Wanted: New Shopping Criteria.

I’m ashamed to say that I found out about last week’s factory collapse in Bangladesh while reading one of my favorite fashion forums. It wasn’t on my radar until I was looking at what to buy next, and what everyone else is buying… and then I didn’t want to buy anything. I froze. I wondered if I should return a few things that still have the tags on them. I chased my own tail, wondering why I love clothing so much, what compels me to buy new clothes, why I’m not living a minimalist lifestyle, etc. No answers, just lots of fashion flotsam floating around in my head.

Today I read an article about how boycotting stores and/or brands might not be the best answer. I decided to look into the brands of the items I was about to purchase or recently purchased, and was overwhelmed. Are they “good” companies? Are they “bad”? What does “bad” mean? What issues do I care about right now, and what should I care about? Price and quality have always been my main concerns, but this factory collapse has challenged me to think about more than, well, myself. Over the years, the issue of sweat shops and forced child labor have come into the news, into the forums that I read, and into my mind, but not enough to make a mark.

Things are starting to make a mark now.

The problem is, what am I willing to sacrifice over ethical issues related to the apparel industry? Fashion and clothing are a passion of mine. While I do a lot less of it now, I still love to shop for clothes. It’s clear that I want to be a more informed consumer. But at what cost? Macy’s is nearby and offers tons of coupons. Target is right up the street. Those darned Gymbucks get me every time.

Do I need to do my due diligence and figure out a safe set of clothing brands, and stick only to those? This poses a problem, as I am lazy! It would be easier if I went to a company’s web site and it said right there whether they were doing the right thing by their employees, factory workers, and the Earth. It is much harder than that to dig up the truth and I am overwhelmed by all the corporate lingo. Even if I do find what I’m looking for, I need to figure out my threshold of what I find acceptable. I’m telling you, I’m L-A-Z-Y, and just typing this out makes my brain shut down! Am I really going to do all this research? It would be easier to just not buy anything.

Is it going to cost an arm and a leg to become an ethical shopper? I really like a bargain. Not cheap clothes, but decently made clothing for a lower-than-expected price. I already have a quality threshold, but along with it goes a price cap. I’m only willing to pay so much for quality… and then I’m willing to sacrifice quality for a good price. I’m worried that only high-end or boutique brands will fit my new shopping credentials. Oh, and I’m also not quite there with quality over quantity. I can’t bring myself to spend my whole month’s clothing budget on a single piece. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it!

Where does this leave me? Off to do more research, and even less shopping. Please comment if you have anything to add!

3 thoughts on “Wanted: New Shopping Criteria.

  1. maa says:

    In clothes and meat, I think the only easy ethical answer is to buy less. It’s a sick world: 400+ people die but it doesn’t get the media coverage of the 3 killed in the Boston marathon because it isn’t called “terrorism” and it didn’t happen in the U.S. I am with you on the ethical dilemma-cheap clothes are so easy and tempting. I am beginning to think it’s the silent terrorist, though.

  2. egfr says:

    The collapse was a horrible tragedy, but the sad thing is that a factory job pays so little yet is so much more money than they can get working in other positions and the overall day to day conditions are horrible. I think buying less is part of the answer, and recycling, going the used route is the other. I don’t have time for the latter for obtaining things. But when I finish with clothes I try to pass them on to someone who will use them and then pass them on again. I’ve had some sets of kids clothes go through 2 of my own, and then 2 kids of my friends! The other thing is I try to buy in the here and now more. Now I’ve told myself it is okay to spend for example $10 on an item when I need it for the kids or myself, rather than $3 clearance a year in advance.

  3. Nikki says:

    I felt the same dilemma when this happened too. At first, I was numb & simply could not bear the idea of ANY shopping! Later, I decided to do as much research as possible – NOT using the companies’ own websites (then you’d just be absorbing their PR/advertising) but by searching out ethically-focused consumer sites that had a clear, independent & fair way of assessing the ethical credentials of clothing companies. For now, I try to only buy second hand, and wherever possible, from charity websites. You’d be surprised at the high quality of goods available at some charities! Buying second hand is a win-win for all: it reduces landfill, costs less (for you), benefits good causes & usually gives tax breaks. Love it!

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