Tuesday, 25 May 2010

We've made it!

And so a month has gone by and we’re still at it.
Have we managed to stick to ethical fashion buying for 4 weeks? YES! But at a cost: being ethical has often meant not buying anything at all. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t always solve the dilemma of where to go when I really do need a new dress.

I’m delighted to say that I now understand the plethora of moral-sounding consuming terms: green, organic, fair trade, sustainable and their many variations.
One happy lesson is that ethical does not necessarily mean expensive. I was often surprised at the sort of price I found when searching specialist fair trade shops.
To prove my point, I can’t find less then vague statements of (good or bad) working conditions under which your Guccis, Pradas or Louboutins come to this world.

Although, let me point out the wonderful initiative by Gucci to donate 25% of each of their special edition Gucci For Unicef Sukey bag to the Schools for Africa’s programs.

At £765 a pop, this is a very generous fashion statement.
(still in the dark on their green or fair trade credentials, but one very good outcome of buying Gucci.)

A few gripes on buying ethical are still there:

1. the vast majority of shops are still entirely online.
2. a lot of the collections conform to the stereotype of how a green guerrilla recruit would dress.

(image: http://pib.socioambiental.org/, a vast source of information on native tribes from the Amazon. Fascinating, but not the look I am after for my morning latte in London)

3. too much of it is marketed for the young yummy mummy, “juggling” market. I have no particular bone to pick with mothers, let me be clear. My mother, for example – seen here in animated state following a hearty zabaglione dessert, is a very lovely lady, as everybody who knows her would agree.

I still dislike this overused and lazy marketing vice. Sure, your priorities may have changed after you’ve given birth, but other sectors of the population care about the environment too. People with just as much spending and decision power: fathers, single men, childless women, even mothers who also respond to other titles and may just want to buy a power drill rather than washable nappies, for a change.

As to my initial confusion on what constitutes ethical: Kay and I have focused on 3 main concerns:
- products manufactured under decent working conditions and traded at fair prices: this is entirely debatable and what’s decent to you may not be for me. But the UK fair trade foundation and its 23 partner organisations around the world are making progress in developing fair trade standards.
- use of organic material: still learning. A lot is said about the benefits of organic cotton for the environment. But wardrobes cannot survive on cotton alone. My next project is to look for organic silk.
- Impact the manufacturing of our clothes have on the environment and local communities. This is when I fell in love with up-cycling!

We only just got started, but I can safely say we’re hooked on this new way of consuming. If nothing else, simply for all the work that producers and retailers – and government and trade regulators - still have to do.

We’re now getting completely over the top excited about our next task: a new month of ethical eating and drinking! I’m hungry just thinking of it.

But we still have a lot to cover on the fashion front. My friend Dean – who would not dream of
compromising his rather dandy style of dressing - helpfully pointed out yesterday that I never even mentioned men’s clothes. We shall stay on the lookout for that too.

For now, I will leave you with a few random and smug photos of my garden, which decided to grace us with some flowers on the hottest day of the year so far.

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