Fashion is in the news again, not now for its role as a global polluter but, this time, a story a little closer to home. Investigations into some well-known fashion brands have uncovered, to not a great deal of surprise, underpaid, mistreated workers in the middle of this wealthy country we call England. As reports flooded out of £3 an hour wages, hidden employees living in substandard, makeshift housing, we hear high flying CEOs come back with defences of auditors and oblivion.
While share prices were rising, fast fashion was getting faster. As companies become controlled by distant stakeholders, pressure from conscious consumers leads to a new category of greenwashing, where big businesses, already producing tonnes of waste every year, start supposedly producing responsible fashion. But is this actually possible? Even companies that start out with the right intentions, can eventually to lose sight of supply chains once they surpass a certain size. There is only so much an independent review once your clothes travel plans have reached new levels of complexity.
So, our argument? Shop small! Return to craftspeople, employ humans over machines and make sure founders know whose working for them and what their rights are. Whether that’s choosing your local grocer over a supermarket giant, or choosing an item of clothing whose origins you are aware of. There is no need to ship components from all ends of the earth to maximise profits, when you can focus on sustainability, use locally sourced materials and try out new natural processes.
While we have managed to reach people all around the world, take on more artisan partners and provide a stable income for the women at the Mayamiko Fashion Lab - as well as graduating new trainees every year - we still know the names of everyone we work with. We provide child care help and nutritious meals for the women we work with and when Corona hit, we were able to send the tailors with materials to work from home - so they could stay safe and make masks to help others. Small-scale producers know what’s going right, what’s going wrong, what’s needed and what can be done about - right there and then.
Not to mention, it feels special to buy something you know was made with care, it’s a garment easier to fall in love with. Plus, your chances of standing out from the crowd have increased. Shopping small means your item is part of a limited run, possibly made with a unique batch of materials or an individuals flare.
So wear something you can be proud of, keep demanding transparency and take an interest in your clothes so they come with a story!