What does it mean to be an ethical shopper in South Africa?
In this week’s blog, I’m sharing 'The Ultimate Beginning Guide on How To Shop Ethically'. (It’s like one of those ‘For Dummies’ guides but without the shame.) So get comfy, have yourself an iced coffee frappe, and let me guide you to become a more fashion-conscious ethical shopper in 2021.
Step 1: Do Your Research
I saw you gawk at the word research...I see you! But think of it more like knowing your sh*t so that you aren't being played like a fool. Think of research as the sexy term that shows off your wits and powerful brain (because that's actually what it is). Who doesn't like to feel empowered? Now that we've got that out of the way...
You've probably heard it before, but I'll say it again- It’s so important to be conscious of the brands your supporting. This might seem like an obvious statement, but have you actually thought about it? Like deeply? Taking sustainable / ethically brands seriously as a purchasing option who have complete transparency about their ingredients, are clear about how they source and produce will likely be the difference between the planet surviving another 50 years or not (quite literally)...
Look, I know shopping ethically is difficult. It requires a little more thinking and studying and sometimes requires spending a tad more than you would normally. Believe me, I know how convenient it to support chains, especially when you're on a budget, but taking the time to be more aware of your purchasing power and how it relates to the long-term can make the world of difference (because it can actually reverse the mass damage being done to our planet on a daily basis).
Studies have shown that there is a rise in the number of people willing to spend a little more in order to support their local communities (yaaay); all it takes is for you to start. Now, when I say ‘start’, I don’t mean stop supporting your fave chain brands altogether. Start small. Take the time to read labels, question the ingredients and find out what is important to the brand before you swipe. And most of all, don’t fret, there will still be wine on this sustainability journey.
Not to get all Gretta Thunburg on you (actually I am), the reality is, there are still far too many organisations (fashion industry being the biggest culprit) that exploit their workers and source their materials unethically, and it is your / my job, as the consumer to make sure that we know exactly what we're buying, because ultimately we're not just buying a sweater, darling, you and I are deciding on the world you want to live in.... Will you choose the world that takes advantage of the ten-year-old child basically working in slave-labour conditions, or the companies that work to restore the Earth, pay fair wages, take care of the planet AND its people?
I think you know which one is the better option, hey?
You know what it feels like to do something good. You feel all warm and fuzzy inside, knowing you’ve done something to help someone else or that you’ve contributed to making the world a slightly better place. It’s honestly so gratifying.
I know this all sounds like a lot, but it isn't that hectic when you break it down. You may even be thinking ‘there are plenty of other people who already support ethical brands, there’s no harm in me continuing to support mass-produced fashion or brands.’ Or maybe you’re not sure where to begin, but believe me, there are little things you can do to lessen your impact on our planet. Here’s how.
Step 2: What You Want Vs What You Need
Let’s face it, we’re greedy. Most of us would like to think of ourselves as our own person, with our own identity. In reality, we’re taught from a young age to just follow the masses, try to fit in, yearning to be liked. I’m telling you to make up your own mind. Liberate yourself, think for yourself and live your truth. Because at the end of the day, if we valued the planet like we do our own lives, our decisions would be drastically different. Ironically, by leaving decisions for a better world on the back burner, we are destroying future generations- and that's a hard pill to swallow. It's not 'fashionable' or 'trendy' to talk about these things, but if we duck and cover, we're going to have to face the truth (or our future children will for us).
Fast fashion is a thing, and whether we like it or not until the majority of us make major changes, it’s here to stay. A good way to counter the black hole that is fast fashion is slowing down (this is where slow fashion comes in) and thinking about what you want versus what you need, and taking the time to familiarize yourself with local brands in your community who offer the same service. Not only will you have a clear conscious when purchasing these goodies, but you’ll also be contributing to helping our economy. This way you know exactly where your money is going.
I know. I know you want that new pair of shoes and matching handbag with all the trimmings, but take a second to ask yourself ‘ is this an investment?’ ‘do I need this?’. Remember that less is more when it comes to shopping ethically and sustainably. The point of it all is to buy the essentials and build your own capsule wardrobe.
This doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself every once in a while to something that you don’t need (lord knows if I didn’t treat myself every once in a while I’d scream and kick like an adult child). All I’m saying is take a second to question who you are supporting and if there is a low-consumption alternative. You’d be surprised, often times the things that cost a little more, last a lot longer (which is the point). To truly appreciate what you buy, and to see buying as collecting a little trove of art pieces you get to flaunt on your body makes shopping so much more thrilling. How much cooler is buying unique, long-lasting pieces vs. buying a quick fix sale item that you get bored of the moment you buy them?
That vintage silk scarf you've been loving on for months on end but can't justify buying? We guess what? Now you can. If you exchange the idea of purchasing 16 different sale items you'd throw out after three months for the beautiful heritage scarf you'd love forever, you can afford it- finally!
Step 3: What To Look For In An Ethical Brand
Supporting ethical brands is going to take a little more will power and a little more thought, but I know that your heart is in the right place.
As I said, an easy way to spot an ethical or sustainable brand is very much based on the transparency of brands in the first place. Look for a promise, certification or a guarantee. Ethical brands are proud of how their goods are produced and will often give you a breakdown of their story and ethos on their website or on their packaging.
Support brands who take care of their workers. Brands like Matsidiso, Mia Melange and Sitting Pretty are just a few local brands who have not only their customers best interest at heart but their employees too, by giving them a safe environment to work in along with fair, livable wages.
Buy second hand if you can! There’s nothing more exciting than rummaging through tons and tons of clothes with so much history and culture and finding that gem that you suddenly cannot live without. (Guilty!)
Now that you’ve read the beginners guide on how to be a more ethical shopper, you can go into the new year knowing that you’re contributing to make our world a better place.