Monday, June 10, 2013

Shop Smart and Shop with Heart

We put a lot of stock in our own tragedies, on our own soil--we're human, and humans are often inwardly focused, so that's normal.  When I mention the recent collapse of  a Bangladesh clothing factory, I'm still surprised how few people heard about it (other than the periphery of the fashion world who maybe discussed it for a hot minute).  1100 people were killed.  The tragedy didn't take place on US soil, but American companies employed the majority of the workers. (You can read more details, including a list of involved companies, here.)

When I read an article this morning, I realized this issue is close to my heart because it's troubling, and there's been no real solution. Everything is a bandaid over a gaping wound. A larger discussion needs to be had.  The situation is out of control--we all know Bangladesh isn't the only place this risk is occurring (check the tags on your clothes, ladies and gents).

It's a sad world we live in where the clothes we wear matter more than the lives and dignity of other human beings. We do many things without thinking because we have the luxury of not thinking about them. 

Before I'm called a hypocrite, let me call myself out:  I love fashion/style (obviously).  I have more glossy magazines around the house than I can count.  I've bought "fast fashion" many times, and because I have to shop on a budget, cheaper stylish clothing is appealing to me.  But since we began selling vintage, my shopping habits have slowly changed.  I would say 95% of my closet is vintage and/or thrifted.  And it's something I'm very proud of. I continue to get compliments on my style and the items I choose. Faux pas though it may be, I brag about the low cost of my purchases.

Do you know how many times I have thrifted clothes with the tags still on? Designer clothes. A $300+ dress.  $200+ shoes. A $500+ bag, etc.  We live in a culture of excess.  We buy things that we never wear and essentially throw them away (although donating to a Goodwill or other local thrift is a thoughtful, easy way to help).  

Now: I'm not saying you should never buy new clothes. And I'm not begrudging those of you whose fashion budget looks more like an Editor's than an Editorial Assistant's.  But this gives you a little more responsibility because you can choose to buy local, buy American-made, buy independent designers or designers who advocate for positive working conditions and do not produce their clothes in what are essentially sweat shops. 

There are also plenty of other options to renew/refresh/refill your wardrobe (or help other people):

Thrift:  my personal favorite, of course. Just last week, I picked up pieces from Anthropologie, Rebecca Taylor, and Nanette Lepore. The thrill of the hunt is exhilarating (though sometimes exhausting).

Buy Vintage:  Back in the day, women only had a handful of dresses to rotate:  this means the clothing had to be well made, since it got a lot of wear and tear.  Vintage clothing (pre-1980s, especially) was also much more frequently USA-made.  And of course, styles operate in a cyclical fashion, so you can still be in style/on trend in 40-year-old duds. No one will be wearing/blogging the same outfit as you either.

Consign:  Check out consignment shops in your area for high end pieces: especially things you might only wear once or twice (a cocktail dress for an evening wedding, holiday outfits, etc.).  And if you have upscale/designer pieces, consider consigning them to make some cash and help give others access to better clothes at more reasonable prices.

Swap:  Swaps are happening all over the place! What better way to spend an evening with friends than by sharing clothes, food, and drink? (Here is a great blog post about planning a successful swap--I'm hoping to throw one post-pregnancy!)

Bid:  I have a love/hate relationship with eBay, but more love than hate. You can find great clothes (gently used, but often new) at a fraction of the price, and if you have the time/energy, you can also sell some of your own stuff. It's tedious, but the payoff can be great once you get the hang of it!

Buy local/independent:  Here is where you have to be careful: some local boutiques seem innovative, but are still selling some of the same trash you'll find in other "fast fashion" stores (and at a huge mark up).  Look for shops selling items that are ACTUALLY locally made by artisans/designers/craftsmen. Of course, Etsy is a great place to find independent designers if you're an online shopper--though it can definitely be overwhelming.

Look for "Made in the USA" tags:  I would say this is sort of like finding a needle in a haystack (this article says that as little as 5% of clothing sold in the US is actually made here: YIKES), but if you find a brand you love that is made in America, then, by all means, spread the word.  The previously linked article has a brief list, but you can do your own googling to find more.

The most important thing, out of all of this, is to be a thoughtful consumer. Shop smart and shop with heart.  Fashion is fun, it's a way to express ourselves, and it can help us connect with other people.  But it's often at a cost--and for me, at least, the cost of owning a cheap neon blouse that unravels in two weeks is not worth it.  We can't afford to be thoughtless about the things we put on ourselves.  And while our economy makes it difficult to do these things 100% of the time, most of us could certainly improve.


  1. This is such an important issue - I did see that some brands (H&M, I believe, can't remember who else) signed on to making sure the factories are fixed up to meet safety requirements. I know that's not enough, but a lot of big retailers (Target, Wal-Mart, etc) weren't even willing to do that. It's sad to think of.

    1. Hi Anni!

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I was glad to hear that some companies were taken steps; however, the article I read today (which is what triggered the whole post, finally) says due to the poverty and corruption in the areas, it's not much more than a PR scheme to make the companies look better. :(

  2. I agree this is really an important issue. We are so disconnected from the results of a lot of our choices, it makes it hard to do the right thing (or easy to not care). I was glad to find I'm not the only one thinking about this and hope more people start to think about the ramifications of cheap fashion and the damage it is doing.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...