For those of my friends who follow me on Facebook and Twitter, I really appreciated our thoughtful discussion on the idea of “fast fashion” and mindfulness. For those of you who are hearing this term for the first time, it refers to the high turnover rate of fashion trends and apparel in lower priced retail stores. (I also like to use the term “disposable clothing.”) Fashion used to be a two season industry comprised of “Spring/Summer” and “Fall/Winter” looks. In the past, people would buy fewer, higher quality garments. Now, retail chains such as H&M, Zara, Forever 21, Walmart, and Target can overturn merchandise in a week.
These increasingly lower priced fashion alternatives can be very attractive to consumers on a budget, but this comes at a cost to clothing quality, the environment, and the wages and working conditions of the individuals who are manufacturing the garments. There is also the larger issue of consumerism, and a lack of mindfulness and awareness when making purchasing decisions. People tend to get uncomfortable when they see visual representations of where their fast food comes from. I think you would probably feel that same discomfort when watching how fast fashion is produced.
I encourage you to watch this informative 5 part seriescalled "Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt" by NPR on the world behind a basic cotton t-shirt. It will give you a basic idea on the life and times of a cotton t-shirt and it's my opinion that it really speaks to the fast fashion industry as a whole.
This info-graphic by Alexandria Heinz states that as of 2013, only 2% of American's clothing are made in the USA.
I would also like to acknowledge that financial privilege can and will affect our buying choices. I consider myself an extremely privileged person which I will always be grateful for. I can afford to make decisions based on ideals like “ethical,” and “free trade.” I wanted to mention privilege in this post because I always have to speak up when people start making judgments against individuals who don't (because they aren't in a position to) make choices based on the aforementioned ideals. That being said, my philosophy when it comes to doing good is that those who can, should. If you have the privilege to consider and act on your clothing choices, I encourage you to start being more curious.
Are consumers stuck with fast fashion as more and more retailers are jumping on the bandwagon? I'd like to think not. It is absolutely true that clothing made by people who are able to live and work with dignity can be more expensive. However, after pouring over the internet, I feel as though there are lots of options in a spectrum of price points. I am really excited to share a few that I have found.
Etsy.com- Etsy is a website focused on handmade and vintage items from creative types all over the world. It is a great resource for one of a kind accessories at all price points. As an example, I know $130 for a pair of shoes may be too expensive for some but seller
JuliaBoShoes based out of London, England sells gorgeous HAND-MADE oxfords, brogues, and boots ranging from $85-$200. I think these booties in particular are gorgeous for fall/winter. And HAND MADE shoes that aren't $600?! Needless to say, I have a lot of love for Etsy.
Ebay.com- The auction site eBay can be an awesome resource for finding gently used (and sometimes new with tags!) clothing and accessories at any price point. Even if you are purchasing something that wasn't made in the USA, the idea is that you are breaking the fast fashion/disposable clothing chain and giving a new home to something that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill.
Poshmark.com- Poshmark is a clothing re-sale site for women's clothes, shoes, jewelry, makeup, and accessories. I recently discovered Poshmark and I am obsessed! I really needed some cold weather clothing and a dressier winter coat and Poshmark has been an incredible resource to update my wardrobe. My personal experience with Poshmark has been exceptional. So far I have purchased an awesome black and white Banana Republic sweater for $20, a cream sweater that was made in Ireland for $20, and a like new J.Crew wool coat for $60 that retailed around $400. The only negative about Poshmark is that you can't return anything. But there is a comment section on each item where you can ask all the questions you want to ensure a garment will fit and to request additional photos. I also like that you have to “accept an item” (once it's delivered and you have the item in hand) for the money to be released.
ThredUp.com- ThredUp is similar to Poshmark in that it's an online consignment shop, but ThredUp also carries clothing for children. A friend of mine mentioned that she likes to buy children's clothes second hand because of how fast her daughter is grows out of things. I haven't personally used ThredUp (yet!) but I have signed up and toured the site and again, there are items at every price point. ThredUp also gives you 14 days to return an item if it doesn't work out.
RentTheRunway.com- RentTheRunway is a women's designer clothing rental service which is a great option for special occasions.
Nordstrom.com/NordstromRack.com- Nordstrom is on the more expensive end of the spectrum when it comes to retail shopping, but I thought they deserved a mention since they do carry a relatively big selection of Made in the USA clothing and accessories. I will say that it is much easier shopping online because of the search and filter function of the websites. It can be difficult to pick through the brick and mortar stores to find ethical choices. Just remember to double check the tags when you receive your items. I ordered two shirts that I were listed as Made in the USA on the website and the labels said otherwise when they arrived. The other great thing about shopping through their website is that you can return to any store location if something doesn't work out.
There are a TON of other American Made shops, but rather than listing them all here, definitely check outThe USA Love List.
It is an extremely comprehensive website that has an ever expanding list of items that are made in the USA and they list everything from clothes and shoes, to home goods and beauty products. I know the ones I have detailed above are geared towards women (because I am one), but The USA Love List has a ton of information on menswear.
Spreading the concept of mindfulness is my ultimate goal here, so if I achieve nothing else other than making you stop and think about your choices, then I will have considered this blog a great success.
If you know of any other resources, I hope you'll share them in the comments below!