Fashion: How to build a more ethical wardrobe
Back in the day when LOVE TWAIN was just a crawling and somewhat uncoordinated baby, supporting ethically produced clothing and accessories was not at the top of our agenda. Not because we didn’t care, but because we weren’t educated on the topic enough. You see, our personal distaste for fast-fashion has always been based on the principles of quality over quantity. It is based on a choice for wool and silk over polyester (you know, in the case of a house fire) and the choice to wear original creations over their copies. It is the call to support independent designers and iconic design houses, to be part of the bigger picture. But with that said, we knew we couldn’t expect everyone to spend their weekly electricity and grocery money on a jumper. Or could we?
The more we immersed ourselves into the world of monthly drops the more we realised fast-fashion wasn’t just about the pressure to buy a new dress every week, it was about the pressure placed on our already fragile environment and the role we – both as shop owners and consumers – played in this. In the past two decades clothing production has more than doubled, with the average consumer now buying 60 percent more clothing items in a year and keeping their purchases for about half as long as in previous years. What does that mean for our environment? It means that we, the fashion obsessed, are contributing to the second dirtiest industry in the world – fashion.
So what can we do? For LOVE TWAIN it was about choosing to support locally made, more ethical labels. About supporting those designers with a vision for quality over quantity. But what can you do? We turned to Meile founders Trinity and Sophie to deliver some tips on a more ethical approach to fashion. Having founded a company with a mission to curb over consumerism, the Meile online shopping destination spreads the love of conscious fashion by offering a more curated shopping experience. Here the fashion crusaders share their tips on building a more ethical wardrobe – one investment at a time…
What does an ethical wardrobe mean to Meile?
We like to think of an ethical wardrobe as a streamlined wardrobe – where you have fewer items of clothing, but you wear those items more often. Our ethos is to buy less but choose better and the technology embedded in our app was built on this premise. We believe in the 80/20 rule, where 80% of the items in your closet should be worn on a regular basis while the other 20% is for a special occasion or those nostalgic pieces that you love.
What questions should we be asking designers and retailers on the production of their garments?
That’s a good question. Above all else, we think that customers can consume consciously by consuming less. All products, even the most responsibly made ones, still create an environmental footprint. However, we also understand that we are all going to shop and there is nothing wrong with that, but rather than buying to buy because it’s trendy or because it’s on sale etc. Ask yourself these questions:
1) Is it high enough quality to last?
2) How often will I wear it?
3) Do I LOVE it? If not then don’t buy it. If it’s not a hell yes then it’s a hell no!
4) Does it fit in and can it be interchangeable with the rest of my wardrobe?
I know that’s not what you asked, but we believe reframing the way we consume is the most powerful way to be responsible. That being said, I think asking brands for transparency is the most important question. What are their factory conditions like? And not just for their tier 1 factories but all their factories etc. Reformation is an example of a brand who does a really good job of being transparent. They recently opened up their factories in LA to the public.
What should we all be looking for?
Quality, ethical practices, transparency, but mostly it is important to also look at ourselves and how we consume.
What fabrications are more ethical?
We can’t fully answer this question because we are not experts, but what we can share with you is two things that we were surprised to learn.
Although cotton, and especially organic cotton, seems like a smart choice, it can still take more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a t-shirt and a pair of jeans.
Leather is more ethical than vegan leather as it is usually upcycled – this means that it is produced from the waste of cows that are being slaughtered for meat. If this leather wasn’t used it would just sit in a landfill and go to waste. Obviously the slaughtering of a cow may not be considered ethical, but from some perspectives the use of “wasted leather” is. Whereas vegan leather because of the synthetic materials and chemicals used to create it, actually leaves a larger environmental footprint.
Why should we support ethical practices?
That is a personal question that you will have to answer for yourself- but our thoughts are if you care about the environment and the future of your children and their children than looking at your shopping habits is important and something that is easy to do. We suggest shopping consciously, buying less but choosing better, and focusing on supporting ethical/responsible fashion brands.
Oh, and one of our more fun, or not so fun facts, is that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, second only to oil, and that is definitely something to keep in mind as you shop.
Now, the 5 ways to build a more ethical wardrobe…
1. Value and take good care of the clothes you already own
2. Shop less, choose better. Only buy pieces you love
3. Go for clothes that are high quality
4. Buy vintage or used when possible
5. Support ethical brands.