watch your (ethical fashion) privilege

watch your (ethical fashion) privilege

I was born in Salford, a working class area of the North West. We were skint at times and therefore absolutely loved a bargain. Huge hauls from Primarni, getting pirated dvds off the local market and buying other people’s junk at car boots were the norm.

Growing up, I always bought my clothes from high street shops, starting off with Tammy Girl at BHS and moving onto New Look, Forever 21, Zara, River Island, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge (the very predictable list goes on and on). At one point when I was around 16 almost every single item of clothing I owned was from Topshop. If I’m honest, I wasn’t completely ingnorant to the unethical nature of the sweat shops that these clothes came from, but at the time all I was concerned about was the cost to me (aka my mum).

Those of you that have followed me for a while now will know that I’m pretty passionate about calling out the fast fashion industry for being damaging to both people and the environment. However, I only really got into buying vintage and second hand clothing when I began earning my own money just before I started university.

FACT: Buying from ethical clothing brands/second hand shops is more EXPENSIVE. I don’t need to cite 83 sources for you to believe me, we all know that a 5 pack of primark undies is a whole lot cheaper than one pair of knickers made from recycled fabric in an all female studio in East London.

Thinking about the cost of sustainable clothing has led me to this question: Is investing in ‘conscious fashion’ a viable option for low income individuals and families?

As somebody who follows and interacts with others from the ethical fashion community, I have encountered blanket statements such as “if we ALL changed the way we shopped, we could save the planet!”. I have been guilty of using this kind of rhetoric myself in the past. Now that I think about it from a more critical perspective, can we ALL change the way we shop?

Are we assuming that those who don’t buy from sustainable brands are doing it because they don’t want a more ethical world for all? Or is it simply because they don’t have enough/any disposable income? Are they just thinking about how they are going to put food on the table?

Are we privileged if we can buy ethically?

Are we asserting that this is the best way to live and the way that everybody should be living?

I realise that this is just a stream of consciousness stemming from my thoughts about ethical fashion, but I hope it helps you to think about this issue too.

Instead of shaming people with facts and figures about those that suffer at the hands of fast fashion, perhaps it is time for us to offer cost-effective solutions. Let’s encourage people to make small changes that have a significant impact over time. We can swap clothes with friends, recycle old clothes, wash our clothes on a lower temperature, buy from charity shops etc.

We are lucky that we are able to shop ethically, we shouldn’t take it for granted. We shouldn’t use our privilege to humiliate others.

As always, shout me on instagram with your thoughts.

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