My desire to create ethical fashion has been strengthened after watching a new documentary: “The True Cost”, screened by Glasgow's Centre for Confidence and Well-being with the sub-title of "why we should love our clothes" and backed by a group called Fashion Revolution.
It drove home the realities of where we in the “west” get our cheap clothes - and it was not a pretty sight.
Basically, competition between high street stores is driving prices down to such a level that production has been outsourced to workers in places like Bangladesh and Cambodia who are paid what are in fact slave wages, toil in appalling, life-threatening conditions without trade union or government protection, all while their environment is being destroyed with almost unfettered pollution.
Meanwhile, most of the clothes we throw away each fashion “season” (Fast Fashion), even those we give to charity, eventually end up in landfill, poisoning our own environment, or shipped to Third World countries who have their own clothing industries destroyed because of the availability of cheap second-hand imports.
The documentary should be as powerful a recruiting tool for the ethical clothing industry as Cowspiracy/Earthlings/Forks Over Knives have been for veganism.
Just like those movies urge us to think more about the sources - and effects - of our food on animals, the environment and our own health, “The True Cost Movie” should be a wake-up call for many as we make our clothing choices. Like meat, dairy and fishing, fashion produces its own killing fields.
Just as we can make a difference by making alterations to our diet and other items that might stem from animal cruelty, we can make a change by either consuming less (taking better care of the clothes we buy) or buying from more ethical and sustainable suppliers (whether it be raw materials or the finished product).
Just like the meat, dairy and oil industries, the fashion industry is killing humans and animals either directly through its policies (cheap labour and use of animals for ingredients and materials) or through production processes that are spiralling us closer to an ecological disaster.
Just like we see with the growth of veganism, there is hope, whether it be through the establishment or success of ethical clothing companies or organisations like the Fair Trade movement.
The world is at a tipping point. Indeed, it might already be too late, with last week’s reports about the rapid decline of fish in the sea being only the latest warning sign.
Now is the time to act. Try to buy ethically. Lobby your clothing suppliers to use more ethical materials and to be better employers. Indeed, go out of your way to buy from suppliers who have a policy of paying living wages and, especially, buy from workers co-operatives where the employees benefit directly from their company’s own success.
Indeed, love your clothes more. Better to buy, for example, one pair of expensive (non-leather) boots from an ethical supplier, cherish them and take care of them than buy three cheap ones made in a sweat shop and dispose of them just because you might think they are no longer in fashion.
It will save you money in the short term, will help save the lives of humans and animals alike - and, in the long run, might just save the planet too.