Sustainable Clothing Shopping Woes
A while back I went looking for a t-shirt online. I was looking for something quite specific as usual. It had to fit three criteria: eco-friendly message printed on the front, sustainable fabric, and close fitting design. I could find nothing that met my demands. Oh, there are a lot of shirts out on the market that fit 1 or 2 of my criteria but not all three. So in typical fashion, I decided to design my own. Thus I started on a journey of education into the print-on-demand industry that developed into not one but many t-shirt designs and my own online shop. I certainly didn’t plan on starting my own line of shirts but considering my love of clothes, my new found passion for the environment and just how crazy picky I am, it kinda makes sense.
Being an environmentalist and having a clothes shop is a difficult ethical combination. I want people to buy less, not encourage them to buy more. I firmly believe, as I stated in this post, that the clothing industry is killing the planet. Everything about it pollutes the earth in some way. But we all need clothes. So in order to protect ourselves from the elements, I believe we need to take into consideration the following criteria when looking for clothing essentials.
The fabric must be recycled, reused, or made from ingredients like hemp or organic cotton that don’t require as many chemicals or water to produce.
The process of making the clothes must be done in a way that respects and protects the workers with fair wages and proper working conditions.
And then I would add, preferably,
Made close to where you live to not only support the economy but also to reduce the amount of travelling in gas guzzling vehicles the item must make to come to your door.
Unless you live in an incredibly forward thinking large city centre, meeting all of these requirements is very difficult. I have found that most new designers of sustainable fashion only have stores online because adding the cost of a brick and mortar store to the already higher cost of production would price their clothes right out of the market. Shopping for clothes by a picture on a website is a crap shoot at best, a logistical nightmare at worst. Take my recent foray into online shopping.
I found, through a promoted add on Facebook, this interesting company called Paskho. They produce mostly travel pants, a few tops and a couple hoodies.
I love their overall philospophy
The sustainable philosophy of Pashko is as unique as their brand. One percent of some sales is given to support environmental organizations around the world and they have given $130 million so far.
Their merchandise is made from reclaimed ends of fabric. Meaning, after the big manufactures produce their clothing lines, they often have pieces, sometimes whole rolls of fabric left over. A lot of it ends up in the trash. Paskho is saving that waste. The fabric is brand new but there often isn’t a lot of it, or it is only available in one colour. The fabric is not always biodegradable nor was it necessarily produced in an eco-friendly way, but by keeping it out of the landfill, Paskho is helping the environment. Nothing is quite black and white in this industry.
Finally, their clothes are manufactured by KTC (Knowledge Technology Craft), a 40 year old company committed to making clothes that
are produced under safe, fair, legal and humane working conditions.
To see a company dedicated to sustainable design and making changes to the fashion industry is fabulous and I applaud them. However, the online process and location got in the way of making this the start of a beautiful relationship.
Since I have been looking for a particular type of travel pants, I spent a lot of time on their website. I love the way they organized their designs by the type of traveller – from adventurer to entrepreneur. The style is pretty dynamic and they had a deal. Order 3 items online and you don’t “pay” anything until after they arrive and you have tried on the items. You then tell their staff what you are keeping and you send back the rest for free. You will only be charged what you keep. Sounded like a great idea. No financial commitment upfront for something that might not work. But I made a huge faux pas. I didn’t read the fine print. They are located in the States and I am in Canada. The free return shipping only applies to American Residents. All in after customs and shipping both ways, I ended up paying WAY more than I wanted to. Plus, I caused packages to be shipped not once but twice. Now I do like the cotton hoodie I kept, but my lesson was learned the hard way.
In my ideal world there would be a store close to where I live that showcases many local designers of sustainable fashion. But even though there is a growing community of eco-friendly designers in Ontario, shopping is not a “go to the mall” on Saturday morning sort of thing. You have to do your research, find the special event, or shop online. And of course, the variety of sustainable fashions at this time is much more limited than the clothes you see in the fast fashion stores everywhere.
So in a way the industry is encouraging you to buy less. Fewer options and better individual quality of eco-friendly clothes ends up meaning I don’t want to and don’t have to shop very often. However, for this industry to change, for people to start choosing slow fashion items, the process of shopping has to get easier. I am dedicated to shopping differently because I believe in the cause but the average person does not have the time or energy to go through all this. It is nice to see some of the big companies like H & M and even The Gap start to change the nature of their products and how they run their companies but the rate of change is minuscule and the planet doesn’t have the time to wait. More fast fashion companies have to change their ways, and more people have to support small, local businesses.
For now I am on a mission to find those local, sustainable and ethical designers. I encourage you to do the same where you are. No guarantee they will have what I like to wear but at least I will help get their name out there for others.