Last month, member of the LAPP team and fashion and lifestyle writer Jessamy wrote about some of the issues with contemporary fast fashion i.e., cheap materials used to make big profits. THIS article is gonna spill yet more tea on the industry, this time looking at activist fashion clothing sold by high street stores, and how you can make a real statement with the clothes you wear (hint: buy from brands with good quality, non-exploitative products like the LAPP collections).
I’ve already written about environmental and ethical issues within the fashion industry here. Often, once you begin to expose the dark side of something which otherwise you really love, it can be tempting to try and say something, or make a statement. Just please don’t let it be a Topshop ‘FEMINIST’ jumper. Why? Topshop (called out here as an example, not the example), use sweatshop labour which is the first, and really should be the only reason not to use their brand to show off your activism. Sweatshop labour happens when large companies outsource the creation of their clothes to poorer countries where workers have less rights. This means that the company can pay them very low wages to work long hours, deny them basic working rights like visits to the toilet, and get away with doing so. Oh, the irony of wearing an expensive jumper making a political statement about equality, made by workers in slave conditions. If you’re interested in learning about fast fashion, the film ‘The True Cost’ is on Netflix, which gives all the deets and more. Just be warned, it’s heavy watching.
Almost all high street stores use sweatshop labour, not just Topshop, and so trying to avoid it can be a lengthy and expensive process. If it’s not a cause you’re hugely passionate about or even aware of, no one can really blame you for popping into New Look on your way home. However, there is something particularly problematic about wearing a high street ‘feminist’ tee, especially if you are, dare I say it, *white*. Why? Because most of those exploited sweatshop workers are women, and women of colour from poorer countries too. Again, there is something incredibly ironic about a middle class white woman wearing a high street ‘feminist’ tee which has been made by exploited, often abused, women of colour, don’t you think?
The dilemma this presents those whose budget extends only to high street stores is one which often feels inescapable. As a semi-regular Missguided and Pretty Little Thing customer, I’m not here to lecture anyone on never buying high street again. BUT maybe lay off the ‘feminist’ tees, and educate yourself on fast fashion, so you’re aware of what’s going on. It’s true that change will have to come from top down, and so we can’t expect ordinary customers to suddenly stop buying from the only clothes shops they can afford.
And in the meanwhile? Next time you need some new clothes, consider buying from brands who actually advocate for something. Here’s 5 of my fave ethical and fashionable brands!
A collection made in partnership with African clothing workshop, SOKO Kenya, and providing safe and fair employment to workers.
Fashion made from sustainable materials, and a recycling scheme for your used clothes? The *sustainable* dream.
A platform for women’s empowerment which also sells amazing fashion? A cheeky plug for LAPP, but also a worthwhile cause fighting for your intersectional feminist rights.
A London based brand focusing on ethical and sustainable fashion, they’re accredited by WTFO, the Fairtrade Foundation and the Soil Association.
Created in a factory London, P.i.C. style works to create a capsule collection from which lots of looks can be created- encouraging us guys to buy less tat.
No one is asking you to cancel your Missguided Unicorn free next day delivery, in fact most people who are concerned about the ethics of their clothing probably still buy a lot of high street because of its convenience. But next time you have something you fancy buying in mind, maybe see if there’s a version in an ethical/sustainable store first, and give something meaningful back!
Written by Katherine Skippon