Q. Do you think about the ethical aspects of the production of a garment when you’re shopping?
“I haven’t fully got into that realm yet if I’m being honest. I don't buy clothes that often and it’s more spontaneous when I do find something I like. So I don’t think about the whole process from where the cotton is produced, to the dying and who has made it. Even though I’m aware of it and do buy and support good practices. I can't say every item of clothing I own is based purely on ethical production.”
If ethical and sustainable fashion sat on a comparable Maslow’s Hierarchy of Fashion Needs it would likely sit at the very top, for most consumers. While it is ideal, the actuality is that we are all subject to the demands of our daily lives – Our jobs, how much money we have, what bills we need to pay, what we can afford, what emotional state we are in, etc. While we would all love to shop more ethically, we as the consumer are not the singularity of the moment in time when we are making a purchase, we are so much more and we make purchasing justifications based on a hierarchy of variables and personal needs.
Q. Would more information about supply chains influence your purchasing decisions?
“Yes of course, I think anyone would be more conscious of purchases if the information was given to us as we bought something but that’s not happening. And we don't always think that way in that moment of purchasing. It’s like eating a hamburger, every time you eat a hamburger you don’t think about the bun and where that has come from, the lettuce, the tomatoes, the sauce, how that’s produced. Who made this burger? Were they happy? No. We should do that. But we just eat the burger. Sometimes we might want to know more but sometimes we just eat the burger. Full information isn't always provided to us because it’s not good for business. Many people are becoming more aware of the supply chains and taking action from it which is awesome. But for many it’s not ingrained in our thinking when consuming.”
Despite an increase in information on unethical and unsustainable supply chains, how employees are paid less than liveable wages, the unsafe state of clothing factories, how the global fashion industries produce so much excess fashion waste, and how cotton purchases can be directly linked to the funding of terrorist activities (to name a few aspects), our own personal purchasing justifications supersede all of this. Conscious considerations are outweighed by our conscience and our own personal circumstances.
“I'm a conscious person as much as I can be. I support local businesses, go to the farmers’ market, try to eat ethically, try not to waste too much, recycle, and I try get people into it as well. But even for myself it is a really hard thing to do for everything, especially clothing. I think in reality it would be hard to wear many things if you got into all the fine details. We can certainly try, and there are brands that are better than others, but if we really got into it. I think it would be challenging to know and find all the information then find brands that were affordable and 100% ethically made from beginning to end.”
“I don’t like to have excess, and I think that’s where I like to be conscious about what I’m buying. So if I haven’t worn something I just give it to someone else, to friends or family or anyone who would actually use it. I think that’s really good to do. And not buying excess. I don't think we need a lot really. But I need to be more conscious about where and how the products are made for sure; next step.”
(Conversation with Weta Digital texture artist Jasmine Wong.)