Since cutting meat from my diet for ethical reasons, I felt it contradictory to wear leather, make-up tested on animals and clothes made in sweatshops. But the unfortunate truth is I have found it harder to find reasonably priced, good clothes on the UK high street than giving up parma ham. In fact it’s just about impossible. The clothes from the brands we know and love; Zara, Topshop, Urban Outfitters et al, are generally manufactured in poor countries, for appalling wages, in deplorable conditions. If you only scratch the surface of the immaculately presented brands you have the mega rich and the desperately poor- the exact problem with today’s world, but I digress. The truth is, we know that this happens but we don’t think about it, and I can understand that. It’s too distressing, especially when there are very few other retailers that actually offer an ethical alternative. So we bury our heads in the sand, and buy (disposable) clothes that follow the latest trends and line the pockets of the super-rich.
I decided to confront the reality of fast fashion, and it’s sobering. As I started researching for companies which would remove the guilt from my shopping, I found a very limited list. American Apparel is the obvious one, and despite their over-sexualised adverts and provocative images, I have always stood by the brand as I really do respect them producing all their clothes in Los Angeles. But one can’t buy their clothes from one single shop for the rest of their lives. And even then, American Apparel is on the expensive side and although there are a few really nice pieces, the collection is often made up of mundane t-shirt/tank top style jersey tops in a range of 40 colours. What do you do when you want to wear something other than t-shirts?!
As I spent hours sifting through Google, convinced that there must be a carbon copy of Topshop somewhere that only sold eco-fashion, I began to get disenchanted. It seems that every promising website that popped up invariably contained knit-my-own-knickers hemp-bags-and-soap-for-all hippie-gran tragic kaftans and cardigans. Basically everything you would need if your goal in life was to look like the Mum in About A Boy. I don’t want to slag these shops (too late) because I respect and appreciate their intentions, but some of it really is like Fat Face but x10 less current and x100 less sexy. At 21, I’m not yet ready to compromise my currentness and sexiness please and thank you. I even looked at Peta’s approved list of eco-shops and some website literally only sold slogan t-shirts in black, white, or grey: http://www.blackscore.co.uk. Whilst I appreciate their cheeky Vacéline top, I was still crying out for something that could offer me the entire wardrobe I was after.
Cue Asos. Now, I didn’t think Asos and I would meet again, but I was wrong. I stumbled across the ‘Green Room’ section which included the first extensive collection that I have seen of recycled, fair-trade and vintage clothing, vegan and all natural cosmetics and jewellery. And it’s actually good:
Of course I started ordering things right away. I was surprised to see that Asos had a heart and would actually attempt to cater to a more alternative but ethical clientele (having said that, I saw recently that Inditex, Zara’s parent company, had agreed to no longer use Angora fur in their products and would donate their remaining stock which contained Angora to charity- are the high street brands waking up?) I now know where I’ll be buying my summer wardrobe, but the Green Room isn’t the be all and end all, and there’s a massive gap in the market for ethical fashion which desperately needs filled. I think that if it was easily available, people would buy it. The problem is not that we in the west are horrible, ignorant folks, but simply that we are’t given much option than buying from the sweatshop-users that dominate our shopping centres.
In the meantime, I will attempt to provide a more agreeable list of where I think people like me would like to shop: 1. American Apparel
2. Asos The Green Room
3. Novella Royale
4. VINTAGE AND CHARITY SHOPS
5. Urban Renewal section of Urban Outfitters
6. Dr Martens new Vegan range (absolutely genius and am ridiculously excited for a pair)
7. Topshop’s Made in Britain Range
… And emmm… That’s all I’ve got for now. It’s a pitiful, I know. Does anyone know some other amazing shops and are keeping it all to themselves? And does anyone know where I can get a cruelty-free mascara which is an exact replica of my (former) beloved Max Factor False Lash Effect? No? I will not give up the search. But feel free to join me.