This month, I’m changing it up a bit. We won’t be looking at issues within the production of garments themselves, but rather what happens to much of our clothing once we’re done with them and have donated it to charity.
Oh you thought they’d all be sold and bought by people to reuse?
Welcome to another episode of: Calling out the West and its neo-colonial practices!
Every year this day serves as a reminder of our responsibility as stewards of the planet.
Why should we care about the state of the environment? Because it is important for our own personal well being and our great great grandchildren’s well being. Earth is our home and we should treat is as we would our own four walls.
I’ve compiled tips that can be used in everyday life from the moment you read this post.
Start your New Earth Year resolutions now!
Buy locally-grown produce to reduce your carbon footprint. Find your local farmers market or farm and support their sustainable business. You’ll be giving your money to a good business and be part of a bigger change.
Walk to work- Walking to work isn’t only good for the environment. It’s good for mental health as well as physical well being. We generally spend too much time away from natural light and those at desk jobs spend too much time sitting down! I find that walking to and from work is an easy way to add some exercise to your lifestyle.
And ask Elle Woods explains:
Stop using disposable plastic
Bottled water- Drink tap water and if you feel it might not be safe then get a filtered bottle. A bobble is an affordable sustainably made reusable bottle and the filter needs to be replaced every 2 to 3 months.
Plastic bags- Use. Reusable. Bags.
Microbeads- Ensure that your beauty products don’t have microbeads which go down our sinkholes into our land and sea.
Eat less meat- If you read our last post you’ll know that meat production accounts for a large proportion of greenhouse gases. “Producing one calorie of meat requires nearly twenty times the amount of energy as one plant calorie!”
Support environmentally friendly fashion- Stop relying on fast fashion and have faith in sweatshops and ethical brands! Next time you feel the shopping urge or need something new check out the many fair favourites we have featured or just google it!
FAIR FAVOURITES- KOMODO
“Komodo has been a pioneer brand, promoting the use and development of Organic Cotton, Hemp, Bamboo, Tencel and other natural fibres since the early 90s. Equally important was the welfare of the suppliers and people who work in the small factory units that make our clothes. There needs to be loyalty and respect to make a good deal for all and we still visit our factories for at least 2 months+ each year to ensure that any problems are solved together.”
I think I’m a creature of habit and this shows with my choice of clothes, especially on special occasions.
I know what colours work for me and I prefer to wear things I know look fine. At uni I was a shopaholic (I explained in an earlier post I had no friends and this was genuinely therapy for me). I was endlessly trying every kind of style of fashion to look good. I never looked good. I seriously looked like an idiot wearing colours and clothes that just didn’t suit me. And I never felt comfortable.
50 wears- Getting the wear out of something
One thing I realised is that it’s best for me to stick with what I know when it comes to fashion. Wearing something comfortable is good for someone who has social anxiety and can feel out of sorts in their own skin. Wearing something safe is one less thing to worry about!
When I go to weddings I feel exceptionally out of sorts. For some reason I hate dressing up for weddings. It makes me feel really self conscious. But an outfit I have worn a lot is a lengha (top and skirt asian outfit) to weddings. I don’t experiment much at weddings because I love this outfit SO much. My mum bought it for me when I was 10 years old (a cultural thing where you buy something way too big so it can be worn forever. I’ve worn it to countless weddings because I just can’t go wrong with it. To me this is a perfect example of a really good buy- timeless. Here are a couple of photos of me wearing it:
When I was 18
When I was 23
Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of me wearing it when I was 10 but I pretty much looked like I do now >.<
Another outfit that I have worn many times is a salwar kameez I bought about 6 years ago to match all my cousins at a wedding.
The first time I wore it at 19 (sorry for the teeny picture)
Wearing it when I was 23
and wearing it last year
I love outfits that I wear a lot and really use. It’s very satisfying knowing that an outfit can be worn for different kinds of occasions and that I can never look bad in it.
Recently I went to Aasha charity shop because they sell asian clothes. I had to get something new for my cousins wedding because the theme was blue, I had no blue asian outfits. I got an outfit and although I think it’s really beautiful, blue really isn’t my colour. I hate having something in my wardrobe that I won’t want to wear in the future! I wish I could have just borrowed an outfit from someone!
I will do a post about my usual everyday outfits soon. I have too many clothes! I have a draw of dresses and I never open this draw because I never wear dresses. There are shirts and jumpers that I don’t often choose to wear. How do we get so attached to things that we don’t use?
I will try to choose some clothes to give to the swapshop we are holding today. I will try to depart with things that just take up space and I will not give 50 wears to. Maybe someone else can give it 50 wears!
On 20th August, Oh So Ethical held its third ethical
swap shop. AND IT WAS LITTTT.
So what exactly is a swap shop?
A swap shop is simply an event where people get together,
bringing any old clothes they’re looking to get rid of, and swapping them for
someone else’s! You can have public swapping events, or even just bring a bunch
of friends and family round and have a swapping party. Remember the good old
saying, ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’? Yep. Fully applies to
Ours was held in Leytonstone, with some of the most unique
and stunning pieces that you all donated, all hung up ready to be swapped. We
also sold beautiful fair trade handmade jewellery from Uganda made from
recycled beads and a range of vegan goods- with all proceeds going towards the
Rana Plaza Arrangement. This charity provides financial assistance to victims
of the Rana Plaza collapse and their families.
Waking through the entrance, we had a huge timeline taking
you on a journey from the beginning of
the garment industry in Bangladesh to the state it’s in now. It is actually
crazy to see how fast things have escalated in such a small space of time, but
it also gives us hope that maybe we can slowly undo the damage that has been
In the same room as the swapping we had a display we created from scrap
paper of a Bengali female with her first in the air with the quote ‘The hands
that wear bangles can also carry swords.’ This is a slogan created and used by
a group of female tea workers in India, who mobilised independently from trade unions to
improve their working conditions and increase their wages. These are the women
who define resilience and strength, which is something not usually associated
with women in the Global South in the mainstream media. They are definitely one of
Oh So Ethical’s greatest inspirations and the hashtag #lifegoals never better
fit to be honest (find out more about them here
also had quotes written in red and green hearts (Bangladesh n that)
around our Bengali Queen, with quotes from the Bengali garment workers
interviewed during a protest which took place demanding better
treatment, in the documentary
Udita. By doing this, we wanted to demonstrate that while Bengali women
are going through hell, they are still rising up against oppression and
standing up for their rights with immeasurable amounts of strong-will
and determination. They don’t need our pity, they need our
So why swapshops?
Many of us are becoming familiar with the term ‘fast fashion’,
which simply refers to when high street retailers mimic catwalk trends and
produce these trends at a cheaper cost. Due to various factors such as the ever-evolving
nature of social media and the various fashion weeks that take place, fashion
trends now change every few weeks, as opposed to every few months as before.
Therefore, in order for high street retailers to stay on top of their game,
they must keep up with these trends and produce cheaper versions of these
styles quickly for fashionistas hungry to remain on trend. As a consequence,
while it once took about six months for products to be on the market, it now
takes just weeks.
What’s the big deal?
By demanding new clothes at such a fast pace, in order to
keep up with the changes in trends, this puts pressure on the factory owners
who are expected to produce vast amounts of clothes in a limited space of time.
As a result, garment workers are set near impossible targets to reach daily. If
they don’t achieve these targets the workers (particularly women, who make up
80% of the workforce) are frequently subjected to physical, verbal and sexual
abuse. Many workers report forced overtime, unsanitary conditions, denial of
paid maternity leave, limited toilet breaks, and failure to pay wages and
bonuses on time or in full (read this article for a summary of some of the
horrible things female garment workers must endure http://bkaccelerator.com/9-ways-women-getting-abused-fashion-industry/).
Workers are further put under pressure by the constant competition between
retailers, who compete to see who can produce these catwalk trends as cheaply as
possible. This leads to a reduction in the percentage of income that goes
towards wages and worker’s safety. According to War on Want, the majority of
garment workers in Bangladesh earn little more than the minimum wage, 3,000
taka a month (approximately £25), which is far below what is considered a
living wage, calculated at 5,000 taka a month (approximately £45). This is the
minimum required to provide a family with shelter, food and education.
Not only this, but the impact on the environment is also debilitating.
In fact, fashion is known to be the second largest polluter in the world, next
to OIL! Indeed, the journey of a garment involves excessive amounts of
insecticides, pesticides and dyes which leak into water systems containing sea
life and often the only source of water for families living nearby. Other
environmental issues include the fact that large amounts of water are used up
during production (7000 litres is needed for just one pair of jeans FAM!),
excessive amounts of greenhouse gases (10% of total greenhouse gas emissions) are
released during production and when clothes are being shipped to the West. Not
forgetting the large amounts of clothes going to landfill (as much as 3 out of
4 garments go to landfill, with only a quarter being recycled) as we move from
one trend to the next (read this article to find out more about the impact fast
fashion is having on the environment http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/fast-fashion-drowning-world-fashion-revolution/blog/56222/).
With the world consuming about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year, which
is 400% more than the amount we consumed just two decades ago, imagine the
impact this is having on both the workers and the environment.
You see what I mean?
Now you might be thinking, ‘it’s okay, I give my clothes to
the charity shop/those places that pay for your second-hand clothes’.
Unfortunately, they don’t tell you the whole story behind what happens to the
The fact is, we’re producing and getting rid of clothes at
such a fast pace that even charities cannot deal with the vast amount of
clothes they’re receiving. In fact, just 10-30% of donated clothes are actually sold in the UK. So
where are the rest of the clothes going? Most likely, Africa.
second-hand market is rampant in Africa and takes up
most of the garment industry, with people in many African countries
living by selling our second-hand clothes. In fact, a recent report
found that East Africa alone imported $151m of second-hand clothing last
year, most of which was
collected by charities and recyclers in Europe and North America.
governments in East African countries are now making plans to reduce
imports and even banning them, to reduce their dependency on our often
quality, unhygienic leftovers. Instead, they are preparing their own
industries and training their own citizens in textiles skills, as a more
means of income for their people that is not simply imposed on them for
So as you can see, a simple purchase can have huge
implications on the world around us.
So how’s a swapshop going to change things?
By swapping clothes instead of buying new ones, we are reducing
the constant excessive demands that are crippling and taking advantage of the
impoverished. We are reducing the environmental destruction required to produce
these clothes. We are reducing the amount of second-hand clothes being sent to
African countries and stalling their independence. If we all unite and perform
small acts such as this, imagine the change we could create.
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF YOUR ACTIONS. EVER.
Thank you to everyone who came down, to Sikandar for the photography,
and to our mums and family and friends who helped out immensely- we had the
best time, and it really motivated us to carry on and hold more, so stay tuned!
So here is a short list of nice places to shop. Places to find clothes that are ethical, second hand, vintage, handmade and by independent designers. We will add to the list as we discover more but if you need inspiration look no further!
The list will start with Angel! These are a few things I picked up.
Found them at:
Oxfam- 29 Islington high st
The Fara Workshop- 28-32 Pentonville Rd, London N1 9HJ
Brick Lane obviously has awesome vintage shops. These are my favourite:
Blitz- 55-59 Hanbury St, London E1 5JP
Rokit-101 Brick Ln, London E1 6SE
Beyond Retro- 110-112 Cheshire St, London E2 6EJ
The Laden Showroom- The Rib Man, 103 Brick Ln, Greater London E1 6SE
Wood Green has a cluster of charity shop gold. This list goes from Turnpike lane to Wood Green station.
North London Hospice
British Heart Foundation
Dalston also has a a few charity shops I enjoyed visiting when I worked in the area:
Traid- 106-108 Kingsland High St, London E8 2NS
This dress was from Traid. Love it SO much.
Oxfam- 514 Kingsland Rd, London E8 4AR
St Vincents- 484-486 Kingsland Rd London E8 4AE
Camden is great for having both vintage and charity in the same place. If you walk from Mornington Crescent towards Camden Market:
British Heart Foundation
Rokit- 226 Camden High St
Only one for Notting Hill at the moment but I hear there are lot’s of places I need to visit!
Mary’s Living and Giving Shop- 177 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2SB
This one has a special place in my heart as I volunteered there for a summer and I loved it there.