After a week of food waste related posts thought I’d mix things up a bit with a Your Ethical Style feature! Joining us today and sharing their ethical style on Moral Fibres is Summer Edwards, the blogger behind Australian ethical style blog Tortoise & Lady Grey. You’ll love Summer’s blog if you are interested in slow and sustainable fashion and clothing DIYs!
Can you share with Moral Fibres readers and I three facts about you that they might not know:
I am a little obsessed with learning languages – I love the insight that they give you into other cultures and different ways for perceiving the world. I have a reasonable fluency in Mandarin Chinese, I have a intermediate level of French, and know a few basic phrases in Japanese, Thai and German.
When I was growing up my family was very poor, but my parents taught me to cook, sew, knit, crochet, draw, play music and grow veggies. These skills were devalued by society for so long, but I believe that we will recover them as we move towards a more sustainable society. One of my motivations for writing my blog is to help others learn how to make their own clothes so I can pass on my skills to others.
While my feet are firmly planted in Australia, my heart will always belong to China. I love it there, and would you believe that even smog can make me feel nostalgic? I have been incredibly fortunate to learn the language and live, study and work in China in the past, and I am certain that my future will be entwined with China, even if it isn’t at the moment!
Where are your favourite places to shop for ethical clothing?
Sustainability is always at the forefront of my mind, as well as the ethics of manufacture. For new clothes I shop online as sustainable fashion labels just aren’t stocked in the stores in Canberra. People Tree and Kowtow are two labels I have recently shopped with. Charity or vintage stores are also great when I want the bricks and mortar shopping experience – we have one local boutique in Canberra that selects the best quality vintage donations to sell to raise money for suicide prevention. I have found a few beautiful dresses there.
What’s the last ethical item that you bought?
A pair of cute flat shoes from soleRebels in preparation for the Spring (it is Winter here in Australia, so I keep an eye on the end of Summer sales from the Northern hemisphere to prepare for the Southern Summer). The shoes are ethically made in Ethiopia using recycled tyres for the soles, and handcrafted suede leather from traditional techniques. No factory farming or highly polluting tanning processes are used.
Faritrade organic cotton t-shirt by 3Fish / Pebdant by Amy Rhoades / Skirt handmade by Summer from a vintage sari.
Is there anything ethical or secondhand that you are lusting over at the moment?
Yes! The amazing Rana Transcending Dress from Australian sustainable fashion label Pure Pod. The dress is ethically made in Australia, with certified organic cotton from India, and screen-printed by hand with non-toxic inks. It is also made to honor those who lost their lives in the Rana Plaza factory collapse, and promotes ethical, sustainable slow fashion over wasteful, exploitative fast fashion. I really want the dress, but I am currently pregnant, and you can’t really breastfeed in a dress either, so I will have to just admire this one from afar I think!
Do you have a top tip for shopping ethically?
Support local artisans when you can. Instead of visiting the high street, check out your local markets. If we don’t value the skills of artisans in our community, these skills may be lost to our communities entirely. We don’t want a situation where we are forced to buy from unethical factories simply because they are the only places that have the skills to make clothes anymore.
Is there anything you find difficult about shopping ethically?
There are so, so many ethical considerations. Ethics of manufacture, environmental harm, slavery in the supply chain… The list goes on. Our shampoo could be contributing deforestation; those socks could be made with child labour; that cotton dress could be produced with slave labour… Everything that we buy has an ethical footprint. Instead of letting it overwhelm me, I start with one area and research, research, research, and then I make one small change at a time. Even if you only make 3-4 small changes a year, over a decade you will make a huge impact. If I look at the whole picture, it gets daunting, so I just take it one step at a time.
Summer made this scarf and dyed it using turmeric!
Where do you get your style inspiration from?
Pinterest is a favourite of mine. I look at the style inspiration of any fashion blogger (I prefer real people to models and fashion magazines), and then I translate that style to sustainable fashion by following great sustainable fashion blogs and searching the sustainable fashion labels for items that suit my style aesthetic.
What is your best secondhand or ethical find ever?
When I was breastfeeding my son I really began to miss wearing dresses, so I went down to my favourite charity store and looked for a dress that had buttons down the front. I decided that if I found, and it fit me, then I would treat myself to it no matter the price. I was lucky enough to find a cute black and white polka dot dress from the 70s, with a pleated skirt and buttons down the front, and it fit me perfectly! It was so nice to have a dress to wear again!
What would be your ultimate thrifted find?
This isn’t really about fashion, but my husband and I like to visit the recycle centre at the rubbish dump. We searched for a year for a new chest of drawers that we could do up for our bedroom, but nothing was suitable. We eventually bought something new, but we would have loved to find the perfect chest of drawers at the recycle centre. Once upon time everything that was made was good quality and made to last, so you could find quality thrifted furniture to do up and renew. Unfortunately our economy is so filled with throwaway items that this is no longer easy. But I remain hopeful, and we still keep looking. Beautiful thrifted furniture would always be my ultimate thrifted find.
Finally, Summer, can you share three ethical style tips with us:
1. I work out which silhouettes/style flatter my body shape and I stick to them. I steer away from fashion fads, and stick to styles that I look good in, so I will still look good in them even when the fashions change.
2. I recently discovered that aloe vera gel is a great styling product for naturally curly hair. It means I can ditch the chemical styling products, save money and still have frizz free curls.
3. Changing the buttons on an item, such as a blazer or cardigan, is a fantastic simple DIY that can really take an ordinary piece of clothing and make it unique and striking. I have some great tips for this in my simple button revamp post. This is a great way to revamp thrifted finds!
Do you want to share your ethical style with Moral Fibres readers? Whatever your age, sex, size, style, budget or location I’d love to feature you to show that ethical fashion is for everyone! Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org to take part in Your Ethical Style! There are no barriers to taking part – you don’t have to be a blogger to be featured!