I have recently been immersing myself in all things ‘fashion’. Getting involved with the Global Poverty Project’s See Through Fashion campaign – which is urging retailers who have not yet signed the Bangladeshi Safety Accord to do so – prompted me to brush-up on my knowledge of the ins-and-outs of the fashion industry. As part of my research I read Lucy Siegle’s ‘To Die For‘, an expose on the fashion industry. I’m not sure I have ever read a book that has impacted my lifestyle to the extent Siegle’s is likely to do. I have already ‘upcycled’ an old black t-shirt and have not been anywhere near a high street retailer since finishing the book a month ago.
In week#14 I proposed to start buying ethically manufactured clothing. A few purchases in and I realised that the lack of transparency in the industry made it almost impossible to know whether my purchase was, in fact, ethical or not. As a result I found this ‘small change’ to be bigger than I first anticipated. Admittedly, I have defaulted to simply buying clothes as normal and hoping for the best. After reading Siegle’s book I now know that the vast majority of the clothes I own and wear are unethical on almost every level.
I am not going to sugar-coat the issue. Yes, there is more effort involved in buying more ethically produced clothing. It is not as easy as popping to the nearest fashion retailer and picking out something pretty. However, now that I am better informed, by not making an effort I am indirectly saying that it is okay for the person who makes my clothes to live in extreme poverty; I’m also reinforcing the idea that it is okay for cotton farmers to be underpaid and exploited; and I’m subconsciously condoning the devastating effects of fast fashion on our natural resources. And that is just the start of it.
Siegle’s book details the process behind our clothing from sourcing materials, such as cotton, to the point where the consumer buys an item from a high street store. The astounding statistics and shocking stories she uncovers are too numerous to go into in a blog post but I would urge anyone who is brave enough to become better informed about the clothes they wear, to read the book. The more of us who opt to change our ways, the more it will become fashionable to be different.