I’ve been on this ethical fashion journey for a long time now. Do you know I haven’t actually bought anything from a highstreet store in over 2 years? I have found ethical alternatives, crawled the charity shops for treasures and become a fan of eBay instead.
But the other week I broke a little. I have a work trip to Barcelona tomorrow, for which I have no clothes, and a 25% discount card popped through the letterbox with my ELLE subscription. So I went to H&M and bought two things from their Conscious Collection, telling my self that it was good enough because of the label.
But since then I have honestly felt a little shitty. Because I know I allowed myself to pretend that the ‘Conscious Collection’ label meant it was actually ethical shopping, when I know it is actually quite a meaningless label.
What does the Conscious Collection even do? Well it uses some nicer fabrics. Some are organic cotton, some are recycled fabrics and some are ‘sustainable’ fabrics. The idea is that those choices can make you feel like you are a conscious consumer, which is all very well but the reality is that they are still clothes made on an enormous scale, in poor working conditions, for us to buy as much of as often as possible. It is all just Greenwashing.
I have been thinking about this a lot. More and more people seem to be interested in the ethical side of their purchases and brands are picking up on it. They put a label on it that hits us emotionally and makes us feel like it is a ‘better’ choice.
I guess what I struggle with is the idea of talking about sustainability alongside fast fashion. When we are consuming as much as we do, it cannot be sustainable. When businesses are pushing to make as high a profit margin as possible, it cannot be totally fair production. H&M encouraging customers to bring in a bag of clothes to recycle and offering them a voucher to buy more clothes with? That isn’t sustainability, it is using people’s consciences to make more money.
It isn’t just H&M. I’m seeing marketing campaigns like this popping up all over the place, at the same time as brands like Mango and Matalan are refusing to pay the compensation they owe to victims of Rana Plaza. At the same time as H&M has been called out for not getting fire regulations in their factories up to standard. I am just struggling with the whole thing and to be honest, it has just fired me to keep looking at alternatives like #SecondHandFirst and ethical small businesses.
This was quite a rant, but with Fashion Revolution Day tomorrow, 3 years after Rana Plaza, it needed to get out of my head. More to remind myself of why I took my ethical pledge in the first place and why I want to keep doing it. I will wear my new jumpsuit and keep asking brands: Who made my clothes?