This combination may not seem to contradict itself, but if you listen closely, these two loves of mine could have easily turned me into a full blown hypocrite. Instead, I have let these loves merge and combine, gather and breed. I have turned my loves into a way of living that has changed my very innate beliefs and perceptions.
Around two years ago I found myself with a group of close friends, gathered around a TV screen. The tea was poured, the curtains drawn, and cheerful bantering turned to silence as we hit play on a documentary that totally and utterly changed my life. I have always been in touch with the earth. I feel as though it is my responsibility to look after it. I have grown up to love recycling, composting, and second-hand shops. Yet, until I watched The True Cost documentary, I had never fully connected the dots as to who made my clothes and what they were made of.
The True Cost explains mind boggling facts about the fashion industry’s impact on the world and offers us real life footage of behind the scenes clothes production. It is so terribly easy to look at clothes and disassociate them with people. The racks of identical dresses make us assume that they were made by machines and robots, not people. Yet, every item is touched by at least three people before it is hung up to be sold. Although these people may be the most skilled of seamstresses, they are usually paid well below the living wage, separated from their families, exposed to harmful chemicals, and put to work in unsafe factories for over 12 hours a day. These facts didn’t go over my head or were ignored because of my love for fashion. They sat with me, pestering my consumerism habits and testing my core morals and principles. This documentary still haunts me, and the facts are still there, manifesting into something that I hope will change and challenge the ideologies of others.
I am a lover of people and fashion, and I am a woman too. I feel empowered when I put on a new dress, slap on the lippy, and rock my high heels. But I am even more empowered now that I know the men and women who made my clothes are paid a living wage, work in safe environments, and use materials that will break down easily and respect the environment. I only purchase fair trade or second-hand clothes, and try my hardest to repair and reuse everything possible. I can’t remember the last time I went into a shopping mall, and if I do, I feel sick to my stomach. Ethical fashion is my new way of living, breathing, and doing.
Photos by: Bethany Corin (@bethcorin)