Welcome back to Walking the Ethical Tightrope, a series I’m doing all about how I’m trying to shop more ethically, because - as most people were shocked to find out - I care about things, more specifically the planet and those inhabiting it. So last time I covered how I began to shop ethically and now we move onto the mistakes I’ve made. I’ll also be covering other people’s reactions to my mission and also exploring how ethical buying intersects with privilege, being plus-size, and feminism. But without further ado, let’s get into the mistakes because there are a fair few to get through…
1. Thinking ethical buying would be easy.
So you watch one documentary and you think you will transcend your earthly vessel and move onto a higher level of being. I mean, how hard can it be? Loads of people shop ethically; they all look so effortlessly chic, and are always tagging ethical brands in their Instagram photos. Unfortunately in my lucid state of perceived holiness, I forgot to really look at the photos, because if I had I would’ve spotted the two common factors: all of these women were slim (or at least fitted into straight sizes), and all of these women appeared to be quite financially endowed. I am neither. And there lay my first hurdle, a lot of the affordable ethically sourced and made clothes I found weren’t available in my size, and a lot of the plus-size ethical clothing was not affordable. Oh shit, I thought, but I was not to be put off that easily. So to Google I headed…
2. Not doing my research.
A simple Google search will have all of the answers right? Wrong. The first time I Googled ‘ethical plus-size brands’ next to nothing came up (there are a few more results now but they’re mostly about the lack of the aforementioned). I could’ve dug deeper, but I’d had a tipple with dinner and all I wanted to do was nap. So I napped and resolved to come back to the issue. This time I headed to Pinterest. Having sifted through lots of wordy articles, and not really taking anything in, I came across a flowchart with the suggestion of buying second-hand. Perfect. I may not be able to afford vintage clothing prices, but I can certainly afford charity shop prices. Wham bam the job was done and I closed my laptop! I 100% endorse charity shopping and my little town is abundant with them, but in hindsight this was only a short term solution.
3. Not doing my research… again.
As I said, only shopping in charity shops was not a solution that fitted all problems. Soon a time came when I had an event to attend and very little time to find a dress. Most plus-size ladies will agree that charity shopping is a perfectly viable option if you have plenty of time to do it. Back on to Google it was, ‘ethical high street stores’ this time. The results weren’t promising, but it did rate H&M quite high, so to my nearest H&M I go to browse their plus-size section (which has recently been reduced to one single rail in the whole shop, so by the way: Fuck you H&M). Just for the record, if a high street shop is selling ‘ethical’ garments at a price that seems too good to be true, then most likely it’s because it isn’t true. Whilst H&M are one of the leaders for change they still have a fair way to go and even of January 2017 there are reports that workers in their supply factories still not earn a living wage and as a consequence have had to pull their children out of school.
I’ve had to take a step back, and really stop being so damn lazy; companies nowadays are sneaky, and it takes some serious reading to actually get to the bottom of what’s going on in supply chains.
4. Giving in to temptation.
So the next two mistakes are fairly recent. I gave into temptation when the seasons changed. As I’ve already mentioned, I am not rich. Like most people, I live with very little disposable income, which when you’re getting into summer, well, it’s a bit of a sweaty bummer. Actually that’s an excuse. Scratch that. I gave into temptation because I was fed up. I was fed up of the effort I had to put in, I was fed up of wearing the same tired clothes, I was fed up of watching my friend’s shop and I was fed up of not being able to splash out and come home with a big bulk of clothes. So I caved and bought a few new bits from Primark, and then I bought some stuff from Topman (yes I said Topman, because Topshop doesn’t stock my size. By the way: Fuck you Topshop) and then from ASOS. And before I knew it POW! I was back to my old unsustainable spending habits, carving my name right back into the fast fashion wheel. I was still hitting up the charity shops, but I was definitely topping up with some unethical choices, and feeling pretty shitty all the time I was doing it, which led me on to my last and biggest mistake.
5. Contemplating giving up.
So after several failures I was ready to give up. As I’ve reiterated a few times, I am lazy, and the task I have undertaken is not an easy one. Especially not for someone who is plus-size and on a limited income. Every time I’ve tried to quit something I end up quitting trying to quit; I failed at quitting smoking and I failed at quitting biting my nails, so why is quitting fast fashion any different? Just give up, it’s not like you’re making any difference anyway. But the thing that’s keeping me going, no matter how many mistakes I make, is the fact actually this affects more than just me. Our world is dying from this industry, and people are dying from this industry. Children are losing out on education, and they’re losing out on their childhoods.
I know it all sounds overdramatic, but that’s what I am. It’s okay to make mistakes, and to slip up, but get back on the horse and shout, NOT TODAY, SATAN! Not today.
*Disclaimer: For the record, in no way do I judge anyone who doesn’t shop ethically, this is a personal choice that I am able to subscribe to because of the privileges in my life, and I fully understand that not everyone has the luxury to join me.