Being Ethical

This is about what I make as a designer and I dare say I may meander into other areas…..

Tonight I made this.

Titania Headdress

As Blackwillow I get to make and sell things.  I do this because I have a creative streak that really only gets going once the children are either in bed or when they are with their dad (ie tonight).

But, this is about being ethical.  Here’s why this particular item is ethical.

The fabric used for the base I bought some 15 years ago from a charity shop.  It’s a beautiful brocade sari and choli (I used a sleeve from the choli) and it’s taken me this long to get around to cutting it up because it’s SO beautiful.

But I had the urge to use it this week. The sari is hanging in my bedroom at the moment and may well become something else (a skirt or trousers).  The choli had been taken in at least three times so there was a lot of stitching to undo but it was worth it.

The flowers I have had in my collection for some time too but don’t ask me how long.  They came from a charity shop too as most of my items do – you can count into that the jewelry and the pearls and beads and lace that I added.   All of those things came from a good friend of mine who works in a charity shop and puts things aside for me.

The earrings than brooch that form part of the design are pretty old, probably vintage (I do as much research as I can into designs).  The beads and wire part at the brow were second hand.  Inside the base is a belt I bought some time ago (from…guess where, a charity shop) and the elastic that makes up part of the ties is one of the only things that was bought new.  So I can’t claim that the whole item is ethically sound.  Just 90% of it….. maybe even 95%…..

Why is this important?

Because if I use things that have come from charity shops (goodwill or op-shops depending on where you live) then I am re-cycling or up-cycling.  Sustaining the life of an item that someone had decided they had had enough of.

The recent upsurge in fast fashion disturbs me, even though it suits my single parent pocket.  Even more so that I am now reading *To Die For* by Lucy Siegle, and then two days ago there was the rehash of a Panorama (BBC) programme about children working in sweatshop conditions for one of the biggest retailers of fast fashion here in the UK.  The BBC said that they were going to apologise for showing a programme that had *flawed footage*, apparently made up footage by the investigative journalist Dan McDougall.

If the footage was faked then I am disappointed.  That means that many people will continue to disregard the reports (that they cannot ascertain as true for themselves) about the working and living conditions of those who are subcontracted to make and decorate the fashion items that we now all take for granted as being as cheap as chips on the High Street in the UK, the US and in Europe.

But.         Think about it.        If you can buy a hand beaded top in Primark or a Walmart store for less than £10 then someone is not being paid properly.  Full stop.  I KNOW how long it takes to hand bead something.  I can’t bead a vest top, let alone a dress or a skirt for the price I could buy one for.  New.

In fact I can’t make my own clothes for less than I can buy them in a High Street store.  I certainly can’t grow, harvest, weave, dye, cut, sew and embellish a top for less than £10.00………….

But someone (in fact lots of someones) does all of these things in order for us to get such cheap fashion.

So how can we all play out part?  Do our bit?  Feel as though we have made a difference?

Get the most out of what you buy and wear.  Wash and care for it correctly and it’ll last longer, ensuring that you don’t have to buy more often.  If you’re going to buy something new then maybe buy something that is better made, better design, better quality.  BUT don’t be fooled by Fairtrade labels.  Fairtrade labels only refer to the growing of the cotton, possibly to the way it was woven.  They do not refer to the making/sewing/embellishing.  Sorry to burst the bubble……

Another alternative is to buy second hand and make alterations to ensure it’s unique to you.  Buying second hand makes sure that an item does not end up in landfill.  That it does get a second or maybe third lease of life.

And the hardest one?  Don’t be seduced by fashion.  Fashion is fleeting.  An industry that WANTS our support, but that does not need it if you are able to follow your own path.

DO NOT buy into the fantasy that buying a cheaply made top/skirt/dress means that someone somewhere IS getting a fair wage that will feed their family and keep them employed.  Consider this.  If there is no other work than the work that is offered by subcontractors for the clothing industry, then where are you going to get a job?  When you have worked a shift (8 plus hours) and your manager is under orders to complete and order and s/he instructs you to work another 8 hours 9through the night) before your next shift, are you going to ask your children (aged 5+) to help you or not?  Take a guess.  If you live in one of the many locations that are subcontracted into this work then you probably will tell them to help you.  Many hands make light work.

Take a stand.  Buy second hand.  Buy from people that up-cycle.  Have a go at making things yourself.  Wear things for longer.  Don’t be fooled by the foolishness of fashion.

End of rant.  You may now switch off.

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