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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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Are Used Clothes Ethical & Sustainable Clothes?

Buy used clothing? Is it ethical clothing?

Buy used clothing? Is it ethical clothing?

I talk with people who both buy and sell used clothes a lot and often discuss the role of preloved clothing in conscious and ethical consumerism. Quite often people tell me that they feel used clothes are ethical & sustainable by their nature. Here is why I think this is both true and false.

First, let’s deal with ethics and sustainability issues separately because there are a couple of differing factors at play.

 Buying Used Clothing is on Balance more Sustainable than New Clothing

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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 →

3 Ways to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Your Wardrobe Without the Costs

150709 3 ways to green your wardrobe

When we think about problems in the way clothes are made we think mainly about the ethics – the people who make them and how they are treated. This is a really serious concern, but just as serious, is the environmental footprint of our clothing. 

Recently Sam Judd from Sustainable Coastlines, highlighted the problems with plastic (polyester) in clothing – the pollution their production creates and the plastic fibers they shed into the environment  when they are washed.

It is true that plastic based fabrics are pretty horrid, they can be made from recycled plastics, which has some benefits over new polyester fabric in terms of the environmental footprint – but this does not prevent micro plastics being shed into the ocean. Frankly, given the environmental problems with plastic generally, why buy something with plastic in it if you can buy something that is just as functional, if not more functional, without it?

Natural fibres like cotton and wool, hemp etc are often touted as being preferable: there are some buts. Non organically grown cotton uses a huge amount of water in production, a lot of pesticides on the crop (which ends up in the soil, and eventually the bodies of farmers and their children) and the fabric dying process creates a vast amount of toxic water waste, which in countries without strict regulation is pumped directly into waterways untreated, creating a toxic soup in local water supplies and eventually the sea.

Wool (a supposedly natural and environmental friendly fibre) has to be cleaned (a sheep wore it through bushes and pooed on it before you got it you know). Such cleaning (called scouring) is mostly done with harsh chemicals to dissolve the dirt, chemicals which again end up in local waterways in China, India, Bangladesh and other textile producing developing countries.

HOWEVER, not all is lost! There three main ways to ensure that the clothing in your wardrobe has as little impact on the environment as possible (apart from producing it all yourself that is!)

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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 →

Sixteen Easy Steps to Insanity By ‘A Parent’

Buying the good way is sometimes the hard way

Let me introduce you to my own private hell – buying ethical clothes for my kids. It goes like this.I look one day at one of my children’s outfits. I notice that suddenly the ankles are nearer the knees, the cuffs nearer to elbows, there is a hole in the bum of the pants, and the child is walking like a small monkey because the top is so tight across the back. Cue hysteria. I will need to get new clothes. And the 16 easy steps to my insanity go like this…

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We Have Design Prototypes in Organic Fairtrade Cotton!

 Let me introduce the sampling stages of garment development (Indian Styles!)

  1. 1st stage: prototypes
  2. 2nd stage
  3. Approval
  4. Other
  5. Pre-production
  6. Production
  7. Photo
  8. Size Set

As I am only up to stage one I have no idea what the other seven stages yet involve, but they both excite and frighten me!

This week I got some of the prototypes of the first designs. The prototypes are the fully made up design in the right type of fairtrade organic cotton fabrics, but NOT in the right colours – colour tests come next  – (so fear not, these are not for dressing mini all blacks). The first prototypes do not have any of the trims and prints either – so to you that is no pretty pictures on the garments yet.

The prototypes give an idea of how the fabric drapes, how the pockets look, the weight and the stretch of the fabric, and the basic shape and fit. There are some changes that I have already picked up need to happen, which is great, though frankly lets hope I get a bit more decisive by the time sample stage 6 comes around!

I must say they do feel lovely (all fairtrade organic cotton tends to feel very different from standard cotton).

Here they are (the Grinling Hoody is still to come)…..

ropey tee in first prototype

ropey tee in first prototype

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Is organic clothing better for babies and kids? What the science says.

140826 is organic cotton better pinterest

I must to admit to feeling a sense of total panic before the birth of our first child when I could not find organic cot sheets that did not cost the earth. I was going to be responsible for some terrible calamity that might befall her in her sleep! (I admit pregnancy may have meant I had totally lost all sense of proportion).

In the end we made a set  from some organic jersey cotton I found, we still have them and currently use them for number 2. As time passed I did find myself considering what the evidence was for organic fabrics being better for kids or indeed non organic being harmful. So of course I was unable to help myself; I did some research.

 

cotton workers get a raw deal

 

Turns out there is a lot of very robust science to back up the negative health impacts of conventional cotton farming on farm workers, their children, cotton processing workers, garment makers and on the environment. From pesticide poisoning, inhalation during processing, through to large scale river pollution. The types of chemical involved include heavy metals like lead & nickle, cancer causing Azo dyes,  formaldehyde and phthalates. There is a good summary of this evidence here.

 

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10 Ways to Make Kids Clothes Last Longer: Care (Part 2 of 2)

Extending the Life of Clothes WILL help save the world

Extending the Life of Clothes WILL help save the world

Increasing the lifespan of clothes has a whole HEAP of benefits.  At muka kids  we know making kids clothes last longer will actually will help save the planet and is (of course) better for family budgets. This is part of the reason why we have a marketplace to buy and sell previously loved organic and ethical kids clothing. In part 1 of this blog topic, I focused on ten design features that make kids clothes last longer that you can look out for. This second post is focussed on the ten things you can do to look after kids clothes so they last (based on science- I love science!)

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