Clothes with a Conscience
We've been very lucky as parents to not have to buy many clothes for our children. More clothes than they could wear were gifted to us when they were born, and lots of well timed hand-me-downs from friends and family meant we didn't have to buy much at all. We've never been fussy about second hand clothes either, so occasional outings to nearly new sales, and car boots, helped fill out their drawers at very little cost.
So recently when I realised 2 of our 3 kids needed raincoats for spring, I had to actually think about spending money on clothing. With 3 young children to look after, trips to wander around shops are a rarity for me, and not my favourite way to spend time either. (I mean come on, there are beaches to be played on.) So my first stop was looking around online, and the more I looked the more my social conscience started to play up. There were some very cheap options available to me, but that just left me thinking, "who made these clothes?" and "how can they be so cheap?"
Fair Trade is something I'm very aware of. Our Church runs a social project, and part of the work they do is going into schools and teaching the kids all about Fair Trade. However it is one of those issues, that for me, is very easy to keep at arms length. I can't imagine there are many people who, if questioned, wouldn't want everyone involved in the process of making their food, clothing or any product they purchase, to be paid a living wage and to be provided with safe working conditions. At face value it is common sense, it is obviously the right thing to do. And yet what am I doing about supporting it? Largely ignoring it if i'm honest.
We live in a consumer society where everything is available to us instantly. Gone are the days of saving for months or years to buy something, people put it on their credit card. Having it fast is much more important. We want it now, and we want it cheap. And herein lies the problem. When we are so used to having what we want when we want it, it is very hard to break that cycle, and ask yourself what are the wider consequences of this purchase?
The truth of the matter is, we can't always know, for everything we buy, where it has come from and what we are funding. But sometimes we can. And it is in those instances that we can actually make choices in our daily lives to better this world we live in.
This is the conclusion we came to when deciding what clothes to purchase for our children. We decided to make more of an effort so that when our children ask the inevitable question "where do my clothes come from?" the answer is one we are happy to give.
Its easy to see when you are in a supermarket which foods are fair trade, there is a handy little logo. When you are looking for clothes it's a much harder issue to navigate. Whilst few brands for children carry the Fair Trade logo, there are a lot of clothing companies who are making every effort to be the most ethical company they can be. An evening spent on google led me to a great article on The Guardian about the most ethical websites for kids' clothes. I was pleasantly surprised to find lots of brands making ethical clothes for children, and lots of websites only selling ethical clothes. I will link to some of my favourites at the end of this post. Also, Etsy and similar online markets are a great way of supporintg local people making clothes in their own homes. And if you're not afraid of second hand, eBay is great for finding a bargain, and the manufacturer won't profit from the sale so you're not funding anything untoward. You can also feel good about helping the environment by reducing waste. (an estimated 350,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year.)
Whilst browsing I discovered that making the choice to buy ethically wasn't at the cost of looking good. Clothing brand Hatley is not only an ethical brand, it's a ridiculously gorgeous brand too. The coats and pyjamas you see in these photos are made by Hatley, and I think its fair to say they are amongst the nicest clothes my kids own! The day the pyjamas arrived in the post, the kids put them on straight after school. A record for the earliest they've ever been ready for bed! As for the coats, I want one! They are so soft and so pretty, and such good quality. I was very impressed with their prices too. At £30 for a raincoat, I felt it was very competitively priced.
We are a family of 5, on one income, so we have a very tight budget. I understand how hard it can be to think about buying ethically when you are just trying to make it to payday. Ive talked before about minimalism and how it has helped us to appreciate what we have and not always be so consumed with our societies "more, more, more" mentality. This has freed us up to be able to make less purchases and enable us to be more deliberately ethical.
I would hate for you to read this post and leave feeling guilty and that you should only be buying fair trade and ethical products. We certainly don't manage it all the time, and it's a relatively new endeavour for us. I would however love for you to leave a little more aware of how our clothing choices effect our fellow citizens of planet Earth, and maybe when you can, you'll be more deliberate about what you buy and take the time to look for an ethical alternative. I can't imagine you would ever be sorry for doing so. Walking around guilt ridden about the position of comfort and privilege we in this country take for granted won't do anyone any favours, but making small changes will have a massive impact. It's at least worth your consideration, and hopefully this blog post will provide you with some great links to help you in this endeavour.
As promised some online resources to help you buy clothes with a conscience...
Hatley is a lovely ethical clothing company, whose clothes are featured in this blog post. We were very lucky to have the Pyjamas you see here gifted to us, but the opinions in this blog post are entirely my own.
The good shopping guide is a great place to find out where your favourite high street brands are on the ethical scale. Such a great resource to have. You may be pleasantly surprised to find a lot of your favourite brands score well here, but there are a few big names highlighted that it might be worth avoiding.
Skin and Bliss was one of my favourite online retailers, all the brands they sell are ethically sourced and are 100% gorgeous.
Rainbow nation clothing stocks lots of lovely ethical, organic and fair trade brands for kids.
Frugi is a gorgeous ethical brand.
Little Green Radicals All fair-trade organic clothing for kids.
Tootsa is a unisex ethical clothing company.
Style with heart a great website selling children and adults ethical brands.
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