Monday, January 5, 2009

Can fashion have a conscience?

What's the mood on your local high street? Ours is looking a bit the worse for wear after the Christmas binge. For a start, Woolies, that stalwart of the British high street, now stands dark, empty and rather sad. Meanwhile, all the clothes shops scream ‘SALE’ and ‘UP TO 75% OFF!’ from their windows. It’s all a bit desperate.
So far, I’ve steered clear of the clothes sales. It’s not just credit crunch – I’m having a bit of a rethink on the fashion front.


A fashionable friend of mine once made a new year’s resolution not to buy new clothes for a year. She became an expert at spotting charity shop bargains, swapping dresses with her sister and digging deep into the back of her wardrobe for forgotten cast-offs. And I didn’t even notice: for the full 12 months she was as well turned out as ever.
I’m not planning on going completely cold turkey, like her. I will probably succumb to a new pair of boots this January (well, it is snowing as I type this) and treat myself to feel-good beach dress when summer finally comes around. But I’m going to try to stick to ethical and organically produced items - and steer clear of sweat-shop fodder.
I confess, I’ve done the Primark thing: come home with armfuls of fluffy sweaters without really questioning how they sell them so cheaply. Because, even though high street shops and supermarkets have now been forced to look more carefully at their suppliers’ working conditions, there’s no getting around the fact that these days, clothes are valued for being cheap and disposable.
Whether it’s a T-shirt or a pair of bootleg jeans, the high street gives you a fast fix – something to wear once or twice and then consign to the landfill. So much so that the Environment Select Committee tells us that in the last five years, the proportion of textile waste at council tips has risen from 7 per cent to 30 per cent.

But for a good few years now, ethical and organic clothes companies have slowly but surely been telling a different story. Finally, they are making an impact. And if you suspect I’m talking about shapeless hemp shirts rather than on-trend clothes, take a look at the likes of People Tree (www.peopletree.co.uk) or Howies (right, www.howies.co.uk).
These clothes don’t just look good – they are good news for everyone. The suppliers get paid a fair wage for their product and don’t have to work with hazardous dyes, bleaches or production processes. And, even if the clothes cost a bit more than a supermarket bargain, there are good reasons why. Clothes made from quality, fairtrade-certified fabrics will keep their shape and last far longer than one season.
For more and more of us, fashion in 2009 is going to be about buying thoughtfully. About choosing two key investment pieces that will last several years, rather than eight slightly dodgy items that don’t make it into 2010.
That’s my resolution anyway. Even if Primark doesn’t notice I’ve gone (after all, they take up to £600,000 a day at their Marble Arch store alone), change has to start somewhere. And while I might feel the pinch in 2009, you can bet that someone working in a clothes factory in Bangladesh for 7p an hour will be feeling it far more.


For more information, the Guardian has an ethical fashion directory at www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/page/ethicalfashiondirectory.

Pictures: People Tree and Howies (T-shirt)



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1 comment:

Mini said...

Hi,

Nice image. I like the T Shirt that woman is wearing than her as I liked the colour of it. I was planning to buy such outfits and could not find where to find it. Now I came to know that online shopping is the best way to shop for the stuff what we want as we will be having huge variety to choose from.