"Ethical fashion" is a phrase that has been growing in popularity and ubiquity over the last few years. However, there is a great deal of misunderstanding about ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry. In order to stop you from feeling guilty, and to keep you spending money, lots of big brands and retailers have developed schemes and invented certifications that imply you are saving the world by purchasing their products. Unfortunately, it's not that simple.
Nobody wants to buy clothes made in a sweat shop. But if we boycott every manufacturer that is accused of using underpaid or slave labour, thousands of people who were earning something will then be earning nothing. But say your clothes were made in a modern, safe factory by people paid a fair wage. That's great, but chances are the cotton they are using was picked by a slave, or grown using harmful chemicals. And what about the dyes used on the fabric? And all the air miles amassed as each component is sent around the world and the finished garment is flown to the UK?
It's too easy to look for a seal of approval and assume that no person or natural environment has been adversely affected by what you're about to buy. However, it's almost impossible to justify the production or consumption of any new clothing, when millions of tons of garments are sent to landfill every year because they are no longer wanted, or because they were made so poorly in order to satisfy consumer demand for cheapness that they fell apart after a few washes.
When you really start to look at the 'ethics' of the clothing industry, it's easy to get disheartened, or even to switch off completely. But that's no good to anyone, including yourself as you would be in danger of developing a habit of mindless consumption. Instead, we think it's important to be conscious and curious about what you're buying.
At PROVIDE, we try to only work with brands who are happy talking to us about their manufacturing processes. Accountability is great, but we also love the fact that the people behind these brands are passionately involved with all aspects of their production, and we believe it adds a value to the clothes that you just don't get when you buy from a major brand. If you visit us in store, we will take pleasure in telling you all about the brands we sell, where each product is made and the people behind the designs.
We'd encourage you to look deeper into the story that is being told by any piece of clothing you're thinking about buying. At PROVIDE, not everything we sell is organic, and although the last thing we'd want is for anyone involved in production of goods we sell to be undervalued for their work, unfortunately there may be occasions where we later find out something has gone wrong along the supply chain. But, we will always be honest, and will always look to make our shop a better citizen of the world with each decision we make. If other shops can't promise the same, we'd challenge you to ask them, "why?"