I recently asked if anyone who followed my Facebook page has any questions about buying ethical and sustainable kids clothes. I was expecting questions of price, resale value or where they could find other ethical brands. Therefore, I was surprised when someone simply asked - “Why should I care about buying ethical clothing?”
It was a great question - and one which really got me thinking. Not just about why we should care but how we can care and make better choices with our purchases.
In this blog post I look at why I think we should care about where the clothes we buy our children come from and the questions we can ask ourselves before we buy to ensure we are making positive choices.
So...Why Should We Care?
When we buy an item of clothing, it can have either a positive or a negative impact. I think that is pretty true of life as well. What we do affects everything around us - either in a good or a bad way.
I think that when we buy children’s clothing, we should try to make it a good choice. We should aim to buy clothes that have a positive impact.
But what should they have a positive impact on? I think people are the most important.
The clothes we buy should have a positive impact on PEOPLE.
When we buy an item of clothing we should ask ourselves: Who made it?
We need to care about who makes our clothes.
The fashion industry is well known for mistreating its workers - a fact that was highlighted when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in 2013 killing over 1000 people. These people worked for a number of different garment factories making our high street fashions. They worked long hours, for low pay, in cramped conditions. Since the disaster, many retailers have ploughed money into sustainable projects and auditing their factories but there is still a long way to go. And things will only change further if we continue to demand change.
So, when you buy an item of clothing ask yourself who made it. Were they paid a fair wage? Were the forced to work in bad conditions? How old were they - a grown up or a child?
When you buy from me you know that I make your clothes. Or you could choose another handmade seller or a retailer with a transparent manufacturing process. Frugi, Little Green Radicals and Tootsa McGinty all have great ethical manufacturing processes and you can read on their websites about their workforces and their factories.
The clothes we buy should have a positive impact on the PLANET
When we buy something we should ask: What is is it made from?
When I wrote about what ethical and sustainable clothing I read and learnt some really interesting facts about the production processes behind many of our everyday garments.
Clothing made from man made fibres - such as polyester - use hundreds and thousands of chemicals in their production process. These fibres are often non-biodegradable and non-recyclable. If they end up in landfill then they stay there for many, many years. If they are incinerated then the chemicals are released into the air which is equally bad for the environment.
However, natural fibres are not always better. A simple cotton t-shirt can use 20,000 litres of water in its manufacturing process and the cotton that is used to make the shirt is often grown using many pesticides and fertilisers.
The dying process, the waste disposal system of the factories, the management of chemical and bleaches - all these things have a big impact on the planet.
Look for fabrics that are organic, GOTS or Oeko-Tex certified and you know that all these systems are in place and damage to our environment in minimal.
The clothes we buy should have a positive impact on US
Before you buy something ask: Do I really need it?
Finally, we need to ask how long we plan to have the item of clothing. If your house is anything like mine it is stuffed full of kids toys and clothes. Do I really need to buy any more? No! I can safely say that we already have enough and I know that lots of other people do to.
We have been sucked into a cycle of following trends. We want fashionable clothing that looks good and is a reasonable price. By being so aware of the trends and fashions we often buy poor quality clothing that is good ‘for now’ but doesn’t last. When it breaks or gets worn we dispose of it in the bin. The make do and mend culture of the past is long gone. I think we need to step back from fast fashion and invest in better clothing. Children need clothes to play in. Clothes that are durable, made to last and can be passed down to other children when it is outgrown.
In 2013, 15.1 million tonnes of textiles was dumped in landfill. Wow. I think it is time we stepped away from the fast fashion, disposable culture and began to think more about our purchases.
So next time you are tempted to throw a cheap t-shirt in your supermarket trolley stop and think:
Who made it - what is the cost to that person?
What is it made from - what is the cost to our planet?
How long will I use it - do I really need it?
I know that if I stopped and asked myself this I would make far less impulse purchases.
I’d love to know what you think. Do you think it is important to make positive choices when buying your kids clothes? Do you stop and think about the impact your purchases have on people and the planet?