The other day, some of my friends invited me on a shopping trip to a typical suburban mall. Having recently decided to turn all my fashion purchases into Conscious Fashion purchases, I didn’t have high hopes for this trip. In fact, I didn’t end up buying anything beyond a couple hair scruchies for overnight wear.
The State of the Suburban Mall
And looking at the racks and racks of clothes made of cheap fabric, I didn’t feel as if I was missing out on anything. I spend a lot of time in the stores inspecting clothing tags: and I noticed some trends. Whether we were in a women’s clothing store aim at the 14-25 crowd or the 35-55 crowd, the clothes were made in either Bangledesh, Viet Nam, or China. Some items were much more expensive, some were cheaper. But the “made ins…” never changed.
This fact is important because of the weak labour laws of these countries. Child and slave-labour abounds, and further regulation only means that bribes to officials to look the other way get bigger. But all of this, although eye-opening, only meant that I was scared off of buying the product in these stores. And I’m okay with that: I’ve made my commitment. But then we went to H&M.
I’ll admit it, I’ve had a long-running love affair with H&M. It’s difficult, as the average consumer, to not love H&M. Who wouldn’t love being able to keep up with the latest trends at $12.95 a pop?
And in recent years, H&M has introduced a Conscious Collection. They release a yearly sustainability report. That must mean they’re okay, right? And even if they aren’t yet…they’ll meet their goals eventually, won’t they? If I just stick to buying the Conscious Collection items, my dollars will make a difference, won’t they?
Looking at their Conscious marketing video makes you feel all fuzzy inside, right?
But did you notice some of the language? There are quite a lot of use of the word, “more.” Switching from fast fashion to #ConsciousFashion goes against that concept of “more”. And I’m not the only one who’s noticed that being the largest user of organic cotton in the world isn’t exactly a good thing.
While I was in the store, I could only find one or two items that were marked as being part of the Conscious Collection. A pair of pants with a damask print caught my eye. But there was very little information on the tag, which was instead designed with marketing in mind. What does it mean, that these pants are part of that collection? Are they made of organic cotton? Were they made with fair labour? There’s no way of knowing, beyond the tag that sewn inside the pants.
None of this is helping me build any confidence that H&M’s Conscious Collection is anything other than greenwashing. Especially since this year (2016), they’ve introduced ‘world recycling week’ that directly conflicts with (and tries to outshine) Fashion Revolution Week.
However, I’ve also recently discovered Zady. A clothing store that exists entirely online, Zady doesn’t mince words over the high environmental and social impact of the fashion industry. Their tag line is “a lifestyle destination for conscious consumers” and they mean it.
In just three days from now, they are releasing a new t-shirt (that you can order now) that has been produced, from farm the cotton to dyeing the fabric, entirely in the United States.
It’s also a $36.00 t-shirt.
That number is neither as low as what you’d necessarily find at H&M, nor nearly as expensive as a designer t-shirt. And that is a good thing. Because products made through fair labour using carcinogen-free dyes and organic cotton are always going to cost more. Perhaps that means that you and I need to consume fewer, higher-quality t-shirts. Or maybe it means that if we can’t afford clothes that are made with through fair labour with non-toxic materials, something in this capitalist system is broken.
Zady offers minimalist, on-trend basics for women and men, as well as home decor, gifts, and a limited kids’ clothing collection. You can also find some beautiful jewellery and fun accessories on the site. They don’t carry as many items as H&M, and their clothes don’t turnover every week.
And that’s their strength. They offer quality, not quantity.
What are your fave conscious fashion brands? Let me know in the comments!