The Vagaggle: Walking The Ethical Tightrope: Part One
Over the span of my next few columns I’m talking about ethical buying*. As self-absorbed as I am, the planet and the people inhabiting it is something I actually care quite a lot about (that’s right everyone, you heard it here first: I care about stuff). I’m going to be covering how I began to shop ethically, the mistakes I’ve made (which there have been a fair few and there will be more), other people’s reactions to it and also exploring how ethical buying intersects with privilege, being plus size and feminism.
How did this all come about I hear you asking? Well, I’ll tell you. It all started one wet and rainy day in that weird period between Christmas and New Year. As I stared vacantly at my Macbook screen watching every Netflix documentary I could get my hands on, I happened to click on ‘The True Cost’. I was ready for my eyes to glaze over as the fashion industry had never really been that big of an interest to me, but instead I found myself horrified at the fast fashion industry. In particular the awful working conditions that people are forced to endure to make the clothes which at the time I was wearing as if they were disposable. Not only was I disgusted with the companies who perpetuate this cycle, I was disgusted with myself, because let’s be honest, if my t-shirt costs £4 then in the back of my mind I knew that it hadn’t been made without someone losing out somewhere along the line, and there was no way it was those big companies.
Now I have always been of the mindset that New Year’s Resolutions are utter bullshit. Typically they are steeped in diet culture and are self-serving (please note I only have a problem with the former, I am all about self-serving). Every year I try to abstain, but every year when at our family dinner my mum asks me what mine is I end up spewing shit like ‘try and eat less custard creams and go for a run every week’ knowing that neither of those things will happen because a) I turn into a hoover around custard creams, and b) I hate running so much that I drive everywhere just on the off chance I would have to run to catch the bus. However 2017 has been different. I set myself the goal of trying to go as long as possible without buying clothes from fast fashion outlets.
As most of my fat babes here will know, shopping on the high street when you are plus size is often very restricted, and that’s from my perspective of someone who is bordering the straight/plus sizes; I am very lucky to occasionally be able to fit into UK size 16’s and if in doubt I usually head to New Look who stock up to a UK size 18 in most of their clothes. I’m sure it might be a different story if you live in a bigger city, but unfortunately I live in a village and really if I want to go shopping then I have to travel to the next big town where there are still very limited choices.
Like most people I was a constant browser of online shops with a few purchases here and there, and if I found myself in town I would often head into the shops to purchase a few bits just to make the trip worthwhile. So my first step was to just stop shopping! I unsubscribed from all of those clothing emails you get sent through which lead you to online shops, and avoided physical clothing shops like the plague. Cutting out clothes shopping was the best approach for me, and actually I realised that I have quite a lot of clothes, in fact more than enough, and so many of them were laying dormant in my floordrobe.
Shockingly my world didn’t implode and the earth continued to spin, nobody commented that I was wearing the same clothes over and over again, and in fact I started to enjoy getting inventive with my wardrobe. So much so that I began to think that this ethical buying was a breeze, in my smugness I hadn't realised that I hadn’t actually bought anything ethically yet, I was simply abstaining from buying altogether. So join me next time when I make a shit tonne of mistakes trying to actually shop ethically.
*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.