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How to Tell Designer Clothing Makers You Want them to be Ethical Designer Clothing Makers

Ethical Designer Clothing?

Ethical Designer Clothing?

There is a bit of a myth that surrounds more expensive and designer clothing brands. It has come about mainly as an unintended consequence of our focus on the evils of cheap Fast Fashion ones.

This week during Fashion Revolution week the Behind the Barcode report was released. This report rates well-known clothing brands on their ethical practices based on the information they provide about their supply chains. It is a useful tool, though we argue that an A+ is pretty much the minimum we should ultimately be demanding from those that sell us clothes, as this offers workers employment conditions comparable to our own (i.e. safe, respectful, protected by legislation, meaningfully paid etc).

While there were a number of New Zealand and Australian ‘Fast Fashion’ brands who performed poorly, there were also plenty of so called ‘designer brands’ who do equally poorly. For example Karen Walker achieved a pretty feeble C. These are not cheap garments and they are being marketed as high quality designer clothes. Why does the price make a difference?

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Is Your Ethical Shopping Really Ethical & Sustainable? 5 Questions You Can Ask to Check

Ethical Shopping Questions

How to Ask Where you Clothes Come From

We do ethical shopping and look to buy sustainable products for any number of reasons: going green, doing our part for the environment, protecting ourselves and our family from harsh chemicals, concern for the treatment of women and children in clothing factories. And people want to be part of the sustainable fashion movement in particular for some or all of these reasons. The people who make and market clothes also recognise the growing value of offering products that meet these needs. Some clothing businesses are honestly & genuinely committed to delivering some or all of the solutions we need to fix the fashion industry (even if they are not 100% there yet). However, others well they just recognise a niche market and are going for your jugular.

So how to tell the difference between REAL ethical and sustainable clothing and greenwash? Continue Reading →

Fixing Fashion: A Framework to Make Sustainable Fashion the Industry Standard

Sustainable Fashion As the Industry Standard needs Action on All Levels

Sustainable Fashion: It Needs Action on All Levels

Often I am part of discussions on the best way to ‘fix fashion’. How do we move such a massive industry from the unethical, environment destroying beast that it is, to one in which sustainable fashion is just the industry standard? You know the drill – clean and clever and kind business.

People feel quite strongly that their own area of expertise offers THE best solution. This is an enduring reality of any specialty area, and why evidenced based decision making was introduced into medicine & healthcare in the 1970’s (more on how this relates later).  Recently questions have been raised about the actual impact of hashtag activism (notably #whomademyclothes). While the development of sustainable fashion brands and the rise of ethical consumerism have been critiqued (and counter critiqued) as an approach that will not work because it fails to address the complex global politics that are involved in making the industry what it is. Continue Reading →

A Mad World, A Revelation & A Choice

I promise this (might) all make sense

I promise this (might) all make sense

The title of this blog is a little like the song ‘So Long and Thanks for all the Fish”, makes NO sense at all if you have not read a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and only marginally more if you have read it. So read on and perhaps you will feel marginally less confused by the end (no promises though, but questions welcome).

The Madness

I have always thought (at some times more than others) that it is a mad world that engenders a little bit (or a lot) of crazy in us all, but that assuming your world is more mad than the person’s next to you on the bus/at work/in a parent group is a dangerous path to go down, because chances are it totally is NOT. However, I always believed that (mostly) my world is maddest for me, while yours is maddest for you.

So, on that note I think it is always good to know that the people who start businesses, want to change the world, do social enterprise and post random stuff on social media to increase the following of said social enterprise are a little mad, just like you.

I, I am quite comfortable saying, am going through a little bit of crazy. We moved house (WHY on earth anyone would do this with small children is beyond me, but needless to say I am now looking for a community support group of fellow ”post movers with children and too many unpacked boxes in their houses”). I started new and fabulous permanent work (because social enterprise and good intentions, alas like clouds, cannot be eaten), which feels great AND draining. Oh and cancer came to our family. I tell you this not  to explain the madness, or garner sympathy, but because I want to emphasis the very human and shared experience that, stress, big change, and serious illness is. That it makes us all a little mad, but hopefully a little more human too.

So muka kids had retreated a little for me, then came back again, both because it keeps me focused on the big stuff that matters in our mad world, and because, well I guess as Leonard Cohen says “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

 

The Revelation

So, I started thinking about how to make muka kids happen on a smaller but active scale for everyone (including me),  until I can build a bigger trading platform for pre-loved ethical and sustainable clothing . What I have come up with is moving muka kids into an active facebook group. One our community can start to trade our ethical and sustainable clothes between ourselves. At this end we will work with the Accredited Brands (here are some that we will approach first up) to get muka ‘ReGooders” (you the group members) rewards for trading on the group page, and each month there will be a  feature on a women entrepreneur in the developing world, who needs a microloan, which members can choose to support if they are so inclined. For this particular aspect we will initially work with existing and trusted organisations like Kiva and Global Sisters, until we can establish a long term relationship with our cotton farming groups in India.

The Choice

So here is the question, what to call this new group? Just stick with muka kids? Or perhaps be more focused on the sustainable wardrobe aspect, something like ”muka sustainable wardrobe”? Love to hear your thoughts on what would bring people in. Remember, this is not just for those people who are already converts to the sustainable clothing movement, but also uninitiated people just wanting to buy better quality, cooler clothes that happen to be sustainable & ethical for their kids (and eventually themselves too – as we include adult clothing). So comment below, or post on Facebook and let me know your thoughts…

Want to be actively involved in the community from here or afar?

If you would like to be more involved than just buying or selling, the new group will need administrators, so any help I can get to move this community along from good thoughts to good deeds, would be warmly and enthusiastically embraced (if a little madly!). Just email (info@mukakids.com), FB message etc etc.

Happily, madly yours

Jess

 

All Worn Out. Where Do Donated Clothes Really Go?

Where do your used clothes go? The Kids might have something to say about this!

Where do your donated clothes go? The kids might have something to say about this!

If you donate clothes to charity – where do they really end up? Sophie Bond (1) considers fashion’s second life.

There’s a green t-shirt that lives bundled on our bedroom floor. It has been my husband’s second skin for years. It is faded and threadbare, its hem wavy and stretched, the logo cracked, peeling and split by a gaping hole. When worn, it literally provides a window into his soul.

It is a shirt that causes wives to despair, grandmas to blush and supermarket cashiers to enquire as to whether he’s living rough (yes, really).

One day he’ll give in, and it will be torn up for rags. It will have truly done its dash.

Few garments are worth keeping forever: perhaps a delicate christening gown or a commemorative sports jersey will make the cut. Some faithful clothes will give us years of service. Others end up in the bin much sooner.

Tastes and bodies change, drawers and wardrobes overflow and eventually, it’s time to have a clear-out.

In our household, this involves me going room to room, rummaging out the tired, unworn and too small and filling bags for the local opportunity shop*.

My problem is that I leave the shop bearing just as many goods as I donated, but that’s another story.

 The mystery of the big blue clothing bin

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From Field to Factory – How Ethical Clothing is Made. A Photographic Journey.

The journey starts here

In November 2014 muka kids journeyed to India, that great dusty & green continent of tigers, elephants, emperors and empire.

With all my do-gooder intentions for muka kids I really needed to understand the complexities of the ethical clothing production chain. By ethical I mean a production chain where worker and environmental well-being sits at the heart of it.  So we went to India. We went to learn how ethical clothing is created and other clothing is not. We went to talk with those involved, in this very long production chain, about their day to day reality, their joys and their despair. We followed the journey of fairtrade organic cotton from field to factory across that beautiful and chaotic continent. We fell in love with the beauty of rural India, and despaired of the poverty we saw there. We felt brought down by the knowledge that the production we were seeing represented less than 1% of the industry, yet uplifted by the promise of the better way it represented. It is not a perfect system, but it strives at it at least. Here is our tale of ethical clothing, we hope you will see the promise it is too. Continue Reading →

I am the chattering languor monkey (or why muka kids is changing direction).

The Chattering Monkeys Of The Jungle Book

The Chattering Monkeys Of The Jungle Book

When I visited India in late 2014, and journeyed across the continent tracing the making of cotton garments from the rural cotton fields to the factories of industrial India, my guide and mentor for much of the journey was Ranga. Ranga is a man of the hour. His story is a fantastic one, but one I can tell you later. More pertinent to this particular post is the story Ranga himself tells.

Every time Ranga visits the city of Tirupur in southern India he also visits his parents in a small village about an hour away. Every time he visits his father sits him down and asks him in his own very Indian way whether all the hard work Ranga is putting into pushing the garment industry to be a more ethical, more sustainable one, is really worth the pain. On our particular visit there was a uniquely and beautifully Indian analogy that had something to do with grasping the tails of crocodiles, and there was also this one:

Over that classic southern Indian breakfast of idly and sambal Ranga’s father looked at him across the table and said ‘when the Bengal tiger is hunting in the jungle the languor monkeys chatter loudly to warn all the other creatures in the jungle that danger is near; a tiger is hungry and hunting, they are saying ‘flee’!’ Then he looks at Ranga and says are you the chattering monkey and are the other creatures in the jungle still listening to your warnings?’

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Women – Just not Sufficiently Committed to (Social) Enterprise?

Women in Social Enterprise: Wobbles on the Tracks

Women in (Social) Enterprise: Wobbles on the Tracks

As part of this journey of muka kids I don’t just write about how fantastic social enterprise is, why I want to do what I do, the changes that need to happen in the clothing industry, and the systems that need innovating in the way we buy and use clothes, I write about when the wheels start to come off. Or as we call it in our house the ”Thomas and the Wobbly Wheels” scenario. This particular wobble relates to the best model to ensure social enterprise or business success.

I know from my life as a researcher and psychologist, good intentions are no indicator of success. In fact good intentions without good planing, research and investment are a bloody terrible thing because they raise up expectations all over the place and then drop them flat down on their face. The question I have had to ask myself a lot in the last few days is – am I well intentioned but not well qualified and not well prepared? These are really good questions to ask, all people should ask themselves this a lot, about lots of things, but especially when they are spending a lot of personal resources (all types) on a project that many other people make sacrifices for also. Continue Reading →

Why travel made me a social entrepreneur

Me on my first memorable journey to a different reality

Me on my first memorable journey to a different reality

We are madly preparing for our trip to India next month to meet our producers, and I have become buried in an avalanche of lists: passports, jabs, visas, grumpy bum medications, DEET spray (or as we call it in our house  F*** off spray, seriously been to the West coast of NZ?  The bugs there bring out a fair tirade of foul language), and lists for grandparents on taking care of the children, (includes a detailed  pictogram of how to work the telly). However I had time to reflect on the great gift and burden that travel and immersing yourself in a world of strangeness can be.

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Work with a big W?

Work (big W) and work (little w) or is that two big W?..

Work (big W) and work (little w) or is that two big Ws?..

Since starting the muka kids journey I have found life to act in a strange series of serendipitous events. 

For example, a day of serious self-doubt (and what I see as quite reasonable desire to just have a straight forward job with a predictable income and a level of security for my kids) is followed up by chancing upon this interview . It was with a soil scientist (Stephen Nortcliff) about changing the lives of women in rural India via a self-composting toilet, which not only gave them a loo when they had never had one, and better hygiene but also brought about an organic crop growing system with the ummm proceeds would you call them?

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