JOURNEY TOWARDS AN ETHICAL WARDROBE
I am a weaver. It is slow and intentional. Functional with form; in a way, softly engineering beauty from chaos. It is an art that tells a story. We wear these stories close to our hearts, but often forget to listen to them. There are questions we love to ask about our adornment; what does it say about me, where I come from, what I love. Although our style can be a reflection of our identities, our clothing speaks volumes about our values, especially in regards to the blindspot of consumerism: their makers. Stewardship, environmentalism and human rights are the ugly step sisters of fast fashion.
In my time at art college, an appreciation for craftsmanship was born. Craft does not lend itself well to mass production when one values quality over quantity. As a textiles major, fashion quickly became part of the conversation, especially for a recovering shopaholic like myself. Slow minimalism is a foreign concept here, but at some point my heart ached for a different way. Each season, I would go through my over stuffed closet to purge without much direction. Perhaps only to rid myself of off trend pieces cheaply purchased to donate later free of guilt, then to only replace them with another subpar item. And let’s be honest, the incessant shopping was an emotional response to a lack of spiritual sustenance I knew would truly satisfy, but was not nearly as glamorous. Picking up my Bible over a new pair of denim somehow didn’t equate to fulfillment. But we all have our vices and mine seemed harmless enough.
That is until a series of events changed me forever. I had for some time been acutely aware that the production of our clothes was questionable. Even using my art practice as a platform for discussion, I still never truly committed one way or another. I passively began a personal style blog, but it quickly developed intention: a project devised to quit shopping for an entire year. Ironic? I will tell you one thing, I failed miserably. But failure demands you get up and try again. That following year I courted the idea of the capsule wardrobe, possibly for the grace to add in pieces as needed, but maintain a more minimal approach to dressing. It was also the year I got pregnant with my daughter, with a growing waistline jump starting my new “less is more” mantra. I was considerate of my aesthetic, color palette and fit, hyper aware of what my wardrobe said about the story I wanted to tell. However, at this point I was still shopping without listening to the stories my clothing was telling me. Until I watched the documentary The True Cost. Seeing my part, even if insignificant towards the whole, it broke me. My constant need for more builds into the demand of fast fashion. An industry that more often than not disregards the orphan, the widow, the lame. As a follower of Christ, this went against my core values. Dramatic, yes, but these are the kind of moments that spark something in you to move. To change. So I did.
Powder blue lace up flats might possibly be the last item I endorsed from the mall. Somewhere in the summer last year, I parted ways with traditional shopping and have since exclusively purchased ethical pieces, built on my personal convictions that my clothes can tell the story that I care for the makers, the earth and my personal resources. For myself, it means I purchase second hand. I’ve found a freedom in it without lacking creativity or breaking my aesthetic. But second hand is not the only path, as there are designers considering ethical and sustainable fashion. Creating an ethical wardrobe is a unique journey. One I hope to share, break down, make accessible and understandable to discern there are choices we can feel good about and still look good wearing.