Getting Real Vol. 1: On Ethical Shopping

When I began to write this blog some time ago, one of my intentions was to focus on ethical shopping and don’t support the terrible modern slavery in sweatshops anymore.

(Speaking of slavery, big amount of products we use and consume every day have blood stains on them actually – from bananas or shrimps and other imported food to electronic devices to jewels – our entire modern day comfort is built on blood and tears of masses of people somewhere we don’t care about. I’m not going to preach here; if nothing else, it’s a very strong reminder  for myself to be much more grateful for what I have and take for granted because it’s anything but not a matter of course.)

I was determined to buy less from fast fashion chains and save money to support the local business. The city I live in has its own rich history in textile industry that ended years after the Velvet Revolution, probably with cheap clothes from Asia entering the market. To see Vlnena, an old wool factory being brought down lately by a new owner who wants to build an office complex there instead, hit my nostalgic feelings even more. Supporting local tailors, seamstresses, designer or shoemakers seemed to carry only advantages then.

However, as I slowly transitioned into adulthood, wearing the same clothes like I did in my high school years felt really weird. I wanted to go out, to find a good job and to be taken more serious which wasn’t easy with a wardrobe that screamed things like “I’m freaking out from my secret crush who had accidentally smiled at me” instead of “I’m a responsible, grown up individual who gets her sh** done”. I examined my clothes and donated or sold everything that didn’t fit my current situation, decluttering enthusiast at her best.

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Audrey Tautou in Coco before Chanel – a movie I’ll definitely talk about later.

But getting suddenly rid of half of my wardrobe with no plan wasn’t really… thoughtful. It just created a huge void in my wardrobe, resulting in need to buy new clothes quickly as there were places to go and work to be done. Because I swore to support local clothing business, I got stuck between my principles and the need to look representative sooner than, well, in a year or even more, until I save up enough to buy everything I needed. A handmade t-shirt would cost a week worth of groceries; a tote to carry all my stuff to work would meant I can say goodbye to going out for an entire month. I needed them now but didn’t want to eat rice all month long.

So after some thinking, I went to the streets, browsed the shops and bought everything I needed.

We are already privileged to shop in the fast fashion chains but to shop ethically made clothing is an even higher privilege; a privilege that means you’re educated enough and have time and financial resources to do something like that. Or you have different priorities. Whatever it’s like (and I’m not judging anyone), I found out that it’s not my case. I don’t want to give up on delicious food, meetings with friends, books or summer vacation for clothes. I want to look nice and to buy responsibly, but not at all costs. A good alternative would be to buy things second hand which I do a lot; at least a third of my wardrobe consists of items that belonged to other people before. But there’s also this thing: From time to time, I like to buy something new, something that is only mine. To reward myself with a beautiful garment that would make me feel special, not like someone who inherits all her clothes from her older siblings.

So despite that feeling of guilt still stucked somewhere back in my mind when I enter the fast fashion store that is now more like a reminder to be really conscious in my choices, I don’t sweat it so much. It comes in hand with a bigger confidence; during the course of time I learned a lot – about my long time preferences, likes, strengths and weaknesses in shopping. I trust myself more when it comes to responsible choices. And that helps. More than beating yourself about buying this or that unnecessary thing for umpteenth time.

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4 thoughts on “Getting Real Vol. 1: On Ethical Shopping

  1. I wonder why we as women carry so much guilt around with us? But that is another story.

    Great essay, and I would never have guessed that English is a 2nd language for you. You write better than many native speakers in the US, trust me!

    Like

    1. Guilt: That’s an interesting question. Right now I’m reading Ways of Seeing by John Berger, an art critic who unfortunately passed away few weeks ago. One of the essays in the book focuses on the topic of portrayal of women in art. I think it could partly give you an answer.

      I always wonder whether my writing is intelligible enough, so thank you very much for your nice feedback!

      Like

  2. Stories of two people I would like to share.

    1. My friend Maanasa.
    One fine day, she gave up on all the fast fashion stores we used to frequent together.

    And then she started having money to shop for organic food and pay for ashtanga yoga classes.

    We both were making the same money. I would wonder how she did it.

    Answer : she has 20 items in her closet and that was it. She bought some sturdy clothes, used up what ever she had and resisted HARD !

    I had my ahaan moment a year later when I realized it.

    2. Ariana.

    She made a post on multiple uses of olive oil soap. She was using it for her skin, to do her dishes, to wash her floors, to do laundry, … and what ever else required cleaning.

    I went to my local health food store to pick up a bar for myself. To realize it was actually very expensive to do all that with it.

    How could she ?

    I then realize that by going minimalist, she could allocate the resources wisely.

    My conclusion : the quality of their lives went up somehow by resisting the numbers and cheaply made items. Hence I was convinced. If my quality of life went down, I would have been in a different boat about it all.

    Very well written post !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!
      To resist things that are so easily accessible takes a strong willpower that has to be practiced over and over again. I admire both women you mention. It’s nice to know such inspirative people.
      To using up what we already have – when I stayed at my parent’s house lately I went through my old wardrobe and was surprised to find things I had bought many years ago that are still beautiful and worth wearing. My body has slightly changed since high school which means that some of the pieces need a little bit of adjustment but I’m excited to do it as I used to sew a lot in my teenage years. There is definitely something on the idea of putting seldom worn clothes aside for a while!

      Like

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