It looks good, but is it good for the planet?
I had a dressing room fashion parade with myself at Sheike in October last year while looking for a cute birthday outfit. If I had known that this was going to be the last time I went clothes shopping for the next 12 months (Cheers Covid), I probably would have bought ALL of these outfits 😂 but truth be told, an unconscious shopping spree is a great way to ruin the planet.
I go clothes shopping at a label store like this about twice a year, because most of my clothes are up-cycled or from vintage stores. I've been sewing since I was 14, altering second hand clothes and creating my own, it started out as a cheap way to stay on trend, and developed into a matter of ethics.
I have a rule that the only clothes I buy brand new are; swimwear, underwear, gym clothes and pyjamas with the occasional formal outfit. Everything else is mostly recycled fashion from op-shops. There are few clothing companies that I’ll buy from brand new these days, Sheike is one of my faves. Australian designed and everything fits so beautifully and the staff are always so helpful. I adore Sheike, but after some research I found that they have a reputation for not having the best staff culture, expecting their staff to work overtime daily with no pay, and this is actually super common in clothing retail (check out their employee reviews on Seek.com.au for more) but it shouldn't be. I'm starting to feel a really strong urge to boycott clothing brands who aren't transparent about where their clothing is made, how they treat their staff, and whether they are doing their bit for the planet.
After watching a close friend go though hell within an emotionally traumatising bully culture at one of Australia's top brands, Sass & Bide, I swore to never buy their clothes again. It's reprehensible when brands put their profit above their hard working staff, and I feel that the rest of us as consumers have the power to demand better.
I love fashion, I love the craftsmanship in beautifully constructed designer clothing and accessories, I'm obsessed with watching the Dior construction videos on IG, showing how much detailed work goes into each artistic piece, and I've been a long time fan.
My sister ignited my interest in Louis Vuitton handbags when she gave me her old vintage Louie bucket bag years ago and then I fell head over heels in love with Gucci 🤩 But then I discovered that many big brands were actually destroying all of their old stock, they weren't putting it on sale, they weren't recycling it, they'd just toss it or burn it, because if that stock is discounted to clear, it will lower the value of the brand, so by destroying old stock, they will maintain exclusivity through scarcity, to keep their prices high and their customers frothing. I found this horrifying. Waste is a major issue on our planet, and brands who produce tens of thousands of tonnes of materials that end up in landfill need to be held accountable for their conduct when it comes to waste management.
Many brands are beginning to do something about it, slowly, but surely. This, along with a brand's ethics and treatment of employees has become super important to me as a consumer and lover of fashion wanting to do my part for the world.
I prefer to try and find what I need at op-shops, and I've become so good at it that I have a wardrobe filled with second hand designer label gems that I've scooped up at bargain prices while also contributing to charities and helping to stop clothing from going into landfill.
Did you know that most clothes today are not biodegradable and can take up to 200 years to decompose?! The popular textiles that can decompose easily within several months are;
cotton, hemp, wool, bamboo, silk & jute.
But I would wager the majority of your wardrobe contains;
polyester, spandex, lycra, leather and nylon, and these fabrics can take between 20-200 years to properly decompose. That's why recycling, up-cycling and conscious buying is so important.
Ethical fashion is a growing trend (Koch, 2019). Im looking forward to seeing more people take interest in conscious fashion, and the follow on effect of that, which will inevitably influence how designers and brands adapt and create fashion that is conscious of the environment.
Addressing waste, customer satisfaction, and balancing their priorities more ethically between profit and treatment of staff is high on my list when it comes to which brands I want to wear from now on, and I hope that it will be the same for you too.
For more research on the topic of ethical fashion, check out this excellent journal publication:
Koch, K. (2019). Clothing Upcycling, Textile Waste and the Ethics of the Global Fashion Industry. ZoneModa Journal, 9(2), 173-184.
Topic of interest - Australian Financial Review article: Burberry ends practice of burning unsold inventory
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