Last week was Ethical Fashion Week and my Facebook feed was full of articles about ethical and sustainable fashion. At the same time Ethical Consumer launched their new free online Journal of Consumer Ethics and I read this:
“Ethical buying is one of the few effective tools we possess which can address – albeit imperfectly – the serious social and environmental problems that humans, as a species, now face.” (Rob Harrison, editor of the first edition of Journal of Consumer Ethics, quoted in Ethical Consumer)
As I mentioned previously I had been disheartened by my small attempts to live more justly struggling to see how I, one individual, could make a difference. I was also ‘surviving’ rather than ‘thriving’ as a new parent, probably suffering from post-natal anxiety.
Now re-energised and re-envisioned to think much more carefully about my purchases and believing shopping purposefully and with deliberation is an ‘effective tool’ to make a difference, I started thinking about what I buy for Small Boy and Little Miss and then it hit me – like a punch to the stomach: Were children making my children’s clothes?
A Guardian article from earlier this year stated: ‘Children as young as 14 have been employed to make clothes for some of the most popular names on the UK high street.‘
Researching clothing companies, I’ve discovered that Marks and Spencer have been named by Ethical Consumer as the ‘most ethical high street retailer for clothing’ and there are many smaller ’boutique’ [read: expensive] online stores selling organic and/or fair trade children’s clothes. I have previously purchased gorgeous t-shirts with tractors on from Frugi.
Currently, Little Miss wears a selection of beautiful hand-me-downs from family (her cousins and from friends in our church). We then pass on her too-small-clothes to a local mother-and-baby charity shop. Shopping justly for Little Miss will be fairly straightforward as I rarely buy her anything!
Making ethical purchases for Small Boy will be harder and more expensive but I do not want another child to be making his clothes.
We now pass on Small Boy’s too-small-clothes to twin baby boys in our church family. This has got me thinking about buying items which are long-lasting so I have good quality clothes to pass on to these two wonderful boys. I’m prepared to spend more because they too will benefit and it gives me pleasure to see them wearing Small Boy’s t-shirts and trousers.
It’s easy to be generous to them because I can see them, play with them and cuddle them. But now I want to act justly towards the children and women working in factories many miles away who I do not see and do not know.
If you have time, please read this article by Vicky Walker about the new clothes for children shortly to be available in Poundland.