Life | The ethical choice: A different clothing story

You may not know, but next week is the start of Fairtrade Fortnight - a nationwide initiative to join together and celebrate ethically traded products. I'm a big fan of living a bit differently and think it's really important we ask provenance questions about our clothing just like we do about our food. Where did your jumper come from? Who made it? What were the conditions like in which it was made? Was that person paid appropriately for their work? Were they treated fairly? Are they allowed the same luxuries we are: running water, breaks, weekends, sick pay, pension, compensation if they get hurt? 

It's easy to think that ethical clothes shopping is either too hard or too expensive to consider but it's just not true! Here are three simple things you can do to start to be a fairtrade consumer: 

1. Buy from responsible companies
There are companies who have specifically agreed to higher standards and manufacture than is compulsory. Two really good examples of these are PeopleTree and Reformation. Both pay fair wages, think about their impact on the planet and try to trade in a way that is more sustainable to both people and planet. Yes; the prices are slightly higher than H&M. But you can find them cheaply: PeopleTree do amazing sample sales about 4 times a year that are crammed full of great bargains and one off pieces. Reformation have a brilliant sale online where the clothes get dramatically reduced. You can also find both brands on eBay.

2. Shop secondhand
Secondhand is brilliant! It's a chance to share already constructed garments with others while often supporting charities in the process. Get to know your local charity shop, become savvy on eBay and clothes sap with your friends. I love charity shops - they are an amazing place to find beautifully made garments at a fraction of their original price, saving things from going in to landfill and donating to great causes. Recent finds of mine include a £1,250 designer dress in Oxfam Notting Hill for £30 and a beautiful silk Coast dress from last season in Oxfam Mill Road, Cambridge for just £11. I also found a great pair of leather Next heels for just 99p in Cats Protection, Mill Road, Cambridge. You can't really say fairer than that! 

3. Hand-make and fix
A button coming off your shirt doesn't mean the end of the shirt! Get crafty with a needle and thread and you'll find you can give life back to loads of your wardrobe. Restyle and customise things you've fallen out of love with. A quick google or a browse on YouTube and Pinterest will help with all the basics you need to know including how to resize your clothes. It's easier than you think! If you love beautifully fitting, custom clothes why not take a dressmaking course and teach yourself how to make your own? I recently made a custom fitting Cath Kidston dress for £9 in fabric and a bit of time and it's totally beautiful, utterly unique and no one else has one! 

So as you step in to Fairtrade Fortnight why not challenge yourself to think about who made your clothes? Everyone deserves the chance to a fair living wage and fairly traded products. Visit your local charity shop, fix a button or two, give unwanted clothes to friends or have a payday splurge at a fairly trading company. Whatever you do: try buying better.

If you are interested in finding out more - watch the documentary The True Cost available on Netflix.

Dress: Coast, bought from Oxfam, Mill Road, Cambridge (£10.99)

Dress: Temperly, bought from Oxfam Notting Hill (£30)

Dresses from recent PeopleTree sample sale (£15-30 each)


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