My sermon a few weeks ago was about how if you want to buy shoes or clothes (mostly shoes) that are made with justice to the workers, the farmers, the makers, the whole process, that it’s expensive. You can’t just walk into the Target and buy something, and expect it to be uncomplicated by thoughts of justice for the workers, if a child made your shirt, all that business. Perhaps some people can brush this off, but I am finding it increasingly difficult to manage.
And yet, I am a person who needs to look presentable; good, even, for my job. I do love clothes, and I love looking nice when the need arises (and even when I’m going out to dinner with two messy kids sometimes!). So I have been on the hunt for ways that will allow me to buy the clothing I need (and, let’s face it, that I WANT) without hurting too many things; namely people, and also the earth.
1. SECONDHAND! (yes, it’s my first choice, ha ha)
I love the Goodwill and all it represents. It’s recycling at its finest, and you get some pretty fantastic deals on some great clothes. As I sit and type this, I’m wearing both a grey blazer and some Ann Taylor black pants from Goodwill, and I have to say they look pretty great for work. Almost all of my Alfani and Ann Taylor suits are from Goodwill, and I have gotten some awesome separates there too. There are some lemons, but mostly it’s a great option, is earth friendly, does not require additional labor (except good labor which is the purpose of Goodwill!), and did I mention CHEAP?!
2. American Apparel
This is a Gap alternative with similar clothing. The clothing is made in the USA in Los Angeles, and it is fairly inexpensive for basics such as t-shirts and button-up shirts. I listed it second because that’s where I find it tough to buy garments made with justice….with t-shirts, underwear, headbands, etc. Yes, they are online, but the descriptions in sizing are very good.
This is a site I stumbled on while looking for Alabama Chanin’s lovely designer (insanely pricey) gorgeous clothing. It is mostly t-shirts with some skirts and other things made in Alabama and dyed with Alabama clay. If you are in the South, like I am, it’s nice to have a relatively local option. They are housed in a former garment factory that’s been recycled into a place where people work for a fair wage and decent hours. The prices are good, too. I have not ordered anything from them yet, but I plan to!
This is a shopping “bot” site, but with checkmarks so that you can select which things are important to you (bamboo, organic, fair-trade, etc).
These are just a few to get started that have worked for me, and are not necessarily on the beaten path. Other mentions would be Tom’s Shoes, whatever line my Whole Foods carries that sells basic organic t-shirts, and Terra Plana (again with the shoes).
I think it’s also important to talk about the money. Yes, it is cheaper to buy your clothes at a discount store, or even at the Gap. But it is not actually cheaper; we just pay people less for working in bad to terrible conditions. When other countries are involved, it IS complicated, and we don’t always understand the issues. But even on the Gap’s website, it claims that people’s “need” for low prices has “forced” them to seek out places where they can pay a lower wage. Those are in quotes because I don’t believe we really need our prices to be that low, and also, are we forcing them to do anything?
I do believe it will change, and I believe that people are working on this all over the world. But I also believe it won’t change until we vote for justice with our dollars, we refuse to buy things that do not cost their TRUE cost, and we buy things from companies who are known to act with justice to their workers, wherever they may work.
Let me know if you have any other sites to add to the list!