Being so far away from the fashion capitals of Paris, London, New York and Milan, can antipodean fashionistas keep it stylish and ethical? New Zealand ethical fashion blogger, Amy Stephens, thinks they can. She gives us her top tips on how to keep it real, Kiwi style.
I’ve been blogging about ethical fashion for eight months now. Why did I do this? It was a combo of things really.
Firstly, I realised that a lot of the factories my clothes were produced in weren’t ethical and didn’t pay workers a fair ‘living wage.’ When you consider how cheap some of our clothes are and where the profits are going, it just doesn’t seem fair. Some people ask me whether it’s better to provide people factories overseas, in China for example, with ‘a job’ as opposed to no job? This is the argument I hear from people who don’t have an understanding of what really goes on in these factories.
I was also sick of how quickly the cheap and nasty cheap stuff I had kept falling apart, and the wastage that this involves. According to Marks and Spencers in the UK, 10,000 items of unwanted clothing go to UK landfill every 5 minutes.
In addition the World Bank states that 17-20% of industrial water pollution is due to textile dyeing and water treatment. There’s got to be a smarter way.
So, in the last eight months I’ve set out to find brands tackling all these things in a smart sustainable way. New Zealand has talented designers but a lot of the clothes are designed but not made here because it’s not financially viable for them to manufacture on a large scale in NZ. This has meant my year so far has been a mix of NZ made, second hand and fair trade. Believe it or not I’ve actually saved cash by shopping this way.
Some things are harder to find and involve more research like jeans, running shoes and sports clothes. But the ethical fashion movement is growing and I’ve definitely sensed a major shift in consumer demand. Every ethical purchase really does make a difference. It can be a small simple step to start with.
Here are 5 tips I’ve found for ethical fashion shopping:
1. Go to your local markets – pick up bargains, look unique.
2. Get into the op shops – there are gems waiting to be found.
3. If you’re buying t-shirts go organic fair trade. Conventional cotton industries leave a toxic legacy for those living and working in the surrounding environment. Organic is not just a buzzword.
4. Get something tailor-made. You’ll be amazed how beautifully it fits you. I was inspired by the Uniform Project and now have my own LBD that I wear with everything. Photos to come on my blog.
5. Swap clothes and accessories with friends over an afternoon tea or some bubbles.
Follow Amy on her Fair Fashion Year journey at fairfashionyear.wordpress.com
Photo: Amy Stephens