An update to humanitarian fashion

Thrift Eye

So I wanted to do a big follow up to my post on thinking about fashion in a humanitarian and responsible way. Julie’s post at We So Thrifty put it into a bigger perspective, I highly recommend you read it. She makes a fantastic point that the fashion blogging community is hesitant to speak out about the subject, because a solution to the problem is to stop shopping – but if you’re a blog that tries to make money from links, partnerships, or things you sell, then you’re cutting into your own profits. It’s a super fine line to walk.

When I wrote my post originally, it came across as “don’t shop here, shop here instead.” Which is great, but a wonderful comment from Mai also gave another angle – the point being that yes thrift shopping is cheaper, but it STILL means shopping sensibly and responsibly. Binge shopping in thrift stores contributes to the waste and consumerism just as much as cheap binge shopping at Wally World, Forever 21, Target, H&m, et al. Shopping irresponsibly is still considered irresponsible no matter what store you’re in. Before you buy at a thrift store (or anywhere really), ask yourself where was this made? Does it fit me? Do I have something just like it at home already? Do I really love it? The point here is to begin seeing your wardrobe as quality over quantity.

For me, as a blogger and just a regular person, how this has manifested since I wrote the blog post over a month ago – I have thrifted once, and I ended up buying a pair of these Marc Jacobs heels for $8 (in above picture). They are of a great quality and of a color I don’t own. But was I tempted to get other things? Yes. Did I? No. I’m not quite sure how to handle the shoe situation, since finding shoes made in USA are harder at the moment. But thrifting is the biggest basket of shopping you can get – from high to low, you get the choice to choose what you want to buy.

I’m choosing to try my hardest to thrift made in USA clothing right now, not just for new clothes. It’s really hard, and I will feel better if I can keep that up, even if it means buying less! I spent January through May of last year without buying a single article of clothing and was still able to live and still able to blog 🙂 I think a lot of bloggers are fearful to try this or admit it because they want to give the impression that they’re shopping a lot and can stay on top of trends. When in reality, many bloggers are getting things for free (whether they admit it or not is a whole other subject), but it incorrectly projects more bad shopping/consumerist examples to other bloggers and to readers.

I’ve found a few charities that promote workers rights and sweatshop rights across the world – helping those stuck in those working conditions and connecting them to more sustainable jobs is a step in the right direction towards getting garment factory workers the rights to better wages and work in better conditions (if you wouldn’t work in those conditions, why is it okay for someone else to?)

So a big part of my other post was listing brands that are made in the USA – personally, I wasn’t aware that many of these brands made an effort to keep their business in the USA. But equally surprised about many brands that don’t keep their business in the US! Please check out the previous post again to see the brands I listed already, here are a few more! But also be proactive and check the tags of your clothing!

I foremost must clarify that in the previous post I listed JBrand as made in the USA, but it has now come to my attention that this only applies to the denim line. Their non denim clothing is made in China. And this frequently happens with more and more brands, as to which you pretty much always have to check the tag yourself to see where it was made. So here are some more Made in the USA brands, if you have any other suggestions or even corrections, please let me know.

Edit: as of January 2013, I’ve gathered up all the Made in USA brands together at this page.

Black Halo
Clover Canyon
Cynthia Rowley – although I’m not 100% sure if it’s the whole brand, can anyone provide insight?
Enza Costa
Doo Ri
Genetic Denim – seems to only apply to denim
Goldsign – again, only seems to apply to denim
Haute Hippie
Jen Kao
Lela Rose
Nation LTD
Norma Kamali – mainline only, check tag
Paige denim
Rich and skinny
Rory Beca

Prices typically do end up higher, but you generally get that back in quality. Think of your clothing as an investment – I can buy something cheap and trendy from Forever 21 that falls apart quickly, or I can choose to buy something that spans trends, fits my personal style, and will last me years from another brand. Start out small, and eventually work this whole mantra into your wardrobe.

Now that more light has been given to the subject, are you starting to feel different about how you shop for clothes? I’m finally beginning to read Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline, I’m only one chapter in but can see that even she came to terms with her wasteful fashion consumption, so everyone can! I love that her website has a section called “Ten Simple Tips For a More Ethical & Sustainable Wardrobe” it’s many of the same tips I have provided here, but she has more useful information throughout the website!

tl;dr – shop less, but if you do shop, thrift, get vintage and/or buy made in the USA!

  • james

    I blame politics, from high corporate tax rates to strict US laws (and of course, greed). This is what drives most companies to outsource to other countries (3rd world countries) because their tax rates are significantly lower than the US. And of course, these multi-million dollar companies are paying their employees next to nothing compared to the, at least in California, $8/hour. Would lowering tax rates give companies an incentive to move their stations to the US? Maybe, maybe not. We have real and strict laws put in place aka make sure your infrastructure isn’t made out of Playdough. Laws and “too many rules” are just excuses to cover up the greed in my very amateur opinion.

    I never gave any thought to thrifting Made in USA products only. I honestly think it would be extremely hard to succeed at this, but I will give it a go and let you know how this goes.

    I have not bought anything for the past….. gawd knows how long. I’m a full time student aka poor. I remember your question was picked for the panel of fashion bloggers at the Bloglovin convention or something a year or two ago.. I believe it was something along the lines of, “Do you feel pressured to keep shopping?” I remember thinking to myself that they probably, probably, get their stuff for free anyway so no they don’t feel pressured to keep shopping. But you’re right and I agree with you.. “a lot of bloggers are fearful to try this or admit it because they want to give the impression that they’re shopping a lot and can stay on top of trends… it incorrectly projects more bad shopping/consumerist examples to other bloggers and to readers”

    I can talk forever about these issues. I think we need to talk about it over coffee, LOL. Anyway, such a good read. BRAVO!!

    love, james

    • Eli

      They’re definitely cutting costs by extremely low wages! It’s kind of sad. Thrifting, buying vintage, and making your own clothes is the best thing you can do. You do all three!! But some people only buy Forever 21! I think that book I was telling you about had a statistic that Walmart is the number one fashion retailer in the US!

  • I don’t have the same commitment to garments made in the US (though I admire your resolve and your reasons) but I’m committed to quality and long-term use with nearly every piece of clothing I buy. And one thing I really like about shopping secondhand is that it is extra easy to tell what has longevity. If an AA shirt is still alive and kicking after some girl wore it at camp all summer (I know because her name tag is ironed in beneath the label), I can be sure it’s going to survive my lifestyle, too.

    I don’t think I’m going to stop buying non-US brands whose craftsmanship I respect (if I’m looking for a sari the best one I can afford may not be made in the US, for example) but I do like the result that many of us consider our purchases more carefully and try to waste less.

    • Eli

      It’s definitely a lofty goal I’ve set for myself, but if it means no more shopping, then I’m actually fine with that too! I just don’t believe you can trust anything made overseas anymore (or even in the US!) exploitation of garment sewers is rampant. Maybe I’ll just stick to vintage!

  • Dulcie

    I am not sure how binge shopping in a thrift store can be considered as contributing to the waste and consumerism in the same way as binge shopping for recently manufactured new clothes. When you shop for something that has already been made and used and you then give it a new lease of life or sell on or donate back or whatever you are still recycling! Surely it reduces demand for the new stuff if anything? And it often was sourced locally so prevents extra transportation emissions. Either way, I do agree with your points about shopping carefully and ethically. 🙂

    • Eli

      Hi Dulcie! I think shopping irresponsibly (hauling or hoarding) even at a thrift store can be bad. I know lots of bloggers and people who would thrift shop by cartfuls, then eventually not wear any of it, donate it back, or throw it away. It’s different of course if you’re buying stuff you need. But the amount of conspicuous shopping I see in the blogosphere is kind of sad. Just cause something is cheap doesn’t mean you have to buy it, no matter what store. You may want to read this, I heard it on the radio the other day about what thrift stores really do with their donations

  • Kristian Satterlee

    Hmm. This is really interesting. The questions you say to ask yourself in shopping are definitely ones I ask about any item (along with making sure it can be used with all the rest of my wardrobe and not just one or two items). Definitely great advise.

    I am trying to commit to not shopping at fast fashion stores more and wait to spend my money on items that, even if more pricey, are of better quality and will be in my closet for years to come. I don’t mind so much about things being made specifically in the US, but buying things made in countries that provide for better safety, worker rights and quality is something I want to try more specifically pursuing (Ie I don’t mind if it is made in Britain or something, though I suppose the transport might add to the carb emissions etc.)

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