Is Handmade Clothing Good for the Environment?
Shopping for clothing has never been easier. In a fast paced world of online shopping with next day delivery and clothing available in the supermarket alongside your groceries, it is easy to have little or no thought to how what we are buying is made, where it came from or the effects our cheap and cheerful purchases have on the environment.
The clothing industry is the second largest polluter (after oil) - and its manufacturing and production processes create many environmental issues. 'Fast fashion' dominates our high street. I used to love ‘fast fashion’ as much as the next person. I loved choosing something, buying it, having it delivered within 24 hours and wearing it - or sending it back if it doesn’t fit! But more recently I’ve come to realise that clothes manufactured cheaply and quickly to fulfil our need to 'have it now' is damaging our planet.
When you buy handmade clothes, not only do you get something unique and individual to you that is likely to fit better than something off the peg, you are also getting something that is kinder to the environment and manufactured and produced in an ethical way. In this blog post I look at why handmade can be the best choice for someone wanting to buy clothing that is fairly produced.
I love bright colours and bold prints - choosing the prints and fabrics is one of the favourite parts of my job. But its not just about the pretty patterns. My clothing is produced in small quantities which gives me the freedom to pick and choose my suppliers based on my core values of sustainability and best quality.
It is essential to me that I choose fabric that meets basic safety standards, do not contain harmful substances in the dyes and are produced in fair conditions. I don't want to buy fabrics that are made cheaply to drive down manufacturing prices. Low production costs have a big impact on the people along the production chain. Those at the bottom of that are often forced into jobs with low pay to keep the production costs at a minimum. Most of the fabrics that I choose meet the European standard Oeko-Tex 100. This is a global standard and I know that if my fabric has the 'Confidence in Textiles' badge then it has been tested against the standards high regulations and that it is free from harmful chemicals. The standard also looks at chemical and water usage and disposal, dust and noise generation and general workplace conditions. There is also a requirement for an environmental management system to be in place. You can find out more about this standard on the Oeko-Tex website
I am also keen that an increasing amount of the fabrics I use are organic fabrics. It is essential to note that organic and Oeko-Tex are not the same thing - although both are heavily regulated. The cotton in the organic cotton lycra I use has been grown and produced adhering to stringent regulations. It will not have been produced with synthetic fertilisers or pesticides and meets the Global Organic Textile Standard.
Love Locally Made
In recent years there have been an increasing number of news stories publicising disasters in Asian clothing factories. It is a stark reminder that cheap high street and supermarket clothing is not cheap at all and many workers are employed in terrible conditions. It is not always fair to say that all Asian clothing factories are unethical and there are an increasing number of ethical childrenswear manufacturers that have factories in Asia with great work ethics and credentials. Little Green Radicals and Frugi are committed to ethical manufacturing and sourcing and have some beautiful organic baby and childrenswear. And Tootsa also have great ethical credentials, working closely with their supplies and manufacturers in Europe too!
By buying local and handmade you can also be sure that your clothes are made with fair manufacturing and production costs too. I make everything myself at home in my sewing room and there are so many other great local businesses that do the same - either working out of their home or a local studio. If you are looking for small, local handmade businesses here are a few of my favourite websites that sell locally made clothing and gifts from small creative businesses:
- Walter & May - selling gorgeous gifts, clothing and homewares all made by British creatives.
- MiniXplorers - a new online marketplace selling lovely children's clothes, toys and accessories from independent British designers and manufacturers.
- Lobella Loves - as well as selling beautiful locally made things for babies and children, Lobella Loves gives money from every single sale to charities helping to support mothers with perinatal mental health illnesses
- Not on the High Street - selling stunning makes from over 5000 of the UK's best small creative businesses all on one website!
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!
It may seem obvious, but one of the most ethical and sustainable things we can do is to buy less. The less we buy the less waste there will be in landfill and the less energy will be spent making new things. If we spend more time looking at what clothing our children really need and try not to buy the cheap fashion in the supermarkets we can really reduce the amount of clothing our children have. I know that buying handmade clothing for your children might not seem like the cheapest way to clothe your children - I have three children and I know all too well that kitting them out can cost a small fortune - but just give it a go with a couple of items and you will see that buying better quality clothing really will change the way you buy clothing in the future. Good quality clothing can be passed down through siblings, friends and relatives - making it a super sustainable alternative to the quick fix of supermarket and high street clothing. You will also find it has a great resale value too. There are numerous places where you can sell on your child's good quality clothing for reasonable prices - NCT Sales, Mum 2 Mum Markets and for chic, designer clothing why not take a look at the Recircle page of Little Circle? There are also loads of Facebook pages for selling pre-loved handmade children's clothing - why not join the Tutti Frutti Clothing Members Group to find out more about them?
So give it a go! Buying ethically made and sustainable handmade clothing really can be one way to help protect our planet for longer.
Do you love handmade or shop at ethical companies? Why not take the time to comment below and let me know your favourite ethical childrenswear company? I am always looking for new things to discover and new shops to buy from.
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