Let’s talk about summer capsule wardrobes – ethical ones at that.
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If you’re heading off anywhere over the summer then you want to carry as few things as possible. There are few things more annoying than lugging a heavy bag to your destination, and then not wearing half the contents of it.
Even if you’re holidaying at home, I always find the thing about summer is that you generally want to spend the maximum of time outdoors, and the minimum amount of time trying to decide on what to wear. Therefore you want your wardrobe to work as hard as possible with the minimum amount of effort. You want items that go with everything, so instead of scratching your head, you can just grab two items and be sure that they will go together. Am I right?
So, I hereby present the six-item ethical summer capsule wardrobe, with five outfit variations. I’m not a beach holiday kind of lady. I do like a good city break, so my choices are constructed with thoughts of leisurely sunny days sightseeing and perhaps evenings spent relaxing with a glass of wine on an outdoor terrace. A girl can dream, right?
I’ve made my selection from some of my favourite ethical retailers, and with the exception of the sandals and maybe the skirt, then the rest of the items from this capsule wardrobe can be worn all year round. Double win!
My Ethical Summer Capsule Wardrobe
The items in question for an ethical summer capsule wardrobe are:
We shake our heads in disapproval when reading about social injustice. We cringe in disgust when witnessing environmental pollution firsthand. And we frown in unison when hearing the ever-more-alarming statistics on climate change. Yet we often hypocritically contribute to many of these global social and environmental issues through something that touches upon all of our lives: fashion.
Did you know that the textiles industry is one of the largest polluters on earth. Or that it is the fifth-largest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions in the United States?
Did you know that it takes a shocking 2,700 litres of water (enough to keep one person alive for three years) to grow the amount of cotton needed to make one single t-shirt? Or that conventional cotton growing requires loads of toxic pesticides that eventually go on to pollute our freshwater sources?
The day I learned these dirty secrets of the fashion industry, my world turned upside-down. How can something as (seemingly) innocent as buying new clothes with my friends turn out to be a potential act of harm? This thought baffled me, and I knew there was no turning back. Shopping would never be the same again.
How can we do better?
Getting even a glimpse of what might happen behind-the-scenes in the fashion world made me realize how impactful our purchase decisions can be. It also made me realise that we can no longer judge a product solely based on its physical properties and price tag, completely neglecting the history that comes along with it.
I concluded: we have to dig deeper. We have to ask questions when shopping for ethical clothing; and we have to make our choices count.
By digging deeper to understand the histories of our consumer products, we can make more informed purchase decisions, and pound (or dollar) vote for responsible businesses helping to drive positive change in our world. In other words, we can shop our way to a better, healthier world by simply supporting companies that value not merely the bottom line (Profit),but the triple bottom line. This being People, Planet, and Profit.
As a result, I began to think more about what to look for when shopping for ethical clothing.
What to Look For When Shopping for Ethical Clothing
Here is my list of questions I personally ask before shopping for ethical clothing. While every conscious consumer might have his or her own approach to shopping more mindfully, this is what works for me.
1. What material is this product made of?
Check the fashion product’s tags for its material composition.
Avoid products made with virgin, non-biodegradable synthetic materials or high-impact, natural materials. See Table 1 for the products to try to avoid.
Instead, Prefer products made with low-impact, biodegradable, natural materials or recycled synthetic material. For some healthier alternatives, please see Table 1.
Table 1. A shopping guide for Healthier Textile Choices
2. How was the product made?
Look for voluntary information provided by the company. In particular, where the raw materials came from, what dyes/chemicals were used, etc.
Avoid products with special properties such as stain-resistant, permanent press, anti-static, etc. And additionally, avoid products with labels that provide no insight as to how it was made.
Instead, Prefer products made with natural finishes or dyes and products with credible certifications. See Table 2 for more details.
Table 2. Common Labels in the Fashion Industry
3. Where was the product made?
When shopping for ethical clothing:
Avoid imported products from the other side of the world. In particular, ones that provide no information regarding how the product was made.
Instead, Prefer products made regionally or imported products labeled “Fair Trade*.
4. Will I cherish this item? Is this a keeper?
Avoid cheap, disposable, highly fashionable products you will wear only once
Instead, Prefer durable, timeless, practical products you will wear 30+ times.
5. Does the company that made this product care about the planet?
And finally, when shopping for ethical clothing:
Avoid products made by companies that show no regard for human or environmental health and make no effort to practice responsible business.
Instead, Prefer products made by responsible companies transparent about their supply chain. Look for ones instead that are supportive of social/environmental causes, and contribute to our world’s greater good.
It’s not always possible to buy responsibly and transparently made products. However, realising how much power we each have as fashion consumers, and starting to ask more questions like the ones I have provided are crucial first steps toward reshaping the fashion industry.
I'm Wendy and welcome to Moral Fibres, a UK based eco blog. I'm a sustainability expert, and my aim is to make sustainability simple, by researching and writing on all things environmental - from product guides to breaking down big ideas - so you don't have to.
As well as the blog I've also written a book on natural cleaning - Fresh Clean Home is out now!
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