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Fashion Sense Making Socially Conscious Clothing ChoicesPosted 03/31/10 • Last updated 03/31/10 • 786 views • 0 commentsWhen it comes to eco clothes, as with many products, it is not always straightforward to tell which if they are made in a truly socially and environmentally friendly way. There are the ever-present issues of green washing, slave labor, distance traveled to get to your door, etc. And related to those issues, labels like "organic" can often be construed to mean "better" than other options, which is sometimes far from the case.
In all honesty, the most environmentally and socially friendly thing you can do is just to never buy new clothes. Even if your clothes claim "no slave labor", "made in the U.S.", "fair trade", etc. there is still a good amount of embodied energy that goes into producing them and shipping them to your area. I try to thrift shop as much as I can, but we all know that for that perfect fit, those undies, and that very specific article of clothing, it is not always possible, and is certainly not easy, to buy used.
In my ideal world, I would know the sheep my wool skirt came from, the farmer who grew the cotton in my T-shirt. But alas, I do not live in my ideal world, not yet. So until then, there are necessary evils to be dealt with, decisions to be made.
Green Fashion: Ideals & Realities
At this point in time, the most important consideration for me personally is where and by whom my clothes are made. In many cases, it is fair to assume that clothes made in the U.S. or Canada are not made with slave labor and may contain materials that are grown on the North American continent. I want to make note that both of these assumptions are tricky and have many possible holes, but for basic awareness, they are passable.
I draw attention to these factors because I have noted recently the fad of the "organic" label drawing more than its share of attention and making its way onto Wal-Mart shelves.
If it is not possible to buy semi-locally, the next thing I look for is fair trade. There are many companies claiming their "commitment to growing organic" in Peru, Africa, and India. For me, this type of claim represents the downfalls of the green movements growing popularity and the general lack of "seeing the big picture" that it feeds. Although the fair trade movement is not perfect, there is no doubt that it is considerably better than a t-shirt or dress that reads "Made in India" and does not advertise fair trade.
Often, the most difficult part of this equation is finding the necessary info. In general, if a company really holds the values that you hope are in line with yours, they will advertise it, loud and clear, on their main page. If you click on the "about us" link and they tell you about their designers with no mention of where and by whom the clothes are made, you may want to find a better source for your clothing needs. It is a kind of a tricky thing to see what a company advertises and notice not only what is there, but what is missing.
For the best of both the fashion and socially conscious worlds, my favorite brands are Autonomie, American Apparel and Sub Urban Riot.
This article was written by Mary Beth Bishop, a freelance writer currently under contract with long-running green blog and eco-shopping site sustainablog (which sells organic clothing, among other things...)
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/greenloop/ / CC BY 2.0
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