It’s so exhausting to think about where all of our products come from.
It’s tiresome to even try and have a conscience about all of it.
We can’t know everything, so why bother at all.
The alternative is women not having a job and that’s even worse.
All of these statements arise every single time I open up a dialogue about the fashion industry. Or the harvesting of chocolate. Or talk about how watching pornography is linking you to sex trafficking.
I wonder how many other things we would say this about?
If we’re buying a car would we be exhausted by the research it takes to know which one is our best spent dollar?
When planting a garden do we stop ourselves from putting carrot seeds in the ground because we don’t know the mechanics of how a tractor works?
We get a bit uncomfortable when our choices are challenged, defensive even.
So we’re not here to tell you where to shop and where not to (though we do have some super cute links at the end that you should definitely check out) what we’re here to talk to you about is kindness.
Rarely do people get up in arms about kindness. Guilt and shame don’t get piled on when we speak simply about the basics of how we should treat one another. We learned these things from our mama’s long before we ever stepped foot into a school and decades before we made a purchase from a clothing company.
So let’s start there, as we should, with kindness and see where it takes us. A journey of kindness isn’t scary, or exhausting or elusive, right?
We’re Jena and Rhonda – Jesus lovers, wives and mamas, bloggers and a million more things – including kindness advocates! Below is simply a conversation we want to bring you into. We hope you join in the dialogue!
When did you first give more thought to the things you were purchasing?
Jena: I don’t remember when I started waking up to the reality that my purchases impact other people across the globe. A few years ago the term ‘fast fashion’ caught my attention and conscience. Maybe it was sitting at a friend’s Noonday Party watching a video on how their goods are handmade by artisans in developing countries receiving fair wages for bettering their families and communities. Perhaps it was news of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 where over 1100 people lost their lives working in unsafe conditions in a garment factory. It could be because most employees in the garment industry are women, and I’m raising three daughters of my own.
Rhonda: It all started for me when I ‘accidentally’ watched a BBC documentary on the chocolate industry and the harvesting of cocoa beans. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I clicked ‘play’ but after watching, I knew a great shift had occurred in my heart and my perspective. I could no longer close my eyes and just consume. I had a desire to know what the effects my personal wants had on others. What I found was that my choices didn’t align with what I had long been teaching my kids – be kind to others, always.
How do we balance owning our part of the responsibility?
Jena: Over time, it’s all added up to an evolving belief about purchase power. How we spend our money matters. Is it my fault that women are suffering in oppressive work conditions in countries thousands of miles away from my billing address? No. Do I have a responsibility to educate myself and daughters on the realities of a broken supply chain so we can support people working to fix this cycle of oppression? Yes. Do I have a responsibility to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 ESV) as it applies to people sewing my t-shirts? Yes and more yes.
Rhonda: I’ve wrestled with this for over a decade. The place I’ve landed is one step at a time. In so many areas of my life I’ve made choices to change just one thing. Whether it’s eating healthy and exercising or making changes to the chemicals that come into our home – I can’t know everything all at once but that doesn’t mean I should just sit back and do nothing. If we simply commit to learning, to researching what we can instead of living in ignorance, and make small adjustments bit by bit – it’s truly amazing how far we can go and the differences we can make over the years.
Start where you are and do what you can is a brilliant slogan. So you can’t shop exclusively at fair trade shops? Start with t-shirts. Commit to that. A year later it will be so normal you won’t even blink at it. And once that’s in place, maybe tackle jewelry.
It’s the small consistent changes over time that have massive repercussions in our world!
Where do we even start?
Jena: I have to be honest with myself. I’m not a front line pioneer of labor reform practices. I’m a elementary homeschooling/ public high school mom of three daughters. I’m wife to a corporate road warrior. I don’t shop often, but when I do I’d like it to be enjoyable and uncomplicated. I prefer quality over quantity in my closet. Cost per wear is something we talk about often in our family. In light of all that, evolving into a more conscientious shopper comes down to three key elements for our family:
- Know what we believe – What does the Bible say about how we’re to treat others? Are our actions consistent with our beliefs?
- Get informed – What are current industry standards for the companies we’re supporting? Are they transparent about their sourcing and labor agreements?
- Compile a list – Find companies selling what we need and like. In an age of convenience where it’s tempting to shop in one-stop-shop box stores, having a list of go-to companies can prevent compulsive buying of fast fashion ‘sale’ items. Many online stores offer free shipping and returns, so take advantage of planned shopping from the convenience of home.
Rhonda: We can overwhelm ourselves with all the questions of where to start and how to research and give up before we’ve even begun. I think the most important step towards kindness in the fashion industry is to just start. Find one company whose mission is to care for their employees from harvesting to your closet. Choose one item to change in your closet. Rarely is anything in life sustainable if we feel overwhelmed from the start. But like I say to my kids when I drop them off at school each morning, “I love you. Be kind to someone today.” If we simply adopt that approach in our consumption, of being kind to someone today, just one person – it will be the tiny bit of momentum we need to make the changes we want.
We think this is an important conversation and we don’t want it to end with just one blog post. What are your thoughts? We’ll be honest and say that $4 t-shirts at certain shops are enticing and we’re not saying we will never fall prey to it. But we do commit to loving the Lord by loving our neighbour insomuch as it depends on us – knowing who we’re buying from is just another way to do that!
And now – onto the good stuff! We’re here to help! Check out these amazing shops with clothes you’ll want to wear! And some are just as affordable as where you’re shopping now. Check them out!
Brands we love:
At Everlane, we’re not big on trends. We want you to wear our pieces for years, even decades, to come.
Each factory is given a compliance audit to evaluate factors like fair wages, reasonable hours, and environment. Our goal? A score of 90 or above for every factory.
We believe our customers have a right to know how much their clothes cost to make. We reveal the true costs behind all of our products—from materials to labor to transportation—then offer them to you, minus the traditional retail markup.
Our products, our non-profit partner, and our community work in unison to help people break the cycle of poverty.
We provide life-changing job opportunities to women in need. With each purchase you make we introduce you to the woman who made your product and invite you to visit her online profile to learn more about her.
The goal was to provide an alternative that would provide these women with the opportunity to earn a living, empowering them to end the cycle of poverty that kept them trapped. Armed with multiple studies illustrating how the employment of women benefits and strengthens an entire community, the ABLE team set out on a mission to end generational poverty, one job at a time.
We’re on a mission to rewrite the way denim is made. It’s no secret that traditional denim production is considered to be one of the most polluting processes – but we don’t believe it has to be that way.
And a few more: