Saturday, May 11, 2013

IS #22: What's On Your Back?

This is going to be a bit of a rushed post as I didn't leave myself quite enough time to do all my pre-blogging before leaving on my trip. However, it's a topic that I've recently become very interested in and will probably revisit later. The topic is clothing and my questions are these: do I know where my clothes come from? Were they made in a factory that treats its workers well? Are they well-made with good quality fibers? The answer to all those questions most of the time is a resounding NO, and I'm resolving to change that. The first step to change? Education.

Please, don't judge this book by its frivolous cover. While it is primarily about the fashion industry, it focuses on how damaging our culture of 'fast fashion' is to our environment and to the health and well-being of citizens of impoverished countries. It has a ton of interesting statistics that I'd never considered and has a lot to say about where all those clothes you donate go (spoiler alert: Africa, and then trash heaps). It also has some information on the changes that need to be made before our clothing habits become anywhere near sustainable. I encourage you to check out Elizabeth Cline's website, particularly the 'what you can do' section and the 'shopping directory'.

Item #10 on the 'what you can do' list is to shop from ethical/sustainable/local clothing producers. As a plus-sized woman I have a hard enough time finding clothes as it is, but I did some searching and found at least one North Carolina-based designer/maker/seller of eco-friendly clothing. There is a great video about their process on the Gaia Conceptions website. Their garments are (necessarily) simple but beautiful, made with 100% cotton, cotton/hemp blends, or 100% wool (which you will almost never find in commercial clothing, btw).  All photos are copyright Gaia Conceptions.

Each piece costs more than I'd ever usually consider spending on clothing, but that's because they are made from quality materials and the people making them are earning a living wage. My philosophy up until now has been more like "Does it fit? Ok, buy 5 of it in different colors so I don't have to go shopping again anytime soon." In that sense, my size (and school-induced poverty) probably made me a more responsible shopper than many of the typical US citizens described in "Overdressed", but I can still do better. My goal now is to only purchase well-made garments from companies whose work ethics I support. Knitting has taught me a lot about fabric and if I make a point to knit with responsibly-sourced natural fibers, why wouldn't I aim for the same goals in my purchased clothing?