Monday, May 6, 2013

Challenge: Clothing with a Conscious

Spring Fever.
I have it.
I don't know if it is highly contagious, if I caught it from someone-- but I have a firm belief I can almost 100% back up with proof that it is brought on by the weather. This fever will only break once temperatures warm up outside. Symptoms can be treated by sitting by windows so you can be all 'cat-like' and bathe in the sun (something I am known for doing anyways), drinking smoothies and eating salad reminiscent of summer-time picnics and gatherings, and by shopping-- preparing yourself for when the fever breaks.

As I sit in my wonderful husbands coffee shop, at the long wooden coffee bar that could be a picnic table-esque, drinking my Mango green tea and basking in the sun streaming in warmth from the large window in front of me, I think of a few things:
1- Sunshine is awesome and I'm glad I have my SPF100 as tattoo protection in my bag-- sun even from a window still requires the appropriate safety precautions!
2- Oh how I want new spring clothes
3- That article

When I reference "that article" I am talking about an article I recently read that was posted in the Winnipeg Free Press titled "Looking for ethically made clothes? Hard to prove workers weren't harmed  making T-shirts". While the beginning of the article states things that are nothing new to me-- that ethically made clothes are hard to find and supply chains are easily riddled with so many hands it can be almost impossible for companies to track, there was one hard hitting section that left an impact on me...

America's Research Group, which interviews 10,000 to 15,000 consumers a week mostly on behalf of retailers, says that even in the aftermath of two deadly tragedies in Bangladesh, shoppers seem more concerned with fit and price than whether their clothes were made in factories where workers are safe and make reasonable wages.C. Britt Beemer, chairman of the firm, says when he polls shoppers about their biggest concerns, they rarely mention "where something is made" or "abuses" in the factories in other countries."We have seen no consumer reaction to any charges about harmful working conditions," he says.Tom Burson, 49, certainly is focused more on price and quality when he's shopping. Burson says that if someone told him that a brand of jeans is made in "sweatshops by 8-year-olds," he wouldn't buy it. But he says, overall, there is no practical way for him to trace where his pants were made."I am looking for value," says Burson, a management consultant who lives in Ashburn, Va. "I am not callous and not unconcerned about the conditions of the workers. It's just that when I am standing in a clothing store and am comparing two pairs of pants, there's nothing I can do about it. I need the pants." -- Bold added by me for emphasis.

Does any of this shock you?
Does it not baffle you to think that deadly fires due to unsafe working conditions doesn't factor into how consumers are shopping, and doesn't make them second guess what they are planning on purchasing?
Does it not surprise you to hear that there has been no consumer reactions to any charges about harmful working conditions?

I wonder how this exploitation can provoke sadness and a pursuit of compassionate justice in myself, and how the exact same information can provoke nothing from another.

What is sad is the lack of education of the general public. An article like this, while wonderful at showcasing the efforts of a couple doing their best to be conscious consumers, still highlights the fact that a consumer actually thinks that while they are at a store comparing pants (or any other garment they are debating of lining their probably already full closest with), they don't have an option to be a person purchasing for freedom of those being exploited.

How do you not have an option? Does the average individual not have the ability to have intelligent conversation, to "google it", to seek out options? The reality is we do have those options. Resources, like my personal favourite and constant source of information Free2Work, exist to educate you and aid you in your choices. We, as consumers, have the power with our purchase to encourage companies to not allow more tragic deaths because we want cheap shirts.
 We can clothe ourselves with compassionate justice, with conscious consumerism, with choices that inspire conversation! To every person who compliments an article we are wearing that we can say 'Thanks-- It's awesome AND I'm trying my best with my purchases to not exploit others!' When it comes down to it, doing our best-- and encouraging and setting an example for others to do the same-- is what will make the biggest difference. Be a person who shops for value and price-- value for the people involved in bringing what you wear to existence and knowing the price you pay is the price you put on someones life.

Found on Pinterest

When I take the necessary steps to aid my Spring Fever symptoms, and go shopping for some spring clothes, I'll go to the store with Free2Work ratings in hand and be smart with my decisions. I'll shop at a thrift store where the money goes to a good cause, I'll upcycle my current wardrobe to be more trendy.  I'll do what I can to be sure that articles like this are no longer the norm in how fashion and humanity collide-- but so they reunite in more responsible and innovative ways.

I challenge you to freshen up your spring and summer wardrobe ethically!
1- Take a look at what is already in your closet- can you upcycle?
2- Hit the thrift store!
3- Research companies before you go out. Know which stores you feel comfortable shopping at and only go into those stores.
4- Use Free2Work. Get distracted by something shiny in a store you didn't originally want to go to? Check out the company on Free2Work and see where they grade.

How do you ensure you are making conscious clothing choices when you shop? How have you set an example to others with conscious consumerism choices?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this Aelea! I also read that article and it did shock me that people still do not change their shopping habits. I have extreme spring fever and see so many cute spring clothes in the stores I used to shop. It is hard but I want to make for of an effort to buy used clothes or look at ethical online options. Your blog and advise has definitely changed how I shop and how much I pay for the clothing that I buy.

    Kristin Wiebe


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