When we talk about the cost of fashion, we consider the dent it has just put in our bank account, but do we really consider the real cost? I am sure most of you have heard of the inhumane ways sweat shops are run around the world and how young children are put to work to make affordable fashion items that are shipped to America. It also happens at home; just recently American Apparel was under scrutiny for hiring illegal aliens to pay less than minimum wage. Thousands of articles have been written on manufacturing conditions and how we are exploiting the poor. Children as young as 5 years old are expected to leave school in order to make $1 a week to help support their household. China is not the only country who is a participant in this high cost of fashion, others do not fall short. As Americans we are driving this economy and sometimes unknowingly participating in these heinous crimes against our children around the world. Sure its cool to get a dress for $10 but next time take a moment to research why something costs so little and at whose expense.
The question to all of you is… why are we still buying low cost items at these discount stores? When will we realize the real ballot for what we believe comes in the form of every dollar we spend? I have nothing against a corporation making money and creating jobs but at what cost. Do you know where your clothes are coming from? I love fashion however, I will not allow my sense of dress to overshadow the urgency for change in the manufacturing industry. Alright, I am done scolding because the reality is that if you can google child labor laws around the world, minimum wages, and health conditions you will quickly see the realities. I am not here to convince you this is happening because you would have to live under a rock to not know this is real and happening right now. My only part in this is to help you see what you can do to change the world, one purchase at a time.
Here are seven tips to be a fashionista without participating in our current conspicuous consumer cycle that supports unethical practices around the world. Seven steps to help you and a child and/or his family on their way to a better life. You may be thinking well, how can my purchase make a difference. Simple, if we keep condoning this structure by funding it, will it stop on its own? Probably not! Take some time to research the products you buy. Where are they made, under what conditions and for the love of humanity who is making them?
1. Research Research Research
Find out where things come from. In the age of information at the tip of your fingers, not making an effort to look 10 min. about a brand you buy constantly is plain lazy. What you are saying is, “I don’t care.” I know you care and there are great sites that break it all down for you. All you need to do is make an educated choice. You have the power to change injustice.
2. Check out local garage sales
Perhaps, there is no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than at an amazing estate sale in your neighborhood. I mean forget recycling, upcycling is a term every fashionista should coin immediately (more on this later). Who know’s you just might find that perfect pair of Chanel glasses for $20 because it reminds someone else’s grandma of an old bf she rather forget. Note: You are also helping your fellow neighbor!
3. Vintage/ Consignment store
These can vary in price since mostly the owners are aware of the value of vintage items but searching is half the fun. Go ahead shop around and barter. The great thing about consignment stores, is that your outfit will always be unique and one-of-a kind!
4. Eco-luxury items
This is clothes made from organic and sustainable material. Even though it can be pricey you are technically helping the environment too. One t-shirt last forever because of how well it is made. Not to mention, most of these companies practice fair trade and human rights work ethics. The clothes are made in countries where labor is expensive, the makers receive benefits and are regulated by minimum wages and such. Basically, it brings us back to a time where hand-crafted goods were valued and you knew where your clothes came from.
5. Swap and up-cycling parties with friends
Let’s be real for a second, you know you want your bff closet? Well, why not swap for a week or trade garments forever. Come up with a list of friends whose closet you would love to raid and start the negotiations. For instance, one of my good friends has an amazing designer vintage collection and I have been dying to get my hands on it. Well, for two months and a dry clean bill – I too can have access to the tweed suit I have been eyeing for half a decade. Two things I would not recommend sharing. Shoes and Men. Too much trouble to get the stink away from both.
6. Thrift stores
This may be the least favorite among the “eeeewww girls” but the fact that you can find a gem for $5 kinda outweighs the chances of getting spotted at a Good Will. Truthfully, any savvy girl knows- that all that white lace shirt needs- is an eye for putting an outfit together (in a chic way-don’t go bonkers on me) and killer shoes. C’mon a thrift store is way better than funding a sweat shop. Plus, if you think about it, recycling old clothes makes us use less of scarce resources anyway.
7. Up-cycling and re-furbishing!
There it is, the word every smart ecological girl should use. When you up-cycle it means you are giving new life to a garment that otherwise would be tossed as old goods. No one likes to think of their clothes as old and dingy, but today there are many professionals who are dedicated to the art form of re-furbishing. They can take any piece of clothing and see it’s beauty. Vintage fabrics are often luxury items to put aside because the structure no longer suits our contemporary needs. This is where a seamstress and a keen eye from a stylist can upcycle and refurbish any item into a fresh new couture piece that will make you not only fashionable, but socially aware and ecological.
That’s it, now promise you will NEVER EVER buy something without reverting back to this article for guidance.