my stash and seeking out second-hand fabric (this skirt was made from vintage fabric I found in a thrift store!)
How have you taken part in Fashion Revolution this year? Do you have any other ideas for making home sewing more ethical?
Hi everyone! I just wanted to pop on here today and remind you all that it is Fashion Revolution Week this week. Since it came right on the tail of Easter this year, I almost forgot that it was happening, so I thought I’d mention it, in case any of you forgot too. 🙂
In case you’re wondering what on earth Fashion Revolution is, it is a global movement that was created six years ago, to raise awareness and create change within the fashion industry in the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse which killed 1,138 people and injured 2,500 in 2013. If you’d like to find out more about it, you can check out my previous blog post here which has more in depth information, or check out Fashion Revolution’s website here.
In past years I’ve done more in depth posts, including ideas for how to dress ethically or ways to reuse textile waste, but I felt like this year I didn’t have anything new to add, so I’ll just be participating over on Instagram, tomorrow by sharing my label and asking the brand “who made my clothes”.
Progress has definitely been made within the fashion industry to increase transparency and improve working conditions within the past 6 years, but there’s still so much that needs to be done.
Change comes only when it is asked for, so if you’d like to join in, simply snap a picture of your clothing label, and then tag the brand with the tag #whomademyclothes. The more people who take part, the better chance we have of things changing!
Have you ever taken part in Fashion Revolution? Are you planning to join in this year?
PS- I just realized that one of my favourite bloggers, Mr. And Mrs. Rat, is publishing a series of posts for Fashion Revolution Week, so if you’re looking for some more reading/ideas this week, you should definitely go over and check them out!
I was almost hesitant to share these photos, and for a reason that isn’t readily apparent. It’s not because my hair wasn’t quite cooperating this day, my camera wasn’t focusing properly or because it was really warm in the house and I was eager to get this sweater off.
It’s because this outfit fails at ethical fashion.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, it won’t come as a surprise that I care about responsible fashion- I talk about it a lot. I take part in Fashion Revolution each year. The majority of my clothing is secondhand. I sew slowly and thoughtfully- I try to make sure that each of the items I make are ones that will add value to my closet. I don’t technically have a “capsule” wardrobe, but each and every item is chosen carefully and definitely worn more than 30 times.I very seldom purchase anything new, and when I do, I try to buy natural fibres, and search out ethical brands if possible.
I love fashion (no surprise there), but seeking to be purposeful and ethical in a world where fast fashion is the norm, can be hard.
And sometimes when you find a mustard yellow sweater, you buy it.
A few weeks ago, I was visiting a local clothing store with my mom and sister, trying to help my mom find a sweater, and as we were looking, I came across this mustard yellow sweater. I’ve been looking for a long time (a couple of years) for some mustard yellow pieces, since it is my favourite colour, but is extremely hard to find!
Since it was on sale, I bought it.
And then I immediately started thinking about the fact that it is made out of rayon and polyester, and dyed with a toxic mix of chemicals, and was made in China, and other than that, I definitely don’t know “who made my sweater”, and then I started regretting it, because this is not ethical fashion, and how can I call myself an ethical fashion proponent, when I just made a very unethical shopping choice?
But I’ve been doing some thinking lately, and I would like to share a few of thoughts on whether it’s possible to be completely “ethical” in your shopping choices.
I participated in a course that Fashion Revolution was offering a while ago. It was an interesting activity, but the one thing that stuck out to me, was this response by the founder of Fashion Revolution, Orsola De Castro to the question, “Is it possible to have a 100% sustainable or ethical wardrobe?”
I don’t think it’s possible to have 100% clothes that were designed or made sustainably or ethically. I think that is going to be very difficult, but it is possible to make sustainable and ethical choices about all of the clothes you have in your wardrobe. So, somehow, you can refresh with love and turn them into something they weren’t originally. . . You can do things like shop at Primark and H&M, but with the same respect if you were shopping somewhere like Gucci. You’ve got to treat your fiver like it was $500, and choose that piece not because you are “stress shopping at Zara”. We are not stress shopping at Zara: we are “deep love shopping at Primark” or Zara or wherever. . . Because, if we were to commit to 100% not putting one foot wrong, we would be damaging ourselves and our wardrobes immensely, and also the people who actually make our clothes, because there are an awful lot of people making clothes who are waiting for the industry to ameliorate, and what are we going to do in the meantime?Boycott them all? As consumers, we still buy that product. We just buy it in a different way, so we can give a really strong message to the brands. This message might be “Slow down”. This message might be “No, we don’t want five for the price of one; we want one well made piece for the price of five”.
This past year I have started going zero waste in my lifestyle. At first, I thought the concept of “zero waste” was to try and produce no garbage at all. We’ve all seen the pictures of people’s “trash jars” where they are able to fit all of their garbage from the past year (or more) into one glass jar. It’s inspiring to think about living a life that doesn’t result in garbage, but it’s not completely realistic for most people.
I live in a small town, and there is no bulk store. Cauliflower comes wrapped in plastic. I recycle or compost everything I can, but still end up with garbage at the end of the day.
As I’ve been reading more, and started following several zero wasters on Instagram, one thing that keeps coming up is the fact that we are currently living in a culture that is designed to result in garbage. “Zero waste” doesn’t mean that you are producing zero garbage, but is rather a name for a movement that is trying to restructure our global economy to one designed to be circular, where garbage isn’t part of the cycle. Today our products (whether it’s clothing, or food or other things) are designed with waste. It’s impossible to create “zero waste” as a consumer. And even if you think that you are doing a fairly good job, there is garbage that has been created before the product even reaches you. (I work in a shop, and the amount of packaging garbage that is thrown out before a product even reaches the shelf is astounding.)
But again, this quote by Instagrammer Andrea Sanders (@bezerowastegirl) has been bopping around in my head for a while:
“Zero Waste isn’t easy because it’s an infrastructure that doesn’t exist right now. Access to bulk stores, fresh markets and the like are not accessible to most. Everyone makes trash. Period. Do what you can. Never feel guilty because you can’t do something. There is no absolutism.”
And so, it makes me ask: Was this sweater an unwise shopping decision after all? Am I “failing” at ethical fashion?
Our current fashion culture is one that is driven by the need to buy more and more, regardless of how much we already own, but when I purchased this sweater, I wasn’t buying it from a fast fashion perspective.
I have been searching for a mustard yellow sweater for a few years, so it was not a spur of the moment purchase. It was “deep love” shopping, not buying for the sake of buying.
It is estimated that wearing a garment at least 30 times, reduces the carbon, waste and water footprint of a garment by 20%-30%. I wear all my clothes at least 30 times, and despite the fact that this sweater is not made of completely natural fibres, it is well sewn and will last me many years. I also take care of my clothes, and will be hand washing this one to help increase it’s lifespan.
It’s a tricky issue. I can’t say that I’m completely convinced that I should have bought it. Maybe if I had waited a while longer I would have come across something in mustard yellow that would have ticked all the boxes, but then again, maybe not.
I want my wardrobe to be 100% ethical, but that’s not really feasible right now. If 95% of my wardrobe is ethical fashion, then is the 5% that isn’t ethical, OK? Where do you draw the line? Is there a line? How do you balance want vs. need, especially with something as “frivolous” as fashion?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. How do you decide for your own wardrobe?
Today’s post is brought to you by a combination of my favourite things: books, vintage, tea and ethical fashion! These pictures are actually from two months ago, but after a delay in posting, I decided that they were perfectly suited to Fashion Revolution Week, so here they are now!
It is so satisfying to create a completely ethically sourced outfit, but, unfortunately, that is easier said than done, isn’t it?
Since I started dressing ethically, a few years ago, the one thing that I am constantly reminded of when shopping is that it is so incredibly hard to do! I wish that I could just walk into any store, find whatever clothes I liked and that I wouldn’t have to ask, “Who made my clothes, were they made sustainably and are they made to last?” I hope for that day, and that is why I care so much about Fashion Revolution Week (which is this week in case you didn’t realize!) But until that day comes, it can be hard to figure out how far to take the commitment to shopping sustainably: Do you sometimes buy things that are not made ethically? Do you go without if you can’t find a sustainable option? Do you rely on secondhand for everything? What about basics? (like socks and underwear. . . they are kind of necessary!)
When I made the commitment to dress ethically, I originally wanted to buy everything 100% ethically, whether it was secondhand, made by me, or bought from a fair trade brand. However, Canada, especially small town Alberta, is not a hotbed for ethical shopping. Some things are easy to find- you can easily source secondhand clothing, or even ethically produced clothing online, for example, but there are other things that are harder to find.
One such item is hosiery. I wear tights almost every day in the winter, and pantyhose other times throughout the year. But hosiery, especially pantyhose, is one of those fashion basics that is made very cheaply, and very unsustainably nowadays. It is one of the biggest fashion “consumables” that is contributing to making the fashion industry the second most polluting on the planet (after only the oil industry). I can find hosiery that is made in Canada, but it is more difficult to find good quality hosiery that will last more than a few wears without getting a run or pills. Nowadays, you are lucky to get a pair of pantyhose to last even a few wears, before you’ve got to throw them in the trash, and most pairs of pantyhose are worn only once. When I say that I want to shop “sustainably”, I don’t just mean that I want to buy “Made in Canada” (which is nice), but that I also want to buy items that aren’t creating a cycle of waste. Wearing something once, and then having to throw it out because it can’t be repaired, is not a sustainable way to dress. It’s actually ridiculous, when you think about it.
Enter, Swedish Stockings. My mom heard about this company and told me about it last year. I debated over ordering some pantyhose at the time, but as I had just stocked up, (on some cheap ones that didn’t end up lasting very long) I decided to wait. Well, in January, when my black opaque tights got a hole in them I finally decided to place an order.
This company is based in Sweden, and is the maker of “eco friendly pantyhose for women”, with a goal of revitalizing the entire pantyhose industry. In order to do that, they have come up with some great ways to make the hosiery industry more sustainable.
They make their pantyhose from recycled nylon. Most pantyhose are made out of petroleum (aka: nylon and polyester) which is extremely polluting to the environment, both when it is made, and afterwards, as it doesn’t biodegrade. Yay . . . our throwaway pantyhose is literally covering the earth. Who else wants to live on a landfill? They use nylon industry waste, diverting it from the landfill, and their stockings contain 76% – 97% recycled content.
The company has a recycling program to close the loop of stockings waste in the fashion industry, so you can send them any brand of old pantyhose and they will recycle them. They don’t make the old ones into new tights, as the technology to separate and break down textile fibres has not been invented yet (get on with it scientists!) but they take them and melt them down for fibreglass industrial tanks. In this way they have diverted millions of pairs of pantyhose from the landfills.
Sending them your old tights to recycle is nice- but wait- it gets better! If you send in three or more pairs, you get a coupon to spend online! Now that is really a win-win situation, is it not? That’s what I did- and I also ordered 2+ pairs in order to get free worldwide shipping.
Anyways, they’ve got tons of more sustainability cred, but I won’t write it all out here. They’ve got a page here, with certifications and a bunch of other great facts- so just hop over there to read more, as it is quite interesting. It is so wonderful to find a company that seems to really get the whole sustainability thing- and is actually doing something about it.
So, what did I think of the tights? I got the black opaque Lia Premium in both tights and leggings, and a pair of Elin Premium in the colour “medium”.
I am wearing the Elin tights here. When I took them out of the box, they were so tiny they looked like they were made for a small child. I was wondering if they would fit, as they were so small, but they stretched out fine. The yarn was thicker than regular pantyhose and it didn’t feel fragile as I put them on. They did have great elasticity, as when I took them off, they shrunk back down, and weren’t stretched out at all. But- this is an honest review here- I wasn’t as happy with the Elin as my first impression promised. The second time I wore them they got a run, and the fabric started pulling away from the seams in the gusset in the crotch. It was disappointing, especially since they cost more than a regular pair of pantyhose, so I decided to email Swedish Stockings and share my frustrations. Their customer service was great, and they said that the Elin is their most delicate pair of pantyhose, and so I decided to try out a sturdier pair instead. I am going to try the Irma, which is a 30 denier, and I am hopeful that they will be better, since I have tried “support hose” from different brands before and been happy with the quality.
As for the other pairs I ordered, I wore my Lia leggings and tights quite often during the winter. Now that it is spring, the 100 denier is too thick and opaque so I haven’t been wearing them anymore. I decided to get both the tights and the leggings, because in winter I wear boots all the time, and the feet on my tights always get worn out. I wore the leggings in my boots, since you couldn’t see that they were footless, and then saved the tights for open shoes. This way I preserved the feet on the tights, rather than wearing them out with constant wear. I am super happy with the Lia tights and leggings as they are very good quality. After a few wears, they started stretching out a bit, so I gently hand washed them and they sprung right back into shape. They haven’t gotten any snags or runs, and they haven’t started unraveling anywhere either. They are quite strong and are wonderfully opaque- although they are a little bit shiny- so if you want a matte stocking, these would not be the ones for you. For comparison, I got a pair of cheap footless tights last fall, and they turned out to be a total disaster. The Lia is high waisted, so you don’t have any lines under your skirts or dresses, but the cheap-disasterous-footless-tights were low rise, which was both uncomfortable (very bunchy feeling) and impractical, as you could see the line where they ended on my hip. The fabric on the cheap leggings also snagged very easily and the hem started unraveling the first time I started wearing them! So- all that to say that I am extremely happy with the Lia tights and leggings.
I will definitely be buying from Swedish Stockings again in the future. In fact, it will probably be difficult for me to not just keep buying! (They have quite a few that I love. . . the Rut Net is calling my name. . .) And, I will continue sending in all my old pantyhose too, in order to keep it out of the trash, in my endeavour to live as zero waste as I can. It is so great to find another company that I feel good about buying from; you’ve got to buy clothes, so why not buy them from a company that is doing something worthwhile, right?
As for the rest of my outfit, while it isn’t 100% ethical, I’m getting there. I would love to be able to know #whomademyclothes – all of my clothes- and not have to wonder whether they were paid a living wage or work in a safe environment. I hope for a day when I do not even have to ask this question, because it will just be given that all clothing is ethically sourced – but we aren’t there quite yet.
In the meantime, I do what I can: wearing vintage and thrifted clothes, making my own clothes, investing in quality and seeking out sustainable brands, like Swedish Stockings. Is my wardrobe 100% ethical? No, not yet, but small changes do make big differences!
I think that since this is my last post for this Fashion Revolution Week, I will close with this great quote by Orsola De Castro, the founder of Fashion Revolution.
I don’t think it’s possible to have 100% within (your) wardrobe clothes that were designed or made sustainably or ethically. I think that is going to be very difficult, (at this point in time) but I think it is possible to make sustainable and ethical choices about all of the clothes you have in your wardrobe. So, somehow, you can refresh with love and turn them into something they weren’t originally. . . .
Have you ever heard of Swedish Stockings? Will you give them a try? What are your thoughts on balance in trying to shop ethically vs. also needing to have clothing even if it isn’t ethically made?
ps. I purchased the stockings myself, and haven’t been compensated in any way to write this post.