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…
- Read guilt inducing article on child slave labour, wages, working conditions and sequin sewing in the garment industry. Said article is titled “Why your clothes shopping habits are killing children in India”. Great. Feeling awesome already.
- Hop onto Dr Google search for ‘ethical, fair trade, organic, green, eco, kids clothes’.
- Lots of sites for organic kids clothes come up. Oh it is ALL for babies. Wholesome, loved, pampered FIRST babies who only wear organic clothes. Before their parents got frazzled, had two years of sleep deprivation and still thought bribing kids with food was something they would NEVER do.
- Trawl through to page 16 of Google search results. Oh this looks interesting. Click.
- Oh all the outfits are white (or that weird oatmeal colour) and being worn by children and families who must surely be on large doses of sedatives given how freaky and unrealistic their portrayals of family life are.
- Click New Site
- Oh this looks promising. Good design, I (mostly) believe what they say about the ethics and sustainability of the clothing, the people in the pictures look happy making the clothes. Surely that counts? Click on a few pieces of clothing. Grrr nothing in the required size.
- And Back. Refresh. New search. Said child wanders over, starts poking at the screen, asking ‘can I see?’, swings on the back of the chair, stands on my foot, trips and falls onto desk, hitting the keyboard and deleting the search on the way down and WAILS. Sigh.
Take a break from pointless surfing.
- Crowd control for the next two hours, which includes rewinding the toilet paper back on the roll for the 15th time, and wiping toothpaste off all surfaces of the bathroom including the ceiling… Have a row with husband about whether I am in fact always the one to wind the loo paper back on the roll. He points out I would not actually know if he had rewound the loo paper in between my rewinding of the loo paper. This confounds me.
- Now 10pm, all children in bed. And New Search
- Promising website, even fairtrade certified- woohoo score! Oh all in the wrong season, oh wait there is some sale stuff from another season. Oh excellent, hmmm there are a few kittens and princesses here, ok avoid that stuff and pop a selection of carefully curated items into the shopping cart to give the five year old the illusion of choice the next day.
- Go to bed with images of child slave labour flashing in my brain and dream of children dressed all in white smiling inanely at me (in kind of terrifying way).
- Next day. Sit down at computer with five year old. Click on cart. Oh crap all items in the shopping cart have disappeared. Now need to re locate them and ..oh no the kittens and princesses have been spotted….
- Have row with child about why she cannot have clothes with princess and kittens on them, which culminates in me shouting ‘You cannot have a princess kitten tiara Barbie top because We ( the royal we) believe princesses only make small girls aspire to an idealised and unrealistic view of female beauty and give young children the idea that all that is important in life for women is marriage and reproduction”. AND blank look followed by I think…yes it definitely was…. an eye roll. Ace. Feel a feminist and anti consumerist parenting failure and might have to hide my Naomi Klein books in shame.
- Finally we reach a grudging agreement, and the ‘happy’ clothes are purchased after I have to enter my credit card details 3 times because the toddler has found the switch to internet router and is playing flashlight disco with it. No one is happy.
- Short wait and clothes arrive in the post. Ta da. Just like that (oh internet shopping is SO easy). Two months later I notice they no longer fit and I have a whole lot of ethical and sustainable clothes I paid for with my sanity (not to mention my entire year’s clothing budget). AND once we are done with them I find myself doing a cost-effectiveness analysis of the investment of my money and mental health and the well being of people and planet. It is a neutral finding.
At this point I can either A) go through the hideous process all over again, or B) buy the clothes that kill the little children and feel guilty for ever. First world problems I freely admit. BUT ARGGGGGG!
Surely there is another option?
I created muka kids because all joking aside the clothing industry is seriously broken, it stuffs up people and the environment in a big way, and it needs a fix. However, the onus should not be on parents to go out of their way and leap tall buildings in a single bound, to acquire ethical and sustainable clothing for their kids. Sure all change requires some small amount of challenge at first, but just telling people to change their shopping behaviour, and not changing the system to support and encourage that change that is just not smart. At muka kids we think the onus is on us to make buying sustainable and ethical clothes easier and feel good, and we have created a model that means it just makes total sense to do so. Innovation and great design are at the heart of a better world. Not a sense of wretched righteousness – that is for other parenting activities like sleep training and vegetable eating.
Muka kids social enterprise, is platform to trade pre-loved organic and ethical clothing. Muka kids helps make quality, ethical and sustainable clothing more accessible to all. In additional, a percentage of sales made on muka goes towards giving small business loans (micro-finance) to women cotton farmers in India. Helping them find financial independence and escape the debt trap of subsistence cotton farming (the substance 80% of our clothing is made from).