being aware : first-world ethics
Once we know and are aware, we are responsible for our action and our inaction. We can do something about it or ignore it. Either way, we are still responsible.
– Jean Paul Sartre
I began waking up to the real-world-horror of fast-fashion and slave labor this Summer as I perused my friend Ellie’s website. Knowing that my clothes from Target and Nordstrom are most likely not ethically made didn’t really impact me until I watched True Cost, a documentary (available on Netflix!) which shares real stories from real people who, as slave laborers, make the clothes that we buy.
It started to change the way that I thought about clothing and materialism, and the value(s) we place on them.
Let me tell you – it’s a significant mental shift to move from “how can I get the most pieces of clothing for the cheapest price?” to “how can I invest my money into quality pieces made by human beings who were paid and treated fairly for their labor?” But to be quite honest, I’m finding that the value of human life and dignity is an incredible motivator for change.
Changing my beliefs about quantity of material possessions – a status symbol here in the United States – has been also difficult but ultimately freeing. This post articulates the principle beautifully; Ellie’s words were the final nail in my coffin of old thinking and old behaviors.
It would take so many more blog posts to unpack my evolving beliefs about this issue, so for now, I will simply share a first step that I took to move in a better direction.
Secondhand Shopping on ThredUP
“How is shopping second-hand ethical?” you might be wondering. I mean, I could tell you, or I could just let Ellie tell you. 🙂
ThredUP is an online consignment shop with literally thousands of items of clothing for sale. Admittedly, if you and I were friends prior to 2014, you would have known that I already frequented consignment stores as they were the primary places where my family purchased clothing. Since I have little time and patience for digging through my local Goodwill these days, ThredUP was a welcome alternative. It’s really easy to navigate if 1) you know your measurements and 2) you know exactly what you’re looking for. I highly recommend it – see the pictures below for a couple of my recent finds!
Some honest thoughts about this mindset and behavior adjustment:
- It’s inconvenient. When you just want a new black t-shirt, you can either buckle and head to the Gap, orrrrrr you can do with the old one you have for a month or two longer while you save up for an ethically made one. (Plus side: delayed gratification! Always worth it!)
- It’s sometimes “expensive”. If you want to purchase from the ethical brands that are out there, it may be a bit of an investment.
- It’s not 100% consistent. I may still choose to buy Madewell jeans because they fit my tall body and because I haven’t yet found an ethical denim brand that carries jeans that fit me as well. You gotta do the best you can.
- It’s worth it – to me. In the end, I have to be true to my convictions. I understand the argument that the people who work in factories and sweatshops are ultimately “choosing” to work there, that it is their source of income, and that entire economies of cities are built upon the fast-fashion industry. I understand that if we want to make a difference, change will be slow to come. But I have to make these small adjustments in my life so that I am faithful to the conviction I feel. That’s all any of us can do, really.
For now, check out these fun pictures of my *new* clothes from ThredUP (tips for shopping this site below!), artfully captured by my sister-in-love, Maddi.
Top: Maurice’s brand // found like-new on ThredUP // $11
Vest (reversible): Ralph Lauren brand // found like-new on ThredUP // $13
Sweater: Millau brand // found new-with-tags on ThredUP // $24
Tips for shopping on ThredUP:
- Know your measurements!
- Know what you’re looking for; utilize their filters!
- Look carefully at the way the clothes hang on the mannequin in the product photo – sometimes you can see areas where stretching has occurred which may look strange when the piece is on your body.
- You can’t return for cash; I returned for in-store credit and that worked well. Of the 6 things I’ve purchased, I kept 4. One return was a brand-sizing issue and the other was because I just didn’t like where the length of the top hit me. Both were excellent quality.
photographs by fabulous Madison Kay Photography © 2016