Ethics + Internships
I have debated writing on this topic since June. Initially I couldn’t write about it because I would have been very hypocritical. I still fear that I might still be a hypocrite–in fact I know I am. But I have made a start and it is a long road before I can say I’ve completely eliminated it from my life. I want to share this journey with you.
…OK you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about.
I have decided to give up fast fashion.When I tell people this they’re confused, because what the heck is “fast fashion”? Fast fashion is essentially the 30 billion dollar industry (figure from US State Department) that manufactures the clothes in most retailers that are made by the hands of day slaves.
I second guessed if I should drop the “s” word. But I can’t avoid it. An article by The Fashion Globe highlights that during the entire production of a garment the makers are enduring slavery. This is not an issue of the past–this article was published August 1st, 2017.
“Slavery in the fashion world can appear in a variety of forms from harvesting the cotton for a t-shirt, spinning the fibre to yarn, sewing the garment and modelling the final product. The difference between slavery and extremely exploitative labour can be vague and the fashion industry walks a fine line.”
For the sake of honesty you should know I haven’t done a lot of research. On one hand it overwhelms me, on another I’m terrified of what I’ll find, and honestly, jumping in with both feet is a little more my style. Now, because I don’t want to come across as “preachy” I’m not going to make this post about the facts, and instead I’m going to make it about my story. Maybe in the future I can expand on the facts, but I have my reading cut out for me before I do that.
Growing up in tiny town Saskatchewan there wasn’t huge opportunity for fast fashion, or even consumerism. The nearest city, Moose Jaw, wasn’t (isn’t) exactly a metropolis, and so even city shopping was highly limited. Most of my clothes growing up were hand-me-downs from my older sister, or from the Clothes Closet, which was a local thrift store that was open on Friday mornings and everything cost $0.25 (it was awesome!!). It wasn’t until my teens that I realized that most of the world operates quite differently. I was blind to the fact that things were considered outdated weeks after you purchased them, and that if you didn’t have the newest clothes you’d be different than everyone else. I feel lucky that in this pursuit of ethical consumption I don’t have to undo all of that philosophy, but rather have a foundation that makes it relatively easy.
My best friend Adri, is just about the best thrifter I’ve ever met. She finds so much at thrift stores. She and I have always bonded over the love of good deals. Before we could drive we would go garage sale-ing every Saturday, and we’d hunt for things our little allowance could afford. I still remember getting a brand new Conair curling iron for a dollar, and being in disbelief. (That curling iron really elevated my fourth grade social status.) Now that we’re both licensed and we find our ways to thrift stores together frequently. I’ve never felt a stigma towards pre-owned clothing, it’s not a “poor people” thing, it’s not gross. It’s a way to find unique pieces that you won’t see every chick on Insta wearing as well.
PC: Groenewald Photography / this shirt was made ethically in Regina SK / Landmine Design JewelryPC: Groenewald Photography / this shirt was made ethically in Regina SK / Landmine Design Jewelry
So, I have a long history in the realms of non-fast fashion shopping, but I never exclusively shopped that way. It wasn’t until I was in Vancouver in June that I realized I might consider making this a lifestyle. I had expected to go nuts in Vancouver, I was planning to single-handedly buy out Zara, but I ended up leaving every shopping excursion empty handed. For one thing, I didn’t like what I was seeing, I’m not a huge fan of what’s trending this season, and I also just didn’t feel like spending money on more clothes that I would be tossing in 6 months.
I toyed with the idea of ethical shopping in my mind for 3 weeks. Then I went for coffee with my now boss, Kaitlyn Rude, and I was sure. Kait works for a social enterprise named Landmine Design, which I now am interning for. I was lamenting to her how I couldn’t decide if cutting fast fashion out was even something I could do, when she told me that she had actually done it 8 months prior. I had no idea she shopped ethically. That’s when I decided I was gonna do it. I had a mentor for the process, and I knew it was possible and that was that.
I decided August would be the official start month, so in July I prepared. No--I didn’t go on a crazy shopping spree. My plan of attack was just the opposite. I went through my clothes and I threw absolutely anything I don’t love, that doesn’t fit, that I haven’t worn or enjoyed wearing, into a big orange garbage bag. Some of the clothing I sold, and I decided I’d use that money to fund my back to school clothes. The clothes I didn’t sell, I’m saving for a clothing swap, or I’ll let the girls on my dorm hall raid it.If this is a totally new world to you, you are probably wondering where the heck I’ll shop and what this means long term. So I’ll just briefly touch on that. For the most part I will probably be thrifting, consigning, and shopping at vintage stores. But if you thought this was a choice made because I want to save money, you couldn’t be more wrong. Lots of the things that I’ll be purchasing with cost me double, triple or more than what you’d pay at a big name retailer. Things like leather boots, for example, are significantly more expensive when made ethically. Eventually perhaps I’ll be able to purchase a few designer items, because most high end fashion is ethically produced for quality’s sake.
Long term I hope that this choice makes me aware of MY impact. I want to be aware of how much I am consuming, how big my footprint will be on the earth. I think that ethical consumption should also consider the environmental impact as well. My hope in taking this first, small step is that it will lead to more steps in the same direction. I may be young, but it’s never to early to start.
I mentioned my internship with Landmine Design earlier, but that has significantly impacted my view of ethical production as well. LMD is a company built upon the belief that fair pay, healthy work environments, and healthy employees can change lives. The 15 women that LMD employs in Cambodia, have had their lives completely altered by the opportunity to work in close proximity to their families, and to be paid fairly. They’ve been sheltered from the world of sex trafficking. Which is huge considering they’re on the border of Cambodia and Thailand! The same way their life has been positively altered by their job, many in their country and other third world countries, have been negatively effected.
From what I know, I can no longer make the same choices I made when I was ignorant. It would be wrong for me to turn a blind eye, especially since I have the means and the choice to decide what I buy into.
I am giving up fast fashion. I am not giving up being stylish. When Kait told me that she gave up fast fashion, I was so encouraged. I had hope that I could pursue this lifestyle without looking outdated. I’m being open in this switch because I want to seriously encourage others to consider their fashion choices!
I think it’s cool that my favourite series to do, Style Stories, are based around the stories we tell about ourselves to the world through our clothes. But what about the stories behind the clothes? What about the hands that made your clothes? Those stories are just as important, if not more. Landmine Design’s hashtag is #WEARHERSTORY because through their jewelry you are playing a part in someone else’s story, but in reality, with every piece or clothing you wear, you are wearing someone’s story. Choose what story you want to buy into with wisdom.
**There is an opportunity to win two piece’s of Landmine’s on my Instagram from TODAY (Saturday-Monday) don’t miss out!