Tag Archives: sustainable clothing

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 →

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 →

21 Ethical Fashion Brands for Cool Women (Who are also Parents)

and maybe a few more too...

and maybe a few more too…

You know I am not a big fan (understatement of the year) of the use of the word mother as a modifying descriptor – the word mumtrepreneur is actually my pet peeve of the decade (after hair on soap that is). Basically where being a parent has no bearing on the topic why mention it? However, where clothing is concerned joining the cult of parenthood does actually change or at least influence clothing needs, so I want to talk about ethical fashion and ethical fashion brands for women who also happen to be parents (and those who are not too!).

I started muka kids (which includes a marketplace to trade pre-loved ethical kids clothing) because I believe that ethical fashion & sustainable clothing could be more accessible and more connected to the women whose lives it is meant to improve . Kid’s clothes seemed a good place to start because the turnover rate is pretty high. However, I also wear clothes and care about the people who grow the cotton, weave the fibre, dye the fabric, cut and sew the cloth as well as the environment this processing all happens in. So finding ethical clothing & ethical fashion designers that met both my personal style AND life style with kids is important.

Let Start with “What is Ethical Fashion?”

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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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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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20 Ethical Clothing & Organic Clothing Brands for Kids We LOVE

Ethical clothes for kids we love

Ethical clothes for kids we love

We know it is hard sometimes to get hold of ethical clothing & organic clothing for kids. You mean well, intend well and then? Well the practicalities just get in the way of doing well. Muka kids is a social enterprise that exists to make it a lot easier to get hold of fantastic affordable ethical clothing & organic clothing for kids. One way we help is we have a marketplace for buying & selling accredited pre-loved (and some new) ethical and organic clothing. In this blog we want to tell you about the best of these accredited brands. Some of these brands actually offer discounts to those who trade on muka kids. So if you buy ethical sustainable clothes new &  ‘Regood’ them on our marketplace we reward you for being sustainable and well just super.

Ethical clothing all starts with some great small companies

In the muka model it all starts with those fantastic people pushing the boat out in small and independent ethical clothing and organic clothing brands, doing their darnedest to do the right thing and make clothes that meet ethical and sustainable standards. It is HARD: a hard slog, lower returns, with a small (but growing market) of customers.

These ethical clothing companies and the people who run them care. They care deeply about changing the way the clothing system works, and while all of them might not have the gold standard for ethical clothing or organic clothing in place right now, I tell you they are striving to do things a better way AND make sure they have a successful ethical business so they can keep making a difference.

Ethical Clothing Brands & Organic Clothing Brands We LOVE* (many of which you can find on our marketplace in affordable preloved condtion)

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The Great Indian Journey

In one week we are off to India on our producer journey. A journey that has been made possible by those super people who supported our spark my potential crowdfunding campaign. The generosity of people during (and following) just blew me away, and made something that looked a long way away (and was kind of an abstract idea), utterly possible. So let me just say again thank you to you all for both your resources and your positive messages about muka kids attempts to do things a new way.

So what is this trip all about? It is about two things:

Ready to tell the story

Ready to tell the story

1) Documenting the footsteps of muka kids clothing production chain, from the growing of the cotton in fairtrade organic farming cooperatives right through to the making of the clothing in ethical factories at both ends of the country (and everything in between).

AND more importantly

2) Giving you the opportunity to really see how a social enterprise like muka kids can have a significant impact on real women, their families and their lives. We hope to show you that by supporting muka kids you are not just a part of some abstract solution for some imagined people on the other side of the world, but the key to creating a new story for real people (women and their families) in India. That is the good stuff we are there to get. Continue Reading →

Why are ethical kids clothes so expensive?

Why are most kids clothes that you buy so costly and especially ethical kids clothes?

Well a lot of it is to do with the way they are made. Lets start with standard kids clothing. There are A LOT of stages in the long journey from a cotton seed to garment (most kids clothing is made of cotton or cotton mix) and for every step in that journey there is a cost. Here is a pictogram neatly summarizing all the steps in how cotton clothing gets made. Needless to say it is long, with lots of people involved and lots of processing. It is kind of interesting in a ‘how stuff works’ way.

Anyway, what exactly are all these costs and at what points in the chain do they apply? The following infographic sums up the costs nicely….

 

 non ethical kids clothes are costly is many ways

costly huh?

So, at every step there are some serious costs in production. Costs borne mainly by women, by children and by the environment.

So I know you get that I am being ironic to make a point, and that I am kind of beating you over the head with my lack of subtlety. I cannot disagree. But for all my lack of subtlety the point is, I think, an important one. We often talk about the cost of kids clothes (standard AND ethical kids clothes), only in relation to our immediate cash flow, what is in our bank account at the time we are needing to re-dress whatever particular child has worn a hole, grown 2cm, or beaten a piece of clothing into submission. Continue Reading →