Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Uncrafty Solutions

I've spent the past few weeks thinking on and off about fashion - sometimes because of this blog, sometimes because of other reasons like seeing something pretty in a store window - and I keep coming back to this image.

I don't really have anything to say about it that hasn't already been said, and likely in a better way than I could put it, but I've been thinking about how hard it is to be an ethical consumer of fashion when on a pretty strict budget. And when craft-ally challenged, like me. (That one week I tried to learn how to knit, I hurt my hands more than I thought possible). The saying I remember hearing in engineering a good many times - that, of the three options of "cheap," "good," and "fast," you get to pick two - seems applicable here, though maybe with some changes.

When it comes to buying clothes, I mostly try to get things second-hand, but I admittedly have a weakness for online shopping and for H&M. Plus, places like American Apparel may manufacture clothes in the U.S., but their advertising leaves such a gross taste in my mouth that I don't really want to have anything to do with them. In short, it feels like there aren't many good options out there.

What do you folks think about fashion and ethics? What kinds of choices are important to you?


  1. I am just about the laziest person ever when it comes to things like thrifting. I'm sure that it's a skill one develops with practice, but I just don't have the time or energy to comb through thrift store racks to find clothes I might like. I barely have time to do this with new clothes that are arranged by style and size, which is why I haven't bought a pair of shorts since 2009 or so. (In case anyone's ever wondered about my lacklustre wardrobe, there's the reason for it in a nutshell.)

    When it comes to making clothes, I don't have anywhere near the skills necessary, although I kind of would like to develop them. I do think that making one's own clothes is a good way to become more aware of the ways that we think about clothing (as disposable, for instance), but the fact is that fabrics have to come from somewhere too, and that somewhere is often a developing country as well (source-ish here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Textile_industry#21st_century).

    I've also never been very comfortable with the idea of boycotting a clothing manufacturer (or any manufacturer) that mistreats its workforce, because ultimately a terrible job is better for a struggling individual than no job at all. The trouble is that I do think pressure of some kind needs to be put on these companies, and I'm not sure what the alternatives are for an average consumer, other than boycotting. Do letter-writing campaigns work? I have no idea. Are there organizations supporting labour movements in these industries and/or countries that a person could donate to?

    To attempt to answer the questions you're actually asking in your post: I am terrible and I will basically just do what's easiest when it comes to choosing my clothes. I realize that this makes me part of the problem. And I'm not sure it's possible to be an ethical consumer on a budget. To be truly ethical, you'd probably have to buy 100% locally-manufactured clothes, which would be expensive or even non-existent in some places.

    Tl;dr woo globalization!

    1. Yeah, I think the problem I have with all this is that there really isn't a perfect solution (especially given my own restricted $$). Even second-hand stores aren't necessarily good places for people to work or good places to support.

      Re: boycotting, I find things like this interesting: http://goo.gl/3364c. Although H&M claims that they weren't influenced by public pressure after the Bangladesh factory collapse, I'm not particularly convinced. Surely they paid attention to it at least somewhat?