Raise your hand if you’ll spend $5 on a Pumpkin Spice Latte that is gone in minutes, but you only want to pay a week’s worth of Lattes to buy clothes that should last years.
(I know I‘ve been guilty of this...) If you shop at stores like the Gap, Zara, Wal-mart, Target or Forever21, your barista is making a higher hourly wage, in safer conditions, than the skilled seamstress who sewed your clothes.
Here at Janery, I’m serious about using ethical manufacturing for our pet beds and home decor. Yes, it costs more, but I can’t ignore the working conditions of the people manufacturing my supplies and finished products.
So, when I recently stumbled onto two different stories about unethical labor, I felt the need to discuss its relation to my mission at Janery.
I was shocked by this expose about about the illegal pay and sweatshop conditions surrounding sewing workers in LA’s garment district, who make clothes for places like Forever21. Then, when I heard this podcast about the experience of a former fashion producer for The Gap, my ethical shopping resolve was strengthened even more. Too many retailers are willing to forego ethics and common decency in pursuit of more money.
And too many shoppers turn a blind eye.
Need a “good” example of what I’m talking about? The Tazreen Garment Factory fire or the Garib + Garib H&M fire. Workers tried to flee, but locked exit doors and caged windows meant they were trapped to burn. Labels found in the rubble implicated Wal-mart, Disney, Sears, Dickies, H&M and more brands that likely live in your home.
After the Tazreen factory fire | Credit
It isn't isolated to the fashion industry. Sweatshops and labor violations abound in all industries, including home decor, pet gear, electronics, etc.
That’s why I try to source furniture, art and accessories from local makers, antique markets, thrift stores, or from ethical larger companies whenever possible.
Taking it a step further, at Janery I only use local, ethical manufacturing and I source American-made supplies for my products. This significantly increases my cost, and therefore my retail prices, but I couldn’t sleep at night if I did it any other way.
So, how can you make a difference?
I encourage you to start somewhere, anywhere, and know that any effort is better than none. Some more specific ideas include:
- Try ethical clothing retailers next time you’re hunting for clothes - I’ve listed a few favorites below.
- Put more thought into pieces, and choose quality over quantity.
- When shopping on a budget, try local consignment stores or online options such as Poshmark, Swap or ThredUp.
- For special occasions, skip the purchase of a one-time use dress, and check Rent the Runway instead.
Second, here are some clothing stores with more ethical supply chains, both in the US and abroad:
- Alison Britt Maternity
- Allbirds (my new favorite shoes!)
- Everlane (my new fave t-shirts)
- Free to Be Kids
- Geek Chic Clothing
- Global Goods Partners
- Jenny Threads
- June and January (love their happy basics for kids)
- Live Fashionable
- Maggie’s Organics
- Pact Organic (we love their toddler + adult basics)
- Patagonia (even their down feathers are ethical!)
- Pyne & Smith Clothiers
- Svaha Apparel (love the STEM-themed clothes!)
- Victoria Road
- Wildly Co. (I’ve toured their amazing factory in NC)
- Find even more sources here and here
Finally, if you’d like to learn more, here are a few good sources:
- John Oliver H&M expose
- The True Cost (movie)
- A shocking Berlin $2 Tee Social Experiment
- Adam Ruins Everything: Shopping Malls
- Adam Ruins Everything: Why Fast Fashion Fails Us
Want to dive even deeper? Read The Myth of the Ethical Shopper, and find out why it’s the lesser-known brands you need to be most cautious about.