29 May 2010

Ethical Clothing Pledge

I'm going to deviate a little bit from my normal home decorating blog posts, and talk a little bit about a new commitment of mine.

When I was on holidays, I started thinking long and hard about upgrading my wardrobe. As someone with a tendency towards buying cheap but cute fashion, I had a wardrobe full of stuff that, although cheap, was also poorly made and typically didn't last long. I decided that I'd like to invest in some pieces that would wear better and therefore last longer.

At the same time, I started thinking a little bit more about where my clothes actually came from, and whether I could buy more ethically. Aside from owning quite a few staple pieces from American Apparel (who are excellent for basics like shirts, simple dresses and skirts), most of my clothing had been bought from cheap, presumably unethical companies. So, I started to do some research and, in the process, I was pointed in the direction of Isis in Tasmania and her Ethical Clothing Pledge. In a nutshell, the Ethical Clothing Pledge states that you will only purchase clothing that complies with one or more of the following:

1. Pre-loved
2. Handmade 
3. Reconstructed
4. Made with ethical / environmentally friendly materials
5. Made by a company with strong ethical policy & workers' rights

This is how I've decided to try and purchase my clothing from now on, so I'm officially (and publically) taking the Ethical Clothing Pledge.

Already, I've made some significant progress. I've managed to buy some excellent pre-loved pants from eBay (worn only a couple of times by the previous owner), and bought some more staple items from American Apparel. I've found a local designer, Irene from Wind and Water, who makes her own amazing tops, dresses and pants - I've already bought one item, and hope to buy many more! And I even managed to buy a new jacket (something I thought would be impossible!) from an ethical organic company called Salts, who sell their wares on Etsy. I'm yet to tackle items such as underwear, but thankfully Isis has a list on her website, so I shouldn't have too much trouble.

I've even researched some of the bigger brands, and found that places like Cue and Bardot are certified by Ethical Clothing Australia (which is fantastic given that I've recently bought items from both of these companies). I've also found that Just Group, responsible for brands like Just Jeans, Peter Alexander (my favourite pyjamas) and Portmans, have committed themselves to trying to remain vigilant with regards to the ethical supply of their garments.

I know that, on occasion, I might well fall off the wagon with my commitment and buy something that isn't certified as being ethical. In these cases, my aim is to buy the item that is of sufficient quality so as to avoid having to replace in the near future. I figure that buying a $200 pair of pants in a reputable brand that will last five years is far better than buying a $30 pair of pants from a cheap retailer that will likely fall apart in under six months.

So there you have it, readers. A new challenge for myself, which I hope will be a rewarding one. If any of you are interested in taking the Ethical Clothing Pledge with me, please do leave a comment!


  1. Hi Kylie. I have also been trying to do this for a while, influenced by my sister. I haven't taken a "pledge" but I will now!

    It is so difficult to buy nice suiting that is made in Australia (I needed a suit for work). Some of the brands that still make clothes in Australia include Cue and Portmans (that you mentioned) plus Jacqui E (I think they're also owned by Just group), Review, Veronika Maine (owned by Cue?), Perri Cutten (okay, it's a bit old lady), and some other old lady brands in Myer whose names I can't remember. I also love my American Apparel items and have been trying to discover my favourite Australian t-shirt producers. Unfortunately they're really expensive! I like Sosume, Gorman Organics (they are made fair-trade in Vietnam) and TV, to name a few.

    Usually it is easier to buy Aussie (or NZ) made in the "designer" bracket (eg one of my favourites, Karen Walker) but it is disappointing that some of the high profile Australian designers are still producing in China and charging high-prices. If they are sweat-shop free, they should say it on the label! Also, I read an article via one of the Aussie fashion blogs last year (can't remember off the top of my head which one) about Australian sweat shops, that some of the high profile designers were allegedly using.

    Anyway, great post!

  2. Hi uglygirl - welcome aboard!

    Yeah, from what I've read, Australian sweatshops are actually quite common, so the 'Made in Australia' tag isn't always a good indication. That said, the brands you've mentioned are definitely trying to do something to combat the problem, which is a positive. I guess I'm lucky in that I don't have to wear a suit to work (I work in an art gallery), but I have been trying to make my wardrobe a little more 'grown up' in any case.

    I read an unfortunate article late last year in the newspaper about Brisbane clothing designers Maiocchi. The Courier Mail was doing an 'expose' about the fact that their (local) workers only get paid $18 a dress (the dress they were talking about retailed for just under $200, I think). As someone who owns a few Maiocchi pieces I was instantly concerned - but the article went on to explain that a worker quite easily makes 2 of these an hour - and thus makes more than what I earn. People left 'outraged' comments about this 'sweatshop' in their own 'backyward', but then I suspect they went back to KMart to buy a new $20 jumper that a Chinese worker was paid 5 cents for.

    Yesterday I walked past a store called SES Fashions - they had singlets for $2.95. How is that even possible?!

  3. Hi Kylie,

    I have been trying to by Australian made for a while, but I guess I assumed that the conditions for the workers would be acceptable due to the laws that we have here in Australia and the systems in place to look after their rights. Also the same for made in NZ or made in the UK or any other first world country.

    I try to buy pieces from small local designers where I can, and also from design markets.

    I will continue to try and buy locally made but will also keep a look out for the ethical clothing label and try to be more aware of the local conditions for workers.

    The next thought that concerns me is the source for the fabrics that the designers use, it would be great if it was easy to trace where it comes from and whether or not the fabric and materials used to make a garment are ethically produced.

    Some items that I have found more difficult to source locally made (without going bespoke) are underwear and shoes and decent sportswear.

    PS I cannot believe that I influenced my sister. Woohoo!

  4. Hi uglygirl's sister! You're a long way ahead of me - I think I'd have a VERY tough time convincing my sister as you why she shouldn't shop at the cheap chain stores!

    It will be a learning experience for the three of us, I'm sure. I'd be excited to hear about your progress along the way, and any new things you discover!

    Oh, and shoes I haven't even bothered trying to tackle yet. I do have a deep love for the Spanish brand Camper, so I may have to do a bit of research on their methods of production.

    PS. Feel free to email me as well - kyliept@gmail.com.

  5. My sister is, in general, more socially responsible than I am. She just likes to shop more than I do as well and loves a bargain!!

    Good luck in your quest.