Since I started blogging back in 2011, ethical fashion has become one hell of a hot topic. There are so many more bloggers reflecting on the social and environmental impact of fast fashion (shout out to Leah Wise, Hannah Theissen, and Alden Wicker to name a few), and the number of sustainable clothing lines out there has skyrocketed.
I love watching the ethical fashion movement grow, and yet I still struggle to find my place within it. For every new brand I've been excited by, I've found another that's disappointed. For every attempt I’ve made to cut down on my consumption, I’ve been tempted by another shiny pretty new thing. For all of the wisdom I feel I've gained, I've also grown more cynical. My attitude towards ethical fashion is more nuanced these days, but these are a few things I know for sure...
1. I’m willing to compromise if it means buying less
I hate to write this, but to be honest I've been pretty disappointed with several of the ethical brands I've tried recently. Often the construction is sloppy, the fit is inconsistent, or the fabric quality is poor (sometimes deadstock fabric is deadstock for a reason). I have no intention of naming names because I still fundamentally believe in what these companies are doing, and I know it can take a while for a fledgling business to get into their groove in terms of quality control. But it’s frustrating to send things back over and over again – it's such a waste of time, energy, and packaging. And I have a hard time recommending these brands to others even if I agree with their principles.
So I’ve decided spend my money on brands that I know will last and fit me well. Not all of these brands are explicitly ethical or sustainable, but I do make sure they have clear guidelines around social responsibility. So yes, I’ve purchased things from Theory, Equipment, and Madewell. I don’t go out of my way to promote them and I don't tag them on Instagram, but I do love wearing their clothes. I know I’ll have them in my closet for years, which means I will ultimately buy less.
2. I'm willing to splurge on a few ethical brands
The upside of all my research (and excessive FedEx-ing) is that I’ve found a few ethical brands that I absolutely love. Their quality is consistently high, their fit predictable, and – lucky for me – I can buy most of them in person. So to the following brands I say, take my paycheck!
Curator - Gorgeous women's clothing made in San Francisco. I'm especially in love with their wool and cotton sweaters.
Paige Jeans - Impeccably constructed denim made in Los Angeles.
Cuyana - Thoughtful, minimalist designs from the US and around the world. Based in San Francisco.
Bec and Bridge - Sexy, ultra-feminine line made in Australia. I bought one of their dresses two years ago and have worn it to every special occasion since.
3. Sewing is secondary... and that's ok
I have fantasies about creating a fully-handmade wardrobe and never setting foot in a mall again. But I have to be honest with myself: I just don't have the time or skill to make all of my clothes from scratch. So I'm going to stop buying fabric for garments I'll never make, and pledge to complete the projects I've already started. I will always love sewing, but I need to treat it as a hobby and a way to maintain my existing wardrobe, not as a replacement for ready-to-wear clothes.
4. I'm a terrible minimalist
But you already heard me ramble about that.
In conclusion (for now)...
Ethical living isn’t as simple as building a capsule wardrobe and drinking fair trade coffee. It’s a constant negotiation of principles, time, access and personal taste. I'm happy with where I'm at, but I certainly won't stop evolving. And I have a wonderful, growing community of thoughtful shoppers to help me do it.