Ever wondered why it’s so difficult to navigate the fashion landscape when you love people and planet?
You can blame the marketing gurus for the confusing array of ‘green’ products on offer. Unless something is CERTIFIED through an external body the words they put on their label are entirely up to them. The idea of ‘greenwash’ or eco labelling is something that’s been addressed a few times here, but there is nothing wrong in revisiting the idea when we live in a world of abundant information and limited amounts of brain capacity. It can be pretty easy to forget what you have read when your phone provides you a whole new set of stories every morning. It’s kind of like the Alice in Wonderland quote of :
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
This breakfast (which is what I’m about to have but got sidelined by this story idea) have a think about the impossibly complex and exciting range of goodies that might be on offer to you right now and how the marketing gurus are trying to convince you to buy.
‘Vegan’ fashion does not automatically equal sustainability
This is one loaded word backed by a whole movement of passionate people. We love the Vegan movement for the passion, compassion towards all things breathing, and their commitment to cause. Sadly marketing gurus love Vegans because they are easy prey. Vegan products are products without animal content or cruelty. That’s all. There is nothing ‘eco’ or ‘sustainable’ required to label an item ‘Vegan’. Plastic bags are Vegan… so too are plastic shoes, clothes, and clutch purses. If you see something labelled ‘Vegan’ it might mean that no animal has suffered but it doesn’t mean it’s a sustainable or environmentally friendly buy. ESPECIALLY when it comes to plastic ‘leather’ alternatives. That stuff is not only nasty to wear, it never biodegrades, is made from petrol chemicals, and falls apart pretty gosh-darn quickly (it’s the worst when it gets all peel and flakey because it create micro-plastic pollution). This is not an argument for animal cruelty, it’s a prompt to think before you purchase because it’s unethical for business to prey on your for easy dollars based on your love of animals. Try cork leather or look for some of the up-and-coming materials like pineapple leather or mushroom leather.
Sustainable is just a word.
Oh my! Don’t we collectively love the word ‘Sustainable’ nowadays? It’s being thrown around all over the place because it’s a word that means nothing and everything. At it’s roots sustainable is to be maintained at a certain rate or level, or to be upheld and defended. It’s only in the last few decades that we have adapted it to give it environmental purpose. Businesses love the word sustainable because it means so much and so little at once. Having a sustainable business strategy can mean multiple things. It could mean that a business is committed to environmental practices, it could be a commitment to zero waste and emissions, it could also mean moving forward to maximise their dollar and keep their business running efficiently. The first of those is good, the second is great, and the third is a business doing what all non-eco-minded businesses do… make profit with little eco-care. You can use this word wherever you like. Perhaps you are going to have an finanically sustainable Christmas by making sure that you don’t over spend. You could also have an environmentally sustainable Christmas where you choose to opt out of tangible gifts, have a meat free organic meal, and compost all the left overs. Both are sustainable festive seasons it’s just that one is sustaining your bank account and the other the planet. Same word and meaning, just different applications. Marketing LOVES the fluidity of the application of this word so be sure to check out what exactly makes your potential new tee purchase ‘sustainable’. Check it fits your values.
We all have differing care factor levels. This is what makes our World a diverse place. If we all cared collectively about just one thing (lets say for arguments sake it was Unicorns and Mermaids because they seem to have high care-factor levels at the moment) it would get pretty freaking boring pretty quickly. Also, if we were all off worrying about mermaids and unicorns there would be a whole bunch of other things, like flamingos, pugs, pineapples, Donald Trump’s hair, global warming, etc. that would be neglected. Our ethical concerns differ. When it comes to fashion the term ‘ethical’ gets thrown around in a very confusing way. Many initiatives (like the Fashion Revolution) try to maintain focus on ‘ethical manufacturing’ as a whole industry but are really focused on the human ethics (fair working conditions, pay, rights etc.) because they are a movement founded around a social fashion disaster. Other parts of the industry say ‘Ethical’ and mean animal ethics (like good animal husbandry practices like muslin free wool) or ‘Vegan’ manufacturing. Others have adapted ‘Ethical’ to mean environmentally sustainable production practices because they have an ethical perspective of planet positive production. Truthfully I hate this label. It’s freaking confusing for everyone and the fact that ‘ethically’ made PVC leather pair of shoes can be lumped in with an organic cotton, C2C manufactured, plant dyed, carbon neutral, fair trade made tee is kind of a revolting thought. And that disgust comes from the fact that I value whole production chain sustainability, not just animal rights (and that doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else… it’s just my values and I don’t expect anyone else to share them).
‘Conscious fashion’ is the magical umbrella.
One of the newbie terms is ‘conscious’ which is an umbrella term (and speaking of magical umbrellas…check out Ginkgo Umbrella pictured above to have your mind blown) to cover ALL of the good things that have been happening in fashion. Making a conscious decision means that you have thorough before you purchased. This might mean that you bought a PVC Vegan items or that fancy t-shirt above. Both would be considered purchases. Realistically no one should give a crap about anyone else’s decision to purchase if they have though it through from a place long term commitment, animal welfare, environmental impact and/or social impact. If we all shop from personal values and lead by example then others will see how happy we are and follow. There is no sense in bullying a vegan out of their decision to buy PVC, or eco-minded-cost-per-wear shopper out of their decision to wear vintage leather. Ultimately it’s their decision and both of them have their positives for the consumer. The moral of the story is to take the marketing terms at face value and ask questions about the manufacturing processes and product. When you do this you are shopping consciously (rather than unconsciously which is what most people do in the lead up to Christmas as they crash trolleys into each other at late night shopping events).
How do you shop? Have you ever been baffled by these annoying labels? Perhaps you have tried to convince a friend to shop ethical, sustainable, or vegan. How did it go? Share all here.