Fashion Revolution Week: Tips for sustainable and ethical shopping

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Trying on a Simone dress at Plum on Lonsdale

I’m back!  I took a few weeks off of blogging because I was finishing up my degree!  I had projects due, finals to write, evaluations to complete and a grad recital to perform!  It’s all over and done with now, and I’m so looking forward to diving back into some content creation – although, I’ve gotta be honest, I’m feeling a little rusty and frankly, still a little tired from these last two weeks of school.  Because I’ve had so much on the go, I haven’t been cooking as much.  In the next few weeks I’m sure I’ll get my mojo back and feel inspired to create new recipes, but in the meantime, I thought I’d write a post in honour of Fashion Revolution Week.

Fashion Revolution Week was started to commemorate the anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh on April 24th, 2013.  Over 1100 people died and more than 2500 people were injured.  It is considered the deadliest garment factory accident to date.  This tragic incident prompted a resurgence in the ethical fashion movement across the world.  I would highly recommend watching the documentary “The True Cost” to anyone who wants more details on the fast fashion industry and the fall-out of the Rana Plaza collapse.  Or if you want a quick in-depth explanation of the Rana Plaza Collapse and Fashion Revolution check out designer Justine Leconte’s youtube video.

Since watching the True Cost about a year and a half ago, I decided to take some steps to try and shop more ethically.  The bonus of shopping more ethically, whether it is for clothing, food or otherwise, is that often ends up being more sustainable and environmentally friendly solution as well.

Tips for Sustainable and Ethical Clothing Shopping:

  1.  Clothing Swaps – I hosted my first clothing swap at my place before Christmas time.  It was such a blast!  I invited a bunch of friends over and we drank mulled wine, ate snacks and tried on a bunch of clothes.  When we had decided which clothes we would trade and which we would pass along, we packed them all up into bags and the next day donated them to the Women’s Shelter.
  2. Share Clothes with Friends and Family – You know that sweater that your friend has that you love?  Maybe she’s willing to part with it for a few weeks so you can style it up with your favourite outfits.  Maybe you’ve got a great shirt that she likes so you swap?  Anyone with a sibling nearby does this already without much though.  When my sister and my mom were visiting, I ended up “borrowing” a sweater from my mom and a lipstick from my sister… I’m using the word borrowing quite loosely here because they live miles and miles away from me so we only see each other a couple of times a year.  This is a great option to do with friends who are similar size or who’s style you admire or jive with.  Why not shop each others closets?  You can lend out items here and there with your friends with the understanding that you’ll probably swap back at some point.. or maybe not?  It’s also so great to see an item that you love on someone that you love!  Maybe they’ll surprise you with a new way of wearing something that you’d lost your love for and rekindle why you bought it in the first place.
  3. Repair Clothing – This is something that I have not done enough of yet. Getting shoes resoled can keep your kicks going for years! Sewing up holes or patching your own clothes is a great way to keep your favourite garments in your regular rotation and out of the landfill.
  4. Shop Consignment or Vintage – This tip is obvious and maybe does not need any explanation but I’ll add a few points here anyway.  The consumption of clothing has reached an all-time high.  While prices for literally everything else have gone up over the years with inflation, clothing has decreased in price, and has increased production.  For this to happen many corners have been cut.  Generally speaking, these cuts are made at the expense of the people making the clothes by not paying them fairly, or at all, by hiring children, not allowing bathroom breaks, forcing them to work for long hours, not adhering to safety and regulation, not providing proper ventilation, heating or cooling in the buildings, etc. etc.  Now, it’s one thing to stop buying from fast fashion brands yourself, but what else can we do?  One way to help avoid millions of pounds of semi-disposable clothing from ending up in the landfill is by giving those clothes a second life. Explore your local secondhand or thrift shops and purchase garments that might otherwise be thrown out.  Thrift stores can’t keep up with all of the donations that they are receiving so it’s important to try and buy from them whenever possible to keep the cycle going.  It’s also a great way to support a local business.  Check out your local thrift stores before going to the bigger chain thrift stores like Value Village.
  5. Shop for Consignment Online – Obviously there’s eBay but more and more local businesses are selling secondhand inventory online.  If you’re in the Vancouver-area some great online shops are My Modern Closet and The Main Exchange.
  6. Rent Clothes for Special Events –  We all have those events once or twice a year where we may need to dress up more than we normally would, like a wedding, a gala, graduation, etc.  These are events where you want to look your best, but you don’t necessarily want to break the bank and invest in something that will be hanging in your closet collecting dust, waiting to be worn again.  Usually what tends to happen is we hold on to these precious items for so long simply because we spent so much money and then woefully pass them on because they fall out of your favour by the time another event comes along.  I think renting for these occasions is such a great idea.  You can glam out more than you normally would if you had to buy the piece.  You can also indulge in wearing something designer that you might not otherwise be able to afford.  I recently came across Flaunt Fashion Library.
  7. Buy Local – If you’re a little squicked out by shopping secondhand, the next best thing is to buy straight from the source.  If you’re able to buy from someone directly, you know that they are benefitting 100% from your hard-earned dollars.  Check out farmers, artisan and craft markets to meet local designers face to face.
  8. Get to Know Your Local Boutiques – Supporting local businesses means that you are helping people in your community sustain a living.  Another great thing about shopping in a local boutique is that you can ask if they sell any brands that are locally (or semi-locally) made.  If the owners know there is an interest and a demand for such products, they are more likely to start carrying them.  My favourite boutiques in North Vancouver that carry clothes made in Canada and the U.S. are Plum, Unity Clothing, and Under the Umbrella.  Plum has several lines of clothing that are made in Vancouver and even have their own clothing lines which they design and make locally.  Click here for more information about their designer. Unity Clothing sells garments from brands like Emma’s Closet, which are made in Los Angeles (not exactly local, but I think that clothing made in North America are more likely to be ethically made, and are more sustainable as they are not being shipped as far).  Under the Umbrella is a lovely little boutique in Lower Lonsdale which carries all locally made products!! They carry everything from clothing, to candles, to skincare, to stationary, to household products, to home decor – you name it!  Not to mention tons of these products are sustainably made, use great ingredients, and are very affordable.  For instance, I bought some luxurious, beautifully scented, whipped shea body butter in a beautifully packaged 1 oz. glass jar for only $8.00 – you would easily play double the price for something comparable at a big chain store.  If you’re in the Vancouver area, I’d definitely recommend parousing these lovely boutiques.
  9. Ask boutiques and brands about where the clothes are made – It’s important to be opening up the dialogue about with stores or brands about who made the clothes they’re selling.  As I mentioned above, asking owners of local boutiques if they sell any locally made items is a great place to start.  Another way to start the conversation on a larger platform is through social media.  Engage brands, let them know you want sustainable clothing.  Ask brands #whomademyclothes? *(fashionrevolution.org)

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I hope that these tips gave you some inspiration for shopping more sustainably. I know I really enjoy creating outfits, exploring my personal style, and I certainly enjoy the thrill of finding a great new item.  Taking steps to invest in more ethical and sustainable fashion means that you can feel as great as you look.

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