I recently created a survey asking people about some of their buying habits. (There’s still time to take it, so please feel free to submit your opinion while the link is live!)
As an ethical branding writer, I do a lot of reading and writing on the cosmetics and fashion industries, so I asked a few industry-specific questions. Do you shop Fair Trade? Are you an all-organic eater? Do you pay extra attention to the labels on what you’re buying?
I have to admit, I was surprised by the results!
When asked: “What is most important thing when you’re making purchases for personal care items?” The answers are almost evenly divided between natural ingredients, cruelty free ingredients, and effectiveness of the product being of the highest importance. Cost trails in dead last as the first concern when buying cosmetics.
When asked: “What is most important to you when buying clothing or fashion accessories?” Those surveyed answered that the structural quality of the garment was the first priority, with cost being a close secondary priority. Only 10% responded that their top concern when buying clothing is manufacturing, in respect to material sourcing and labor ethics.
Perhaps most troubling to me is the fact that many respondents indicated that business ethics are an important personal value, but also responded that most of their clothing purchases are made at “fast fashion” retailers, like Forever 21 and H&M.
What does this mean?
Thanks to the overwhelming support of animal rights groups and the surge of the natural skincare industry, consumers are more aware of the personal care products they’re purchasing. They know what they’re putting on their bodies and whether or not it is being tested on animals. There has been a shift in cosmetics to more transparency in business, and that is a big win!
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the fashion industry. Fast fashion is only continuing to grow, regardless of labels. It seems like consumers might have some awareness of what is happening with their clothing, but the fact is that the widespread education on Fair Trade fashion just isn’t out there.
Why should you pay more attention to your garments and shop Fair Trade?
Fair Pay for All
When you look at your clothing labels, how often do you see “Made in the U.S.A.”? If not the United States, then how often does it read the name of a country with minimum wage laws?
Think about the number of hands that went into creating the clothes you’re wearing now. If your clothing is well made, it probably spent more time in the careful hands of real people. It took time and attention to detail to make that garment for you, and those people have to clock out and cash their checks and feed their families just like you.
When you shop Fair Trade, you’re making sure that every person working hard on making the clothes you enjoy gets paid a fair wage for their work.
Building a Sustainable World
The global impact of committing to shop Fair Trade is astounding. When you take a closer look at these once-struggling communities around the world that are now thriving, it puts the Fair Trade label into a more complete perspective.
Funds gathered by Fair Trade Certified purchases are specifically spent on social, economic, and environmental development projects. Each community determines the use of their funds independently through a democratic process, as each community as its own set of needs.
On a physical level, Fair Trade Certified farming standards are very strict. They bring sustainable education to local farmers, teaching them green farming practices that will preserve their land for future generations. Choosing to shop Fair Trade fashion means you’re making a positive impact on the world at large.
Quality Over Quantity
“Be honest. Do you regularly wear every item in your closet?” I knew this question would have a tilted response, but this was overwhelmingly answered: No.
Why is that? When the majority of respondents are saying they purchase their clothes at fast fashion retailers, the answer is clear. The quality of the material is cheap, so it wears out in just a few washes. The styles are ultra-trendy, so they’re “uncool” in a year when the next trends roll out. The structure of the garments is made in one of four to six sizes for all bodies to squeeze into, giving less options for fit. Stitches come undone. Hems unravel. Zippers break. Buttons fall off. They’re just poorly produced clothes.
It’s no wonder that cost is a concern for consumers when shopping for fashion. When clothes are being thrown away every year by over half of the population, it’s bound to take a toll on our wallets — and the planet.
Instead of putting more dollars back into the pockets of unethical businesses that exploit people and produce low quality garments, stop going to fast fashion retailers. Shop Fair Trade!
Because It’s Life and Death
For people living in communities producing Fair Trade Certified goods, life is improving. The land is reviving. Schools are being built. There is food on the table. Medicine is available when people need it. Workers are getting paid a fair wage for the work they’re putting out, and they have workplace rights in place to protect them from long hours, harassment, and dangerous conditions.
In other areas that are dominated by greed, the communities aren’t as lucky. Children work long hours instead of getting an education. Workers are paid inadequate wages that sink them deeper into poverty. Dangerous working conditions with a focus on fast production rather than careful attention to detail are a recipe for disaster — especially when there is scarce access to health care.
What Can You Do?
One of the biggest ways to make a change when you’re shopping for clothing comes down to choosing garments that are well made and will stand the test of time. Trends come and go, but your clothing should be able to last you a lot longer than a year or two — especially if cost is a concern.
I don’t know about you, but there are times I feel this deep desperation to help those in need around the world. It is unrealistic for me to think that the best way I can help is to fly all over the world trying to make a difference with only my two hands.
As consumers, one of the most powerful ways you can make an impact is by paying attention to where you’re spending your money. Don’t support retailers that choose to exploit humans, animals, and the environment to make a dollar. Take your hard earned money to businesses that deserve it and are trying to make the world a better place.
Click here to shop Fair Trade Certified clothing retailers, as well as other Fair Trade goods.