When someone critiques fashion, often they’re talking about style. In this instance, I’m critiquing where your clothes come from... and I don’t mean the brand.
Fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry influencing each and every one of us. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be interested in fashion in the slightest, there’s a pretty good chance that you wear clothes.
So, where exactly do those clothes come from?
Statistics show that 7,630,000 Australians are shopping online at what averages out to be a monthly basis. But what about the country or conditions in which they are made? If you check the label on your shirt, dress or jacket, you’ll be lucky if you can get information about what and how it’s made – let alone by whom.
Chances are, if you’ve picked up a copy of The Naked Mag or attended an Undress Runways event then you are already aware of the need for more transparency and ultimately, real change, in the industry. You probably also know that the unfortunate answer to the question above is often “a sweatshop”.
In a world where fast fashion has become the norm (honestly, these “micro-seasons” conditioning us to feel out of style every seven days is just out of control) and companies are pumping out stock at such huge volumes, something’s gotta give. Usually that something is the environmental safety and future of our planet; or worker’s rights to a safe working environment; or the freedom to be a child rather than a child-labourer; or the ability to earn a living and not just minimum wage. Or, as is often the case, a combination of all those things.
A lot of the things we take for granted in the developed world are the same things denied to the people who make the clothes we wear. In 2013, the something that gave was 1,130 lives when the Rana Plaza collapsed in Bangladesh.
Evidently, critiquing your wardrobe is about more than just aesthetics. Being aware of the conditions in which your clothes are made is empowering. Not just for you, but ultimately for the people who make them. There is immense power in being a consumer –especially an informed one– but unfortunately we don't always wield that power thoughtfully enough.
If it all seems a little overwhelming to navigate alone (and I get it, because I’m pretty new to this wonderful world of ethical and sustainable clothing myself), there are a number of initiatives, including Labour Behind the Label, that are working hard in order to address and correct the fact that many basic human rights are denied to garment workers. Others focus on making the clothing industry a more sustainable one for the planet we live on. There is also a pretty impressive roll call of resources across a number of platforms to help break it all down: from why you should consider the ethics of your wardrobe to where you can get some sustainably sound threads.
Good On You is an Australian app available for iOS and android. It’s pretty comprehensive considering it’s only a few months old and has ratings for over 1,000 brands. It’s one of many apps that come in handy when you find yourself trying to make a decision without having pre-planned. Shop Ethical! also has a handy app to accompany its website, which is also available for iOS and Android.
It’s all well and good to inject personality into our wardrobes but perhaps it’s time to think about how our ethics are represented. Maybe, each time we pull on a garment, we need to really consider the person who made it along with where it’s going to end up when we’re done with it. Maybe we need to critique our own fashion.