July 2021 | Monthly Wrap Up

Friday, 30 July 2021

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AD – PR product, one book mentioned in this post were sent to me by publishers. These are marked **

 

July has mostly been relaxing and boy has that been needed.



Favourite part?


I started off the month finishing off my internship at Goodstrangevibes, and with a chill evening spent with friend around a fire in my yard. I then headed back down South to meet my family to go on our summer holiday. As a result of some weird happenings with train tickets when I booked, the first class tickets were cheaper than standard so I had a great time. I’ve never been in First Class before and it took me a while to realise the food and drink the staff were offering was free, but once I realised it was I certainly made the most of it. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for future First Class discounts!

 

I spent a week on a narrow boat with my family going up and down the Llangollen Canal. I’d not been very far north in Wales before despite being Welsh, the furthest north I’d been was Aberystwyth, so it was great to explore new areas of my home country. It was a lovely time to switch off, enjoy nature, listen to the birds, and gently chug along the water. I felt quite relaxed by the end and had a chance to read four great books (read on to find out about those!). 


 

When I got back, I spent lots of quality time with my cat, read some more, and saw some friends I’d not seen in ages! Including a visit down to Bournemouth to see a friend and have a lush swim in the sea. 

 

I then travelled down to Pembrokeshire to visit my grandparents. I was so excited as I’d not been home in so long, but I got an alert from the NHS app on the train about half an hour away from my final stop telling me I’d been in contact with someone who had Covid and needed to isolate as soon as possible. This put a slight dent in my plans for spending the rest of the heatwave at the beach and in the sea, but I still had a lovely week and a bit. I spent the majority of the time sitting in my grandparents’ garden reading lots of books, eating lots of fruit and spending time with their dog. There are certainly much worse places and ways to isolate and I’m lucky it didn’t really disrupt my life (the joys of being currently unemployed!). 



I am writing this on my last day of isolation, but on the final couple of days I have left I plan to spend at the beach, swimming in the sea, going for walks in new areas I’ve not explored before, and catching up with old friends. 

 

I also had my first paid article published this month! It’s on a very personal topic and while it was scary to have out there I know it’s so worthwhile if just one person feels better as a result of reading it. 


Best read?


I have read a lot this month. Like, a lot. 11 books in fact. It’s been so nice to have total freedom in what I read now that I have finished my degree. Well, not completely now that I’m starting another degree but at least in that one I decide the books I’m studying!

 

I started off by finished Sex & Rage by Eve Babitz**. I then read The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, which I’ve ad on my shelf for several months and I absolutely loved! I thought the characters were fascinating and didn’t want to put it down.

 

If I had to pick one book that I read this month that I want everyone to read it would be What White People Can Do Next by Emma Dabiri. This book is game-changing. I learned so much and rethought so many things while reading this book. Primarily about how capitalist and colonial ideologies are so ingrained in us that many of our current movements, including current anti-racist movements, are still very much framed within the capitalist system. I beg you to read this book!

 


I then read Because of You by Dawn French and Those Who Can, Teach by Andria Zafirakou in one day. That’s what a canal boat holiday gave me, two books per day! Honestly loved both of these books. Those Who Can, Teach was just incredible. It’s groundbreaking. I heard about it through Andria Zafirakou and her book in her interview on All the Small Things podcast, where Venetia La Manna described this as the ‘This is Going to Hurt’ for the education sector. This book is a call to action for change in the British education system and is damning of our government. It also gave me so much hope though, knowing there are teachers like Andria out there, and made me reflect on my own education, which straddled two countries and a total of four schools before I went to uni.


 

When I got back from holiday I read Out of Love by Hazel Hayes, another one I’ve had for months but not been able to read because of uni work! I loved it, it was quite an easy read and quite comforting in a way as well. 

 

And of course what better thing to do in isolation than catching up on reading?! I read five books in the week I was isolating so I managed to plough through a fair few… I started off with Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi which was beautiful, simply, and devastating. Loved it and would highly recommend! I then finished A Curious History of Sex by Kate Lister which I’d started on the last few days on the Llangollen Canal. Again, incredible. This book is so informative and funny, perfect for someone who’s as nerdy about sex and sex history as I am! 

 

I then read Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes by Dana Thomas, an interesting read I couldn’t help comparing to Stitched Up but those books are quite different in their approaches to the issue of fast fashion. More discussion on this one from me to come! 

 

Next, I read Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer – a fun mystery crime novel related to my Master’s. It certainly helped get me hyped for that!

 

Finishing off my isolation reads was We Are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer. This book gave me a crisis about the climate crisis. I had to keep telling myself not to doom and organise instead and did feel better near the end of the book! This book is a must read for anyone who lives on the planet right now, especially if you live in the Global North. It’s a game-changer. It’s devastating, heartfelt, informative, panicky, and questioning. It also has a whole lot of nuanced discussion on the individual vs collective action and ugh, I loved it. I’ll be thinking about it for a good while and you can bet you’ll see it popping up in a few future blog posts. 



Favourite listen?


I’ve been listening to a couple of new podcasts: Idealistically and Drilled. Idealistically is hosted by Tolmeia Gregory discussing climate justice and the ideal worlds we want to see and live in. It’s a joy to listen to and fills me with a lot of hope! Drilled also discusses climate justice but focuses more on the histories and actions of oil companies and how they engineered the creation of climate denial and greenwashing and have been knowingly putting profit over climate for over 50 years. It is a groundbreaking series and while I haven’t yet finished the first series (there are six overall) I have learned so much. I urge you to listen to Drilled. 

 

Music wise, I’ve been listening to Lover by Taylor Swift constantly. This album reminds me so much of summer and gives me so much energy. It may be my favourite Taylor Swift album. Genius I tell you! I’ve also been continuing to listen to Blue by Joni Mitchell. Another chef’s kiss of an album. 


Image source

Favourite watch?


I’ve watched a tad more YouTube this month. Hold your horses, not that much, but I’ve been watching some of Jack Edwards’ videos, as well as catching up on a lot of The Take’s videos. 


What did I learn?


I can rest properly and I need to get out in nature more. That’s not necessarily something new to me but more of a reminder. 


What’s happening next month?


Hopefully a couple of friends will be coming up to visit me, and hopefully I won’t have any more isolations!

 

I will also be doing my best to be writing a lot, whether that’s prepping blog posts for you or pitching and writing articles for other publications. I’m hoping to keep these fingers typing!

 

As well as writing, I’ll be continuing my job search to try and secure something part time before my master’s starts near the end of September. Speaking of, if you want to hire me for consulting on environmental and labour ethics issues in the fashion industry, for copywriting, or are a brand interested in featuring on Another Ranting Reader or my social media, send me an email! 


What’s been on my mind?


Books, the unbearable heat, the ever-looming threat of climate disaster and an increasing totalitarian government. You know, the usual. 


Favourite post?


5 Greenwashing Campaigns Trying to Fool You is my favourite post this month! This one was in the works for a while and took a fair bit of time researching and putting together. And also took a while to narrow down which campaigns I could discuss – so many brands are doing horrendous greenwashing at the moment there was ample choice! 



Biggest inspiration?


Seeing people taking action. One big example being the protests and rallies outside the Scottish Parliament over the proposed new plans for the Cambo oil fields. If you want to get involved in the campaign against these proposals, check out these links


Any other favourites?


Does slowing down count? I don’t know whether it should but hey! I’m going to say it counts. I’ve had several things that had forced me to take things slower this month, whether that’s being on a canal boat or having to isolate and to be fair it’s almost definitely been good for me. ‘Slowing down’ has been a theme in my life for the past couple of years, and this is something I’m really trying to improve on. We’re not here for the burnout and internalised capitalism! 



If you like my work and have learned something from it, please consider helping support me (so I have more time to write posts and articles like these!) by buying me a virtual cuppa



If you liked this post you might like: June 2021 | Monthly Wrap Up

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5 Greenwashing Campaigns Trying to Fool You

Friday, 23 July 2021

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Greenwashing is everywhere in the fashion industry. Well, every industry. But fashion is a particular offender. The entire business model of fast fashion is inherently unsustainable, based on the exploitation of poor women in previously colonised countries and of the environment. To continue to appeal to their consumer bases in a time of ever-worsening climate crisis, damaging brands resort to greenwashing. I briefly touched on this in a previous blog post (and will go into it in more detail in a future post) but for those of you who don’t know, greenwashing is essentially a brand lying about their ethics, spending more money on the marketing of their ‘sustainable image’ than making their brand actually sustainable. This is often a focus on ‘organic’ materials while completely leaving out the working conditions of the people (mostly women) who make their clothes. 

 

Greenwashing can be difficult to see through especially now that some of the brands have had many years of practise and have literally billions of pounds to pour into this façade. Hopefully this post will help you out at least a little bit! I’ve left out the OG Fashion Greenwashers, H&M (with their ironically named Conscious Collection) as this is a brand who are regularly called out for their greenwashing, but it’s important that we remember that so many other brands are guilty of this too. Although, still, f*ck H&M.


For credits of image used in title, see images used separately below


1. George Cares


Reader, George does not in fact ‘care’. They really, genuinely, do not care. About you, about their workers, or about the environment. 

 

The ‘George Cares’ campaign doesn’t have any specific products attached to it, and is more of a general overview of how George wants to be perceived. Their website has a few flashy pictures and information about various initiatives they’re a part of, including some things which are undeniably good – like the phasing out of sandblasting, boycott of Uzbek cotton over child labour, and zero tolerance policy on incineration. However, they do not provide enough detail for us to know the accuracy of these statements. Their supply chain must be massive, and they need to be able to tell us every aspect of it. Similarly, other bits of information mentioned on this website, that they clear want us to congratulate and clap them on the back for, are things that really are a bit average and frankly not good enough. For instance, the discuss how they are ‘committed to ensuring all our own-brand clothing and soft home textile products will be responsibly sourced’ and that they ‘are committed to sourcing 100% of our polyester with a minimum of 30% recycled content by 2025’. The final sentence I’ve cited here particularly doesn’t really make any sense. The ‘100%’ in this sentence seems a bit useless if you ask me. What they seem to be saying is that in the next 3.5 years between now and 2025 they only aim to have a third of their polyester as recycled material. A material that is made from fossil fuels and which they acknowledge is harming the planet in many ways including microfibers. A lot of fancy wording and pictures but they’re not telling us anything of substance. Similarly, there is nothing in this particular statement, supposedly on their commitment to responsible sourcing, that mentions the workers within their supply chain. 

 

Elsewhere on their website, they highlight Salvation Army as one of their charity partners. On the surface this may seem good, but Salvation Army have had many reported incidents of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people seeking to access their services. Again, I will ask, who exactly does George care about?  

 

George has been ASDA’s own fashion brand since 1990, and was the first supermarket clothing brand. ASDA in turn is owned by the American corporation Walmart, having been bought out in 1999. Walmart, apparently ‘the world’s biggest retailer’ is notorious for its horrifying ethics. From bribery, slavery, and prison labour (see Ava DuVerney’s 13th for more on this last one), Walmart has seen them all. It always seems like the more I look the more the Walmart ethics spiral continues. Perhaps unsurprisingly given their reputation, Walmart were one of the main names who came up in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013. This factory collapse killed +1,334 people (most of them women), injured over 2,000 more and left over 800 children orphaned. It is the worst industrial disaster in the fashion industry’s history and was completely preventable. With such an exploitative history, who could be surprised that Walmart received 16/100 points by Remake in their Brand Directory. 

 

 In 2020, Walmart sold part of their shares in ASDA so they no longer have majority ownership, but still maintain significant shares and profit greatly from George and ASDA products more generally. George is by no means ethical.


2. Recycled by Pretty Little Thing

 

We know that simply recycling, while good, will not solve the climate crisis. Instead, we need a circular economy which reduce waste and keeps materials in use. What we do not need is the ridiculously high rates of consumption encouraged by brands like PLT with their 99% off sales as we saw near the end of 2020. This range comprises of only 250 items, whereas on their ‘New In’ page, PLT lists over 2089 items. You read that right, 2089 ITEMS! That means that their recycled range is less than 10% of their ‘New In’ items, and even less of their overall stock. Come on PLT, we can see past your lies. 

 

Pretty Little Thing are owned by Boohoo, a company that is probably number one on my hit list. Boohoo may be a relatively newer brand compared to some high street shops, but they are one of the absolute worst when it comes to workers’ rights and their environmental impact. Boohoo have had multiple ‘exposes’ relating to their maltreatment of workers and are now notorious for their unethical practices and environmental harm. One of the most recent exposes came in June 2020 after the organisation Labour Behind the Label (the UK’s branch of the Clean Clothes Campaign) published a report on Boohoo’s actions during the first stages of the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, it was not good. 

 

This report is damning in so many ways. The main takeaway though is that Boohoo were forcing potentially thousands of garment workers to go into unsafe factories to work throughout the first (and probably second) lockdown. In my opinion, they are responsible for Leicester being the first area in the UK to go into a lockdown. That’s not confirmed by anyone, but again, that’s just my personal opinion. In addition to this, these workers were paid an average of £3.50/hour, with that average dropping to as low as £1.50 for migrant workers. Boohoo source 80% of their stock from factories in Leicester, an area where they account for an estimated 80% of all factories in the city. During the pandemic they increased their factory use from an estimated 60-70%. In garment terms, they dominate the city’s industry. That’s a lot of power. There’s a lot in that report that simply won’t fit in a blog post. I highly encourage you to give it a read. 

 

Additionally, PLT also have a gender pay gap of 29%. For context, the average gender pay gap in the UK is 17%. This pay gap only accounts for the workers in their head offices, rather than their whole supply chain. Can you imagine how high that would be if everyone contributing to PLT’s clothes was counted in that statistic?!

 

As a general summary of all this exploitation, Boohoo (and from them PLT and other subsidiary companies such as Nasty Gal, MissPap, Karen Millen, Debenhams, Dorothy Perkins, etc. as well) received 3/100 points from Remake – there’s no way they can claim that’s good. 

 

Recently, PLT and Boohoo in general has amped up their greenwashing efforts, with outrageous posts from Nasty Gal and Boohoo coming out in the past few weeks. We see behind the façade Boohoo!


Image source


3. Primark Cares


Do you remember a few months ago when Laura Whitmore shared that Instagram post about how Primark were actually really ethical and cared about the environment? Yep, everything in that post wasn’t true, and the announcement of her new title as Primark Cares Ambassador kicked off this smokescreen of a campaign. While her claims that ‘Sustainability should be accessible to all!’ is absolutely correct, providing Primark as the solution to this problem is more than misguided (and they’re not the solution either! See what I did there? Ah I make myself laugh…).

 

Primark were one of the brands who were most associated with the Rana Plaza disaster. They have also been associated with many other workers’ rights incidents and haven’t shown signs of wanting to make meaningful change in their supply chains. After the Rana Plaza factory collapse, Primark became one of the signatories of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which made basic health and safety measures legally-binding. The Accord is due to expire on 31 August, nearly a mont’s time, and Primark have not yet committed to renewing the Accord. As I just mentioned, the Accord ensures the basic necessities to keep garment workers in Bangladesh alive. In order to back up any kind of claim that they ‘care’, Primark must commit to renewing the Accord. 

 

At the beginning of 2021, a military coup occurred in Myanmar, and there has since been a string of continuing violence, with garment workers at the frontlines of resistance. Garment workers in the country directly called for brands to boycott the state in a stand against the new regime, calling to sacrifice their own jobs for their cause. In March 2021 it was reported that one of Primark’s supplying factories in Myanmar had locked their workers inside the factory to prevent them from taking part in the protests against the regime.  

 

In Remake’s Brand Directory, Primark scores 25/100. While better than brands like PLT, George and Urban Outfitters, the bar is hardly particularly high. If we took these brands as the unethical standard for other brands to be compared to, the bar would barely exist. 

 

And what is it with brands using the word ‘Cares’ in their campaigns? Stop, we know you really don’t give a shit! It just seems patronising to me…


Image source

4. Urban Renewal


Brands like Urban Outfitters and Free People (which are both owned by the same parent company, URBN) may seem like they’re a bit hippy, a bit edgy, and up to date with popular progressive ideologies, and yet they are a brand who crop up time and time again when it comes to ethics scandals and seem to have no inclination to do anything about them.

 

Not only have they still not paid their garment workers for orders placed at the beginning of the pandemic over 16 months ago, but they also have a history of cultural appropriation (for instance when they were sued by the Navajo Nation for using their cultural symbols) and their CEO Richard Haynes has donated thousands to a homophobic and anti-abortion Senator. In the Remake Brand Directory, they scored a measly 3 points out of a potential 100, putting them on par with the likes of Pretty Little Thing. That is simply not acceptable. With all this happening in their supply chain they have the gall to call themselves sustainable. Where exactly is the ‘Renewal’ in Urban and its sister companies? 

 

Urban Renewal currently comprises of 659 products. This is compared to 2946 items in their Women’s section and 1427 products in the Men’s section. That’s nearly 22% of the overall women’s section and 46% of the men’s. Urban, why not make it 100%?

 

Similarly, when you look at the fabrics of all of these products, Urban give the description of ‘100% Vintage Fibres’. This incredibly vague description makes it difficult for anyone wanting to be able to care for their clothes properly. It says to hand-wash but even then, we know the washing advice on a level probably and they’d probably be fine to go through a washing machine if done properly, especially if we know what the damn material is! The whole point in sustainability and of clothing ‘renewal’ is to extend the life of a garment so that the impact of its creation is reduced and the work of the person who made it is valued. Its life will not be extended for very long if its owner cannot care for it correctly. 


Image source


5. Everlane

 

Yes, I do mean their entire brand not one specific campaign. Don’t get me wrong, Everlane are really not as bad as the other brands on this list (they are marked 45/100 by Remake), but just because they’re a bit more ethical doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held to account. In fact, if they claim to be one of the good guys, I think they should be monitored more closely so that they don’t succumb to the lures of fast fashion. If companies are calling themselves one of the good ones, we need to know that they actually are just that. Remake and other organisations highlight how the brand aren’t doing enough, especially when they market themselves as an ethical and sustainable frontrunner. In an article published in December 2020, Remake marked Everlane as one of fashion’s worst greenwashers. Yikes, that’s a title you do not want. 

 

In the pandemic, not only were they one of the brands consistently targeted by the #PayUp campaign, they have also had many union issues relating to lay-offs and union-busting. Their laid-off workers were even supported by Bernie Sanders. Everlane’s main issues is workers’ rights. They have a lot about ‘sustainable’ materials on their website but go into very little detail on their workers. We need to know what their working conditions are like, exactly how much they’re paid, and if they get things like maternity and sick leave. Until all of those details and more are provided, Everlane cannot claim ‘Radical Transparency’.


Image source



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If you liked this post you might like: 5 Easy Ways You Can Support Garment Workers

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What To Do With Your Old Clothes

Friday, 16 July 2021

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In the UK, we throw away a million tonnes of textiles every year. That’s the highest rate per person in Europe, and a whole lot of wasted fabric (especially if the clothes are made of some form of plastic aka oil), energy, and labour. Clearly, we not only need to talk about where we get our clothes, but also what we do with them once we’ve finished with them. And it’s not as simple as chucking it at a charity shop and hoping for the best. 



Wash and potentially repair it


Before you give your clothes to anyone to use again, make sure they’re in good condition, or at least a condition that you would be happy to get a secondhand item. That means no stains, doesn’t smell, and actually wearable. Remember, you’re extending its life not chucking it out, even if you’re giving it to someone else. Everyone deserves to wear clothes that don’t smell like someone else has just gone a run wearing them.


See if a family member or friend likes it


We have all complimented a friend or family member on an item of clothing they’re wearing. If not, then you’re just miserable. Check with your friends and family (those who are the same size as the garment or garments you no longer wear) and see if it’s something they would like to try. I have several t-shirts that my brother grew out of and they are some of my favourite comfy clothes. Ad hey there’s really nothing complicated about a traditional hand-me-down. They’re a staple for a reason. 


Upload to a resale app to sell on to another person


There are so many resale apps clothing resale apps now, it’s hard keep track. There are your classics, like eBay and Depop, as well as Vestiaire Collective (for more designer and luxury items), Poshmark, and, my personal favourite, Vinted. I will have undoubtedly missed off a few but you get the gist on this one and I feel like you end up gravitating to one particular app in the end based on personal preference. As I’ve just mentioned, I personally really like Vinted, for a variety of reasons I will delve into in a later post, but to be honest, it probably depends what you’re looking for too. 

 

The thing I like about resale apps is that they are quick to use, both buying and listing your items to sell, and can be done anywhere with an internet connection. A lot easier than trawling through every charity shop in town. They also guarantee that the garment is going directly to another person to wear, rather than waiting on a charity shop floor of months on end or shipped off overseas to be sold in a market where sales aren’t guaranteed, and potentially (this is a huge potentially) ending up in landfill. 


Upload to a renting app to share with other people


If it’s an item you don’t wear much but do still love and can’t bear to get rid of, or don’t have the occasion to wear a lot, then peer-to-peer renting might be a good option for you! I’m not 100% sure on every app or rental service that does this, but I know that By Rotation has clothing rentals available both from brands themselves and every day consumers. Maybe not one for when you just want those clothes out of your wardrobe, but for some items this might work well for you. 


By Rotation app home screen


Visit an in-person clothes swap to exchange it for something new


These can happen again! Hopefully… The rules are simple: bring at least one item of clothing with you, and leave with a different one. It’s a cheap and guilt-free way to switch up your wardrobe! Google to see what events are happening in your local area (currently Covid-dependent). They could be held by specific groups in hired out spaces, or even in local cafes, community centres and student spaces. One great example if the Southampton Clothes Swap which happens on a regular basis. 

 

Like many of the other options in this post, clothes swaps are a great way of guaranteeing your garment gets a new owner straight away (unless someone doesn’t pick it, which in that case, take it home and either try at another swap or try another avenue). 


Check any social media groups you’re involved in for online clothes swaps


Like in-person swaps but more flexible with time and location, and Covid-safe! I’m part of Leena Norms’ patreon-only Facebook group which has a separate clothes swap spin-off group, but there are lots of other sharing groups as well, whether locally based or connected by another means, you’ll be able to find someone who wants to swap with you!


Donate to a local charity, shelter or organisation

 

You can bet there are loads of local organisations doing amazing things that will more than happily take your clothes and pass them on to people who will cherish them. Example charities include refugee support organisations (such as Give Your Best and North East Solidarity and Teaching), women’s refuges, homeless shelters, nationwide organisations like Smalls for All, or even food banks. If you are able to contact them beforehand, do, and see what clothes they’re in need for or if they even have the capacity to take on donations. Same rules apply, especially if the clothes are going to someone vulnerable, make sure they’re clean, stain-free and in decent condition to wear. 


Upcycle it!


This does require a bit of craftiness, time, and patience, which I for one know I have limited capacities for, but if you’re determined to make something or have those capacities, why not make your old clothes into something new? It could be something like jazzing up a jacket or trousers with some embroidery, changing the length, or even turning it into something completely different! Which option you choose will depend on your skill and experience, and this may be particularly good for clothes that aren’t in as wearable condition. I’m not particularly good at things like this but I do want to learn a few of the basics (and catching up on old series of the Great British Sewing Bee has certainly helped with that!). But this is no something I think I will ever be amazing at. I just want to learn how to repair and sew something very basic. 

 

Like renting, this option may not be for you if you just want that item out of your wardrobe, and there can be a bit of a pressure sometimes to be incredibly crafty and never want to get rid of anything, but that’s totally unrealistic for a lot of people, even if it is a cool skill to have. 


Donate to a local charity shop


If you’ve tried your best to get your garment straight to a new owner, charity shops are the answer. The same rules apply to every other option on this: make sure your clothes are clean and wearable. Charity shops are flooded with clothes that they are simply unable to sell because they have stains or are virtually in pieces. Remember the phrase ‘donate not dispose’. 

 

The reason why I put charity shops as the last option is that they are already overwhelmed with items that simply won’t sell. In fact, only about 10% of charity shop donations actually get sold. That’s a lot of clothes that don’t get sold and are instead being incinerated, thrown in landfill or shipped overseas to either be sold or   If you have them near you and have the time, do try to support your local charity shops. They’ve had a rough time of it over the past 18 months with the pandemic (for more on that I’d recommend listening to this episode of Common Threads podcast), but still bare in mind the normal behaviours of slow fashion such as asking yourself questions such as:

 

Will I wear this item at least 30 (or 50) times?

Can I make several different outfits with this item by pairing it with other clothes I already own?

 

Moving away from fast fashion to secondhand but still buying at the same high rates is still unsustainable and has negative impacts in different ways, so treat any clothes you’re looking to buy the same!




If you like my work and have learned something from it, please consider helping support me (so I have more time to write posts and articles like these!) by buying me a virtual cuppa


If you liked this post you might like: 5 Practises to Implement Into Your Self-Care

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Sustainable vs Ethical | Slow Fashion Simplified #1

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

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CW: brief mention of gender-based violence, rape, and murder


Welcome to a new series on Another Ranting Reader! I have a couple of other blog series in the works so keep your eye out for those, but first, let me introduce you to Slow Fashion Simplified. This series aims to deconstruct terms relating to the fashion industry that often may seem confusing or are used a lot without real consideration for what they actually mean. I’m going to try to publish one instalment of this series every month (emphasis on try, they may be slightly more irregular than planned), and I’ll be focusing on a wide range of terms and issues, including greenwashing, union-busting, circularity, outsourcing, and the Garment Worker Protector Act (also known as SB62). Keep your eyes peeled for the rest of the posts in this series and if there’s anything you want to learn more about in the fashion industry, let me know! 



But first, we’re talking about what we mean by ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethical’ fashion. 

 

These terms are often a lot by a wide variety of brands, organisations, and individuals, but while we’re using them we need to delve into what they actually mean and we mean when we use them. 

 

‘Sustainable fashion’ is used to focus on materials and processes’ impact on the environment (including dyes, pollution and the growth of raw materials). ‘Ethical fashion’ is mostly be used to refer to workers’ rights, for example, living wages, working conditions, maternity leave and sick pay. 

 

However, to me and many others in slow fashion spaces, for fashion to be sustainable, it has to be sustainable for the people who at all levels of the supply chain, and for something to be ethical, it must have ethical treatment of the environment. Like any binary, using these terms in such a separate way misses out a whole lot of nuance and complexities and doesn’t show how people and planet are truly interlinked. This is what is so frustrating about massive brands like H&M claiming to be ‘sustainable’ and yet not doing enough to prevent sexual and gender-based violence in their supply chains (demonstrated in their lack of action after the rape and murder of 21-year-old garment worker, Jeyasre Kathiravel) and are not committing to renewing the Bangladesh Accord, a legally-binding Accord requiring basic levels of health and safety. You simply cannot be sustainable if your workers are not protected and empowered.

 

Even in purely environmental terms, brands such as H&M who boast about their extended use of organic cotton (despite this only counting for a minimal amount of their entire production) but are still producing at rates that are ridiculously high and completely unnecessary.  Even organic cotton, often hailed as an incredible sustainable material, still has a significant environmental impact (mostly relating to water) and manufacturers need to ensure they are thinking critically about their use of it and if it is the best option. In a recent Remake Community Call, Nat Kelley highlighted how cotton farms are being created in areas where it really isn’t suited to the local environment. Nat particularly highlighted how more and more cotton is being grown in places like Australia, where the plant isn’t indigenous and which already have a history droughts and low-rainfall, which is further exacerbated by cotton’s heavy water usage. Don’t get me wrong, using organic cotton instead of inorganic cotton is certainly better for planet as it reduces water and chemical usage, and also reduces the harmful impact of a wide variety chemicals on the workers who farm it. Clothes brands and manufacturers need to think beyond one ‘fix-all’ fabric to ensure that their materials are adapted not only for the function of the garment they are creating, but also for the benefit of the environment where their clothes are produced. 

 

Similarly, the most environmentally friendly materials in the world will mean absolutely nothing if big brands don’t reduce their production rates. In their horrific documentary with Channel 4 last year, Missguided founder and CEO admitted that the brand listed over 3,500 new items a month, with over 50 per cent of their stock under one month old, and 90 per cent under three months old. Unsurprisingly, he also shared how in the past the brand had had issues with having too much leftover stock. With brands producing this number of new items, even if they try to use the best possible fabrics, they will still end up causing enormous harm to the planet and their workers. It is their business model which is fundamentally unsustainable and unethical. 

 

This is why, when discussing a more positive future of fashion, I prefer to use the term ‘slow fashion’ wherever possible. To me, this term encompasses the entire vision of ethical treatment of people and planet while also pushing back against capitalism’s demand for us to keep buying new items despite our complete lack of need for them. The terms ‘sustainable fashion’ and ‘ethical fashion’ still suggest newness, which is the opposite of what we need to be striving for in the middle of a climate emergency. They are still useful terms, don’t get me wrong, and often need their own contexts, such as when talking about the histories of specific garments or when relating to businesses producing new clothes. 




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