Who are you?
I’m a person on Earth who really likes clothes (and also really likes Earth, and other people).
What is this blog?
A place to highlight ethical and environmentally-friendly clothing, shoes and accessories manufacturers and retailers.
What is conscious fashion?
Conscious fashion is a way to make an impact in a troubled industry. It’s taking accountability, thinking harder about where you spend your money, using the power you have to its best potential. It’s shopping secondhand or thirdhand; it’s hosting clothing swaps and repairing clothes that break down; it’s patronizing shops that offer clothes that feel good in every way, and look good too.
Conscious fashion is not (necessarily) wearing clothes made out of hemp (unless that’s your thing). It’s not throwing away clothes that wear out in a matter of months, pulling at uncomfortable cheap fabric, or limiting oneself to the few ill-made “eco-friendly” options occasionally available at major fast fashion retailers. There is a way to dress both consciously and attractively, from basics to statement pieces—it’s not all scratchy “organic” cotton and tripping on tie-dye peasant skirts (again, unless tie-dye peasant skirts are your thing).
Conscious fashion is also not shaming those who buy from traditional retailers. Conscious fashion is definitely my thing, but I know that it’s not everybody’s (however much I might wish it was). I understand that not everyone has the patience, the desire, or the budget to shop from my favorite shops. I also understand that many conscious fashion makers, like most fashion makers in general, are still catching up when it comes to the body acceptance movement. I am fortunate to have a job that provides me with a livable paycheck, and I am privileged to have a body that, while hardly model-esque, is within the size ranges typically offered. I recognize and acknowledge this privilege. I am always eager to recommend favorite stores and makers to friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances, passersby, and anyone else who might come near; but I ultimately know that how other people dress is 100% their own choice, not my business, and not my place to judge.
How did this blog get started?
I live and work in a Midwestern city with a surprisingly large population of hippies, hipsters, liberals, alt-rock fans, people who can their own preserves, and tattoo artists. It’s the type of place where co-ops and farmers’ markets thrive, where corner stores sell artisanal cheese and local produce, where Portlandia sketches are less incomprehensible parody than everyday reality. It’s difficult to live in a place like this and not be imbued with its sense of local pride, can-do spirit, and handmade kitschiness. Even before I became interested in conscious fashion, I fell a little bit in love with the local style, as any quasi-quirky twenty-something is probably wont to do.
In 2013, my focus changed. April of that year saw the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, a horrific event that thrust our collective addiction to fast fashion into the spotlight. Over 1100 garment workers were killed and over 2500 injured, victims of an international system that privileges trendy, cheaply made clothing over the lives and welfare of the people making it. Numerous major clothing retailers, including Benetton, Primark, Walmart, Joe Fresh and Mango, had produced clothing at the factory; other fast-fashion outlets, including H&M, Forever 21, Target, Urban Outfitters and GAP also came under fire for their own human-unfriendly practices as a result of the collapse. (The responses of some of those retailers whose workers had been killed or injured also left something to be desired: for example, Primark offered $200 compensation to victims’ families only if they could provide DNA evidence of their relatives’ death, while others, such as Matalan and Walmart, refused to provide any compensation to victims, and Benetton denied any involvement in Rana Plaza until their documents and labels were discovered in the rubble, at which point they were forced to admit responsibility.)
So what does any of this have to do with me? Nothing, from the looks of it. As someone raised in an upper middle-class household with liberal tendencies and moralistic aspirations, I’ve only been in a Walmart twice in my life, and both times due only to minor desperation. I don’t live anywhere near Benetton, Primark, Matalan or Joe Fresh.
But I do shop at Target and Old Navy. And much of my professional wardrobe has come from H&M or Express. And I have some hipsterish leanings that have occasionally been satisfied at Urban Outfitters. And I’ve definitely bought cheap party dresses at Forever 21, marveling over the low, low prices. I spent spring of 2013 watching the news coming out of Bangladesh, stunned by the conditions of the factory workers and by the cruelty of the major corporations who, in a best case scenario, couldn’t bring themselves to offer more than $200 apiece for the lives that they had (however indirectly) taken.
Somehow, it had never occurred to me before that if a dress costs $12.99, and the store wants to turn a profit, the person who made that dress probably isn’t getting paid a particularly livable wage. It had also never bothered me before—or if it had, it had been a minor annoyance—that the clothes I bought at these places typically wore out within a matter of months, the cheap fabric shrinking and pilling or the cheap threads coming loose. I tossed these clothes in my take-to-Goodwill bag or, if the damage was particularly unfixable, in the trash.
Rana Plaza opened my eyes to the truly stupid pattern in which I had become so comfortable. Not only was I doing a disservice to myself, buying clothes that would stop fitting or holding together and ultimately force me to spend more money to replace them, but I was doing a disservice to garment workers around the world, supporting a system that considered them as disposable as the cheap clothes they were making. And by constantly throwing away my worn-out, ripped, shrunken castoffs, I was only adding to the piles of landfills around the city and around the country.
Suddenly, everything about the way I bought and wore clothes seemed incomparably selfish. After reading Elizabeth Cline’s book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, and reflecting on who exactly I wanted to be as a consumer, I made the conscious decision to make the most positive impact I possibly could: instead of supporting a problematic cheap fashion market, I’d spend my clothing budget on companies that prized accountability, fairness to their workers, human rights, protection of the environment, and quality products.