Making the right fashion choice
A clothing consciousness evolution is happening in Europe.
A pioneering movement merging re-cycling, up-cycling AND great looks: forward thinking, ethically minded and sustainable fashion.
This cyclical attitude to clothing has really taken off in the cycling capital of the world - Amsterdam. There’s much here for us to learn from.
How many of us say we want to “make better choices” and to shop “ethically”? Why? To ensure a better future for the planet, our children and children’s children. We watched ‘Before the Flood’, directed by Fisher Stevens, and felt riled up! We do our bit - we do what we can: cut down on single use plastics and take the time to separate the waste into recycling, buy ‘bio’ organic and free range, walk instead of drive, clothes swap with friends, turn off the TV and choose a book. But when we are talking about fashion, our undeniably attractive friend fashion, how can we not love and hate her? Straight off the catwalk and into our lives at affordable prices from the high street, we can’t pull ourselves away from the lure of the newest look, the unlimited online proffering and hands up if you can’t wait for sale time!
But cheap clothes don’t exist, like cheap food doesn’t exist.
Someone, somewhere, will be feeling the effects of the desire for a great deal, a desire instilled and encouraged in us by our friends in the popular fashion industry, glossy magazines and the glossy window displays, flashy screens and easy to navigate browsers. But what is the real cost of our high street purchase?
According to ‘The True Cost’ there are “roughly 40 million garment workers in the world”. These workers are often living in countries that do not share the a same human rights laws as our own.
THE HUMAN COST
So how is fashion violating human rights? The 2014 Sustainability Report investigated 294 supply factories, shockingly grading them ‘E’ for false reporting and child labor, workplaces were dirty, unsafe, and poorly ventilated. Not for profit SACOM, Students & Scholars Against Misbehaviour (in association with a Tokyo-based human rights group and a Hong Kong based Labour Action organization), released reports of harsh working conditions in Chinese working environments that violated human rights. After a 2014 Bangladesh fashion factory collapsed, when approximately 2,500 workers were killed, fashion label UNIQLO side stepped responsibility for the deadly disaster. Despite profiteering from the cheap labour, they renounced responsibility for the destruction and the shattered lives left by the devastation. Disgusting. Compare this to the report that “global fashion brands are bigger than ever before and with annual revenues in the billions, they are now part of an almost 3 trillion dollar a year industry” (true cost movie.com). It’s difficult to accept that we could be fueling this economy by shopping in high street stores.
ETHICAL AND MORAL CHALLENGE
Reflecting on real life stories like these, we are presented with a dilemma that runs deeper than ever before. Have faith: there is a way of shunning support for this screwed up system of mainstream consumerism and we can still get a brand new, super stylish outfit. Yes - there are ‘better’ options out there! And Amsterdam is a great place to start.
In July 2018, Amsterdam Fashion Week promoted recycling in fashion. Whether it was second hand items given a make-over or scrap materials from factories, organizers bragged that “80 percent of the designs were sustainable.” The city council twinned with Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI) and Gerrit Rietveld Academy to challenge six graduates to create one off collections from left over fabric. Top Dutch designers got behind this event, making a strong statement with their involvement. Dutch fashion veteran Ubbink renounced the cheap throwaway fashion culture in a statement to FashionUnited: “People should take more care with what they buy, where they buy it and what they wear, especially once they’ve become bored with it.”
Although most high street brands haven’t quite got it right, they are now offering something rather than nothing: CONSCIOUS (by H&M) or Reclaim to Wear (by Topshop), offer a ‘unique’ organic option. Stores including UNIQLO, Topshop, H&M, Zara acknowledge that there is work to be done and that they have a responsibility for the workers as well as the planet by signing an All-Product Recycling Initiative or by pledging environmental commitments. It’s heartening and a step in the right direction! But for those of us who are determined to find a new way to shop, a change of lifestyle perhaps, be reassured that you can combine ethical choices and fashionable outfits. But you might have to turn your back on your old friend the high street, until they up their game.
Dutch designers and the Dutch public are leading the way for the rest of us; they hope the world will follow. If you haven’t planned your shopping trip to Amsterdam yet, it’s time to start.
Hop on a tram or take the metro straight into the stylish and unassuming De Pijp area. Along the relaxed tree lined street you’ll find ‘Studio JUX + co’s flagship store’ nestled between ‘Behind the Pines’, a street-surf-snow men’s clothing store, and an alternative art gallery which is worth a look in. A short stroll away, parallel to the iconic Albert Cuyp Market which was established in 1905, you’ll find ‘Charlie + Mary’, offering ethically sourced fashion for men and women as well as books and items for the home. Looking for something closer to the center? Start at Noumenon - a vegan fashion brand, or type into your map ‘Geiten Wollen Winkel’ on Utrechtstraat to find out more about the sustainable ‘Goat’ brand: you won’t regret making your way to their ethically minded store. Everything here is well-made, comfortable AND incredibly stylish. Whatever look you want, you’ll find something worthy. Not only that, it’s better for the world and better for your conscience. You’ll be able to find out where it was made, by whom and which initiative is involved - like People Tree, Matt & Nat - and how they are supporting communities or serving the world. True, some items are priced higher than what you’d find on the high streets, yet don’t they need to be? Unlike the cheaper popular high street brands, each piece has been produced in a safe environment, with better workers rights and the production of it has enabled someone to be paid a decent, fair wage so that their lives are better... So you’re not really only buying a new outfit, you’re sponsoring someone for a better, happier life.
Yes - this does make you a better person. Feel the glow of goodness.
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