By: Ayesha Siddequa
Painting by: Leonid Afremov
Shopping. It’s a funny old thing isn’t it? Dragging yourself between your favourite boutiques and stores looking for that one item you covet and must have in your wardrobe, filling up the best part of the day simply ‘searching’.
Well, it used to be that way. The huge growth of online shopping and the success of sites such as Net-a-porter and Future Fashion have proven that people now prefer to shop from their desks or sofas.
So without actually seeing the product, touching it and reading the labels, how can we be sure that we’re shopping ethically and with a conscious?
That’s where retail websites win over physical stores. If you think about it, when you visit a boutique or chain store, how often do you look inside the garment to find out where it was made or what materials make up its composition? Often I presume, but how often do you care about that information?
Customers, especially in the Middle East now realise how important it is that we understand what we’re putting on our bodies, in the same way that we care about what we put in them, in terms of organic food or locally sourced products.
A recent campaign by organisation Fashion Revolution encouraged customers to look inside their clothing for one day, and tweet retailers using the hashtag #WhoMadeYourClothes, to raise awareness of the poor working standards and faceless employees that provide some of the world’s most profitable companies with clothing, in the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse which killed over 1000 people.
“Find out who made your clothes – from who spun the threads, to who sewed them together, to who grew the cotton in the first place,” Fashion Revolution Day’s website says, “Your clothes already tell a story about who you are. Now they can tell a better one.”
Following suit, websites like Future Fashion have the information readily available as soon as you click on the product you like. As an example, clicking on a gown reveals that it’s made from Tusar silk with fresh water pearls, natural stones and floral appliqués and that it was produced in the Philippines. The consumer can now make a conscious decision on whether to buy the product or not.
The same can be said of London-based handbag label FABLOU, who promote on their website that their bags are made from biodegradable silica and cotton so the customer understands that the product has no harm to the environment. The information is right there!
Future Fashion also stocks sustainable accessories such as scarves, jewelry, eyewear and bags that are ethically produced. Brands like, COCO DRIVE, PG ESSENTIALS, BABOUKA, JPP, AYESHA SIDDEQUA, TU&TU, NORDIC FAIRYLAND, LUCKY NELLY, JAN LAURENT, and many more, all provide great ethical alternatives to other brands and roughly in the same price range, if not for less to the savvy shopper.
What’s admirable is that the aforementioned gown by JPP is priced at well over $1500 where as FABLOU bags start at £60 and a bag by PG ESSENTIALS from $85. This shows that as consumers we can shop with a conscious at any price level and that both ‘high-end’ and ‘fast fashion’ can be ethical.
Future Fashion sell mid to high-end priced products, the price being warranted by how much work goes into creating the beautiful piece and the fact that they are made by hand by employees that are treated fairly.
In conclusion, the art of shopping with a conscious comes down to one word, and that is ‘knowledge’. The more we question about our clothing, the more likely we will be able to buy ethically. We cannot be afraid to ask retailers if the fabric that makes up their garment is fair trade and sustainable. By challenging the makers of our clothing, we cannot only improve our own lives but also those of the employees in the producing countries.