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Living life with good intention, loving with soul, and consuming with a conscience

Cost Per Wear: Ethical & Sustainable Fashion & the Blogging Clash

Back in April 2018, we saw a surge in people asking #whomademyclothes as it was Fashion Revolution Week. This week each year sees many of the most popular brands being challenged to be more transparent about the process their items go through from who collects the natural fibres, to how the items are made in factories, to the shipment of the finished articles across the globe. This, alongside many other reasons, is why I opted out of buying into the fast fashion industry as much and why I'm still trying to create a fully slow/sustainable/ethical wardrobe for myself now. Whilst I find it really important to ask brands about their production etc., Fashion Revolution Week naturally sees a surge of interest in this big ethical question which isn't maintained throughout the year. This isn't the fault of the movement of course, but it's interesting to see how little interest is shown when the topic isn't in the spotlight.

Which brings me on to the real topic of today's post. You've probably all guessed that it might be a bit of a rambling rant of a one already, but I just had some things I had to get off my chest (no surprises here for regular readers). Being more sustainable and buying more into slow fashion has gained a lot of popularity, especially during this past year, and it's such a positive thing. There's been a huge growth and popularity in sustainable bloggers and YouTubers, people advocating a more minimalist, less consumer-led life, and lots of people showing you how DIY things from beauty products to cleaning to clothing alterations and everything in-between. More awareness is being raised which is obviously a great step within such a consumerist society, but is it just a phase?

Over this past year I've made a switch in the content I consumer for entertainment. I mainly watch recipe, zero waste, slow fashion/thrift YouTube accounts now and I find that it has completely altered my purchasing and "need" for things for the better. Some of the "big name" YouTubers I still watch now and again have seemingly started to dip their toe into the ethical/sustainable fashion world and again, whilst that's a fantastic thing to see, it's all falling a little short for me. I've genuinely watched a YT video of a quite well-known influencer review an item of clothing from a more sustainable brand (thumbs up) but literally - as in physically - wave away the explanation of sustainability and ethical fashion with a flick of their wrist and that was that. I fully understand that the majority of this particular person's audience might not give a hoot about the background to an item and just want to see on trend pieces, but plopping the word "sustainable" into a video just doesn't cut it for me. It's not benefiting anyone if you discuss it in such a sweeping way. It needs an explanation.

Although ethical and sustainable clothing is becoming more of a popular choice, the true benefits of purchasing such items are glossed over with "it's good for the planet" and that's that. It was not that long ago that everyone and their gran were talking about that Stacey Dooley Fashion Industry Documentary and rightly so, so many influencers, bloggers etc. shared their horror over the truth of fast fashion via their social medias. Fast forward a week later, they're throwing out "AD" after "AD" for those exact fast giants they were horrified about just a matter of days ago. Of course, it's an influencers job and income at stake if they suddenly stopped doing this, but I'd almost prefer sustainability to not be mentioned at all by such big names if it's going to be just a trend to get them some more views, readers, or subscribers.

I feel like a cynical wee bitch writing that because I know, every little helps - even in this situation - but I can't help but feel the lack of detail is a massive error. Often individuals with the best of intentions can decide to start shopping more sustainable and ethical clothing only to find out how expensive it is. This can be a huge turning off point for many and can cause many to turn away from the idea. And you know? I totally get it. Ethical brands are *definitely* more expensive but if there was more explanation behind why this is from influencers who undoubtedly influence their audience, then it would certainly help.

Ethical and sustainable fashion is more pricey because you're paying for every step of that garments journey. You're paying for natural and sustainable materials which can be grown in bulk, which don't damage the planet in anyway, which are paid for fairly by brands paying those who farm the fibres. You're paying for the dyes and treatments used to not damage the planet so much; to cost a little extra because the individuals completing this step are paid fairly and treated with the respect they deserve. You're paying for the individuals who sew those materials and fabrics together to create your items to be paid a good living wage, for them to have safe and clean working conditions, and to not be mistreated like sweat shop workers are. You're paying for more environmentally-friendly ways to ship garments around the globe amongst so much more. *These* vital points are what are often missed out or forgotten about when advocating sustainable slow fashion.

Many sustainable brands aim to have less of an impact on the planet but of course you as a customer have a part to play in that too. As I mentioned earlier, I am the first person to agree that sustainable clothing can be damn expensive but the reasoning behind this and what it means for you as the consumer has method in its seeming madness. Many bloggers and YouTubers in the fashion industry will talk about "cost per wear" to justify purchasing an often expensive garment or item. This exact philosophy should be applied to sustainable clothing because not only are you buying into brands and an industry that cares wholeheartedly along the journey of their productions, but also once they've been passed over to you after purchase. Sustainability is not only about being kind to the planet and others but also about proving that you don't need as much as you think you do. That's not me saying that you have to be minimalist if you're trying to be sustainable (lord knows I'd call myself anything but), but if you've bought a well made white t-shirt that is made from sustainable fabric that is high quality, that t-shirt should last you for years and not need to be replaced or repurchased for some time. Compare that to £3 basic tee from the likes of Primark and I guarantee after a few washes it loses it's shape, crisp white shade, and it will have almost certainly have started to bobble.

I know you're all sat there thinking "Jesus Christ Amyleigh get off your high horse" and you know what? I wouldn't blame you because I'm as lost as you are at this point as to where this post was going. But, I want to leave you with some food for thought:

If you buy a dress for say £30 (usually what I used to consider the top-end of my budget when I used to buy *way* too many clothing items from fast fashion high-street retailers), divide that by two. You've now got £15. That £15 is probably the wholesale price (it's assumed that some retailers will mark up items up to two times, some mark up for as little as 20%, but many mark it up more than that). Now half that wholesale price of £15 - we're left with £7.50. That £7.50 is the price of the fabric, the labour, the machinery, the factory rent, the additional items such as buttons or zippers, the packaging for the item, the cutting and sewing of the fabric - all for £7.50? £7.50 is just over the top-end of the National Minimum Wage per hour in the UK. Therefore that £30 dress may have been a "bargain" for you, but at the drastic cost of someone else. It's overlooking the livelihood, rights, and just general human kindness that each and every person deserves. I know that a £3 tee in Primark might be all you can afford and I've been there. I understand. All I ask is that you think twice when you see a sale or you only buy what is needed because your wardrobe bursting with stuff has blood sweat and tears sewn into each seam.

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