I'm gonna come out and say that shopping for sustainably made fair trade clothes is a bit of a minefield.
I started this journey only a couple months ago—the journey being to locate where I can actually buy ethical, sustainable clothes, or is it thrift shops and eBay for the rest of eternity. Spoiler alert: I found some places.
In a previous post I mentioned that I want to live more consciously and sustainably. I made a pledge to myself to stop buying from stores that have their products predominantly made by exploited children and impoverished workers. Cool. Good. Step in the right direction. Now where do I cloth myself?
Sanne, Lex, and Rosi can duly testify that whilst walking down the high street, I've taken up muttering 'slaves' when passing pretty much any clothing establishment. I can't walk into an H&M or a Topshop anymore without seeing all the people who have been taken advantage of so we can have fast, cheap (and sometimes not-so-cheap) fashion.
*I've abbreviated 'sustainable, ethical, & fair trade' to SEFT because frankly it's a lot to spell out every damn time.
Here's what I've learned over the past couple months.
'Sustainable', 'fair trade' & 'ethical' are not mutually exclusive labels.
I think the issue at the heart here is that these terms often have intersecting meanings and there aren't set industry definitions to make it any easier. Currently, it's lucky if an item meets two of these criteria. And if you're trying to tick all these boxes, plus have it vegan too? Good. Luck.
'Sustainable', 'fair trade' & 'ethical' do not always mean high quality.
Sanne recently got a dress from People Tree that had a dyed pattern that wore away after one wear. I have a cotton shirt from them that looks nice but doesn't feel great (I also have a dress from them that I love and the quality is top notch—it's a roll of the dice). I've come across numerous other brands selling flimsy, wrinkled shirts.
Say goodbye to the budget buy.
There are reasonable prices and great sales but you need to forget the idea of seeing a full price top for £15. To soften the blow of higher price tags, I remind myself it reflects that the person who made this item actually got paid decently.
The websites for the most part? Terrible.
The majority that I'm sharing today have their shit together. But there's a lot of clunky and unaesthetic websites to wade through to get to the good ones.
Selection and 'fashionability' is missing.
SEFT clothes sadly aren't the most fashion-forward. A lot of it is designed for middle aged women, which makes sense because they are the clientele more able to afford its price point. The Acey is one place that is thankfully on trend as hell (but also with high-end prices). You're not going to see the wide-range of selection offered by a typical high street clothing store. They call it slow fashion for a reason. It means a lot of waiting around for next season if you aren't crazy for the current collection.
There's a lot of compromises to be made as SEFT fashion is still a very young industry. But with the growing strength of the cruelty-free movement, I can't help but see this being the next logical step for conscious consumers. Like with cruelty-free products, it's not perfect. You're putting your trust in these brands that they are being honest about their practices. But regardless, I think brands that seek to be fair trade/ethically produced, sustainable, and/or vegan are making a move in the right direction. And that's something the rest of the fashion giants have largely ignored and continue to ignore.