When I speak with people about ethical clothing
, I am generally faced with two reactions:
#1 – *insert blank stare here*
#2 – various responses expressing how they have no idea what that even means, how it doesn’t make a difference, or how it’s not probable for the average person to do. These sentiments can also be bundled together under the blanket statement of ‘general negativity’.
While these aren’t the most ideal reactions for people to have when I’m trying to communicate to someone how the clothing they choose to buy and wear can make a difference in the world, at least they haven’t shot me down completely yet, which means I can still try my best to have an enlightening conversation.
As much as I can tell people my ethical shopping tips, or write about them in a blog post, I find the best example is when I just point at what I’m wearing— ‘my pants are from a friend, my shirt is from a second hand store and my shoes I had before I even knew anything about ethical shopping’. After this people give me the once over and you can see their minds working to figure out how this all works.
I wanted to share with some of my favourite ensembles from my closet to shine a light on the basics of how I am working with transitioning my wardrobe into an ethical closet… and hopefully inspire you to do the same along the way!
I understand this can seem overwhelming—when I first learned about how our clothing is made and wanted to make a difference, I thought of all the things in my closet and just wanted to RE START COMPLETELY!
However…. Money doesn’t grow on trees (not that I know of, anyways) so that doesn’t make sense. What you have in your closet has already been purchased. It’s yours. And unless you were planning on getting rid of it already, keep it. You made the purchase before you were educated. It’s OK.
Now when it comes to buying new clothing, I set out with a few guidelines in mind. While the basic guidelines are the same, sometimes the order of them will change whether I’m looking for a specific item, if I’m working with a timeline, or if I just feel like browsing.
The number one guideline and rule I like to have is pretty simple…
#1 – Shop Ethical.
If I can buy an item from an ethical company, I will. This is my number one always. Ethical companies may seem hard to find—especially in brick and mortar—but online they exist and have great products! My recent find is a company named Everlane
. I bought a few things online and they are both affordable and comfortable. They have great basics, which are ideal for dressing things up or just looking casual. To find ethical companies a simple google search can do wonders—and even following the rabbit trail on places like Instagram can lead to find companies doing amazing things!
|Top: Second Hand Store. Pants: Same as Above.
Shoes: Had them before I knew what ethically clothing was!
Glasses: Warby Parker. Bracelet: Sugar Blossom.
All the other guidelines fall pretty evenly. In my opinion, no one of these options is better than the other, as none of them are ideal but are all great ways to implement your active choice of choosing to live a lifestyle where you prioritize the value of the life of another human being.
#2 – Shop Second Hand.
There are some amazing second hand and consignment stores around! What’s great about second-hand is a lot of stores fund charities or support local non profits with the incoming profit from the items they sell! Take MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) or the Salvation Army as examples! Another great place for second hand is Plato’s Closet—they only carry items in line with trends and that are in great shape! I just had a friend text me about how she got 2 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, a blazer and more for just over $100! What’s great about second hand is the ‘damage has been done’—even if you buy clothing from a company that doesn’t have the best labour practices, your money isn’t supporting the company who created the item.
#3 – Shop Free2Work.
I love Free2Work as it rates companies and brands we are all used to seeing when we go to the mall. I commit to buying clothing from ‘mall brand’ store with a B rating or higher. This allows me to still purchase clothing in a brick and mortar setting—which can be beneficial when it comes to trying things on like pants and dresses.
#4 – Shop Impact.
I once posted a status on Facebook asking friends to share with me the name of ethical clothing companies they love. Most people ended up referring me to companies like Toms and Ten Tree. While these companies wouldn’t be defined as companies who 100% ethically create their goods (at least to my knowledge of their supply chain), they are companies committed to trying to help people with a one-for-one model. With Toms
, one pair of shoes for you means one pair of shoes for someone in need! Warby Parker
does the same but with glasses, and with Ten Tree
10 trees are planted for every article of clothing you buy. These companies are positively impacting the world, which is great!
|Top: From a Friend. Purse: Garage Sale find! Glasses: Warby Parker.
Pants: From a Friend. Shoes: From a Friend.
#5 – Shop Local.
While you can’t guarantee an item is ethically made just because it’s made in Canada or the United States, there is a good chance those making the clothing had better conditions then those countries that are know for sweat shops. I had stumbled across this lovely little shop out of the states on Instagram and all of their products are manufactured in the United States. It’s not a guarantee, but I feel more comfortable wearing it. Little accent pieces like jewelry, headbands and toques, scarves and more, can be made by local artisans too! Source them out and support people in your community!
#6 – Shop your Friends Closet.
Do you have friends? Hand-me-downs are amazing! I work with some very fashionable ladies and when they get rid of clothes, you best believe I am ready and waiting to take a look the bags and snag some items! Hand-me-downs in good condition are amazing! You didn’t pay for them and they can help supplement your wardrobe! And, it’s even better if the hand-me-downs you’re getting are ethically made!
|Top: Everlane. Scarf: Made by a Friend. Pants: Had them for a few years now! Shoes: From a Friend.
When you break it down, it’s not that daunting of a process and it’s easy to take steps towards living a lifestyle where your clothing tells the story of how you care about our global community. As the saying goes; do what you can, with what you have, where you are. I believe taking these small steps in choosing ethical clothing can impact the lives of those around the world who make our clothes, and can impact those closest to us when you share the stories of why you wear clothes that create change.*All photos by the always lovely Krysten Cathleen Photography. She is such a gem! Easy to work with and so so much fun! Check her out!