A little while ago, the topic of ‘Fast Fashion’ surfaced its distracting head as a topic of posting and discussion on what I like to think of as ‘my’ area of the blogosphere – i.e. the blogs I follow and always read. Whilst I find the subject extremely interesting and left long, thought out comments on each post I read on the topic I never wrote my own post about it; every time a new post debating the topic came up it brought with it new points of view to consider – more thoughts to mull over before collating my feelings to form my own opinion about it.
But that ‘opinion’ was never really collated – the glut of articles which appeared after the release of Lucy Siegle’s book ‘To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World?’ came and went, and with it so did my focus on the subject of shopping ethically. (Note: I haven’t yet read ‘To Die For’ so I can’t make any comparison to my views and those of Lucy Siegle). Since taking in so many views and so much information back in May when all the posting began the thought of where my clothes really come from has lingered at the back of my mind – ready to resurface whenever I enter a clothing shop that sells clothes that have been made by people in poor countries working all hours of the day to make a pair of jeans, and thus earn an absolute pittance.
I’m still not entirely sure what my opinion is to be very honest with you. I know that mass producing clothes which result in many of them going in landfill and the people making them not earning as much money as they should and having to work in terrible conditions is awful, no doubt about it, but the part I have conflicting thoughts about is people in first world countries, like myself, going out and buying them. Especially when I am one of them.
To be fair though, it isn’t often that I am one of them. Looking through my holiday wardrobe which is currently housing twenty-six garments exactly half of them were bought from either vintage or charity shops. That by no means guarantees that they weren’t originally mass-produced for the consumption of the high street shopper – it just means that instead of going out and buying something new I made use of something which had already been created and was still very much wearable. Of the remaining thirteen items, five of them were presents or bought for me and seven were bought, by me, new from the ‘high street’ for want of a better word for a collective group of shops. Two each from Next, H&M and Warehouse and one from Forever 21 on a visit to the States earlier in the year.
After browsing for twenty minutes on each of the sites in search of something that looked vaguely like a declaration of ‘social responsibility’ to both the workers who create the clothes they sell as well as to the customers who buy them I came to this conclusion: two of the sites do not (or at least to the best of my knowledge and trawling of their sites) contain a single droplet of information about the sourcing of their clothes or their humane and ethical responsibility towards the people who make them. Two of them did however, although on the Forever 21 site the information wasn’t on an actual page, more of a drop down menu which made it impossible for me to link to it. The best I can do is directing you here and informing you that if you scroll right to the bottom of the page on the far right hand side their should be a link entitled “Social Responsibility”. Reading through the list of “important elements” it all sounds great. But I wouldn’t mind seeing some evidence of it rather than having to trust a few paragraphs of print on the screen of my laptop. The other company who actually bothered to let customers know where the clothes they bought were coming from was H&M – this time in a whole section of the site dedicated to its “Corporate Responsibility”.
In June I was at a garden party (well, more of a family-and-friends-get-together-held-in-a-garden) where I got chatting to a gentleman who does a fair bit of business with big name brands – drawing up prototypes for new designs and selling them to the high street shops. We got into a rather heated (but still jovial) discussion about what ‘fashion’ really means, and when I dropped the bombshell of how the big chains he works with source their clothes and whether or not they do so ethically he game me the point of the view of the fashion insider such as himself. He told me that, as many people in the ‘industry’ see it, it is up to the Government in whatever country the clothes are being unethically produced in to enforce laws which give the workers a better deal – fair wages, limiting the number hours they are able to work but not paying them less, safe conditions to work in and laws so as not to allow children to be having to work in factories when they could be out getting an education. It seems that in reference to this viewpoint there’s only so much the rest of the world can do to help.
My reason for writing this post was thus; on Tuesday I went out and bought several items from high street shops: a pair of chinos from New Look, two pairs of socks from TKMaxx and one pair from Topshop. In fairness I had been given a New Look voucher as a present, but I cannot excuse my buying socks. But do I need to? To be honest I really don’t think I do. I don’t think anyone would begrudge anyone else buying themselves new, unworn socks would they? People don’t buy second-hand, ‘vintage’ underwear do they? Well, I don’t! Anyway, the other reason for spilling out my thoughts about ‘Fast Fashion’ and buying on the high street was this, should I feel guilty for buying new clothes for AW11? Some people wouldn’t give it a second thought, and I’m not saying they should, but after reading and agreeing with so many posts and getting on my high horse about people who buy endless bags of clothes from Primark every weekend I felt like it would be double standards to go out and buy myself some Winter woolies. The thing is, as much as I love buying my clothes in vintage and charity shops and market stalls and Church fairs, now and again it’s just really nice to buy a couple of new pieces that catch my eye.
So what do you think? What is your opinion on Fast Fashion? And should we feel guilty for buying mass-produced items from the high street?
Food For Thought – Fast Fashion posts from fellow bloggers
Street Style: Pics By Polka Dot – Prime Mark
A Little Bird Told Me – Ethical Fashion -Does It Work For You?
Clothes, Cameras and Coffee – To Die For
Fashion Pearls of Wisdom – Budget Fashion: Can You Afford to Shop Ethically?