This month we are talking about Making Purchases That Make a Difference – changing our minds from following the trends and buying more, to investing in items that have been produced slowly, by people whose lives are being changed by the skills , experience, and opportunities they have gained.
Today, we are talking about The Why.
Have you ever had a shirt hem unravel after only one or two washes? Have you seen a hem unhitch or a hole appear for no apparent reason? What about fading material after the first wash?
With a family of 4 growing kids and living in a country with 3 VERY different seasons, when I purchase clothing, I try to be as fiscally responsible as possible, planning ahead for their stages of growth and in expectation for warm, hot and very cold weather.
So when I find our clothing literally unraveling at the seams before it’s been outgrown, it’s very frustrating! I’m expecting each of our kids to wear them until they’re too small and hopefully pass them on to the next brother or sister, but that’s becoming less and less the case.
What’s the problem? Quality of material and workmanship. I sew, a little, and I’ve sewn some dresses, skirts, hems and buttons and you better believe, when you use the right thread and stitch, that stuff isn’t coming undone. You can feel the quality difference in the fabrics you purchase from a fabric store vs. what you may buy from clothing stores.
It’s cheap. And people buy it because the price is low, the sales are good, and the fashions are constantly changing, so we obviously cannot afford to purchase a new, expensive wardrobe every season (as the fashion magazines and pinterest seem to be telling us we need to).
I have watched the quality of a specific line of clothing go from decent to crummy in a matter of a couple years – all because of a switch in fabrics and where / how they are produced. And it’s really sad. Not only for the clothing I have to throw out or mend, but for how the manufacturers seem to have us all over a barrel.
It’s frustrating, and it’s enough. It’s time to change our minds about the way we see fashion. Not just for the sake of quality and making things last, but because we can have an impact on others.
1. Quality, not quantity.
Are you tired of throwing your money in the trash? I know I am! I’ve have had to watch far too many items go out our door because they’re not outgrown, but worn out.
When you focus on the quality of your clothing instead of the sheer quantity, you not only lose the stress of making your clothes work for you, but you don’t have to worry about replacing them as often. Hayley tells you how to focus on quality items that will cross over the ever-changing trends, and how to put together multiple different outfits from a few different pieces. Why is this important? Because it allows us to be concerned with the quality of our items that we are purchasing, and not buying that next cute, on-trend (but really cheap and will probably stretch out after a wash or two) shirt.
2. We plain and simply have too much stuff.
Jen Hatmaker opens up about clearing out the excess in her life in her book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. It’s revolutionary, and flies in the face of what the world sells to us day in and day out. You need more stuff! Someone else has that cool belt, you need it too! The message goes to our kids, too, as they can buy into the consumerist mind-set from an early age – but only if we allow them to.
We need to re-train ourselves to think in terms of less is more. We don’t need 5 of the same color shirt (and no, I don’t care if they’re different shades! I’m speaking to myself here :D), or 17 pairs of jeans. We don’t need a purse for every outfit, and no, not even a scarf.
It’s time to rebel against what the world wants us to believe – we don’t need more, we need less. More stuff crowds our lives and minds and steals our joy as we struggle to manage it. So let’s change our minds about how much clothing we think we need.
3. Donating Isn’t What You Think It Is
There’s a case to be made for passing clothing items that you don’t need anymore on to friends and family or others in need. But when things are worn and torn, even just a little, and we donate them, they don’t actually go where we think they’re going. They either end up in a landfill, or overseas.
Many of us (and I am guilty of this as well!) use Goodwill or Salvation Army as our dumping ground – a way to get rid of stuff without having to feel bad for parting with it or even at the state it is in because hey, it’s someone else’s job to decide what to do with it now. About 10% of clothing items donated are worth keeping in the store to sell.
So what happens to the other 90%? It’s shipped to a recycling plant, sorted by “grade”, a quick decision made on the price, and bundled together in 100 pound bales. It’s then sold to sellers at a profit (and the same cost of feeding a family of 5 in Cameroon) and the clothes make their way to Ghana, Cameroon, Angola, Rwanda, and other countries. The quality of clothing in these bales is only as good as the recycling plant’s sorting method, so it’s highly likely a lot is lost.
But the fact that our “free” second hand clothing is getting pawned off to these countries at a profit isn’t the only problem.
“The global trade of second-hand clothing is a multi-billion dollar industry for developed countries. With our clothing waste being sent overseas by the tons, there’s little chance of African countries, as a whole, developing their own textile trade. In the last 10 years, local industries, such as garment-making and tailoring, have collapsed, leaving hundreds of thousands of workers unemployed.
Simply put, as long as we, the consumer, continue to buy and discard at our current rate, there will be a market for our wasted fashion. And we will likely continue to believe that once it’s out of our closet it’s out of our hands.” ~ Shannon Whitehead ‘What Really Happens To Your Donated Clothing’
This is deeply unsettling and saddening to me. Donating clothes isn’t in and of itself a problem. It’s a good thing that can benefit others, and we should continue to do it. But the problem lies in a reason why too many of us donate “stuff” – excess. Or at least, that’s the issue in my case. We have just too much stuff, too many clothes, so we shove it out the door and don’t have to worry about them anymore. If we can nip the problem in the bud (our purchasing too much to begin with), we have already made some progress.
4. Slow Fashion = Lives Changed
This is the part that I’m really passionate about. The part where the reasons for changing our minds become more than just about keeping clothes out of the landfill, or being fiscally and socially responsible.
It’s the part where we see lives changed because of the decisions we make in our purchases. The part where we see immigrant women in Detroit who would otherwise be unable to get a job provided with skills and opportunity to learn. We can support a home for pregnant teens and single mothers in Kenya; provide a way for women freed from the sex trade to have a new start in life; give artisans and individuals the confidence in their skills and talents to produce products and teach them to run a business in their own community.
For me, that right there is The Why. Because it matters.
Thank you for joining us on this journey to changing lives by changing the way we shop.