Black Lives Matter and Slow Fashion

(Illustration credit to @meowwolf via Giphy)

Black Lives Matter!

During this politically charged time—on #blackoutday2020—I want to highlight the topic of how supporting the Black Lives Matter movement through shopping at BIPOC-owned businesses is also intrinsically tied to sustainability and environmental justice, and more specifically in regards to slow fashion.

The issue with fast fashion is that we constantly buy brand-new, cheap clothes & accessories, which have such low prices bc the companies who sell them profits off of paying their workers below living wages and cheap materials. These very same clothes will be quickly dumped into landfills–yes, even after you’ve donated them–because they are deliberately made to be of low quality and NOT made to last. Strategic marketing also pursuades people to keep buying new clothes each season in order to keep up with the latest trends…

When you thrift you are alleviating the issue somewhat, but ONLY if you do *not* thrift large fast-fashion brands. If you only thrift brands like F21, H&M, etc, you are still contributing to the problem (the demand for fast fashion clothing) just in a more roundabout way.

combatting fast fashion means not only BUYING LESS CLOTHING from them but also PAYING MORE for an item, to fairly compensate for the labor that goes into it…

Demanding for fast fashion brands to change their entire modus operandi is a dead end, so one must divest from purchasing their goods whenever they can. This means resisting the urge to buy their abundance of clothes at temptingly low prices, because combatting fast fashion means not only BUYING LESS CLOTHING from them but also PAYING MORE for an item, to fairly compensate for the labor that goes into it (the labor which goes into both producing the materials needed, and the labor putting everything together to manufacture said item).

(Illustration credit to #taliacu via Giphy)

We cannot strive environmental justice and still demand low, low prices of clothes. A piece of clothing is not sustainable when the people behind harvesting and/or processing those fabrics and sewing the cloth are being paid a mere fraction of the item’s cost, therefore forcing THEM to rely on cheaply made clothing because they literally can’t afford anything else.

Choose brands that are transparent about their sustainability practices (whether buying brand-new or thrifted); if you’re unsure of which ones are actually sustainable vs. “greenwashed” that are all talk but no action, you can start searching with the ethical fashion app, Good On You… As much as some major companies may have you believe that they are eco-friendly with a few feel-good paragraphs and photos, oftentimes they still fall short of being sustainable because they are: churning out new styles left and right; outsourcing their labor overseas to exploit impoverished areas; not striving to become a closed loop system through using recyclable or sustainable materials, etc.

Unfortunately not everyone can take the steps to transform their entire wardrobe into sustainable clothes due to financial setbacks or accessibility in their area. This includes me, who had to rely off of hand-me-downs for most of her childhood and could only afford clothing from Ross and the sale racks in shopping malls. However, it is realistic to ask everyone to make the changes if they can.

Everyone should strive to buy less clothes in general for the sake of reducing their fabric waste. Buying less clothes means you can save that $10-$15-$20 bucks you’d normally drop on fast fashion items… This ties into supporting #BLM because one can pool the money saved by skipping fast-fashion brands to buy a more expensive item sold by a Black-owned/BIPOC business! Bonus points if they implement sustainable practices such as sourcing materials from local and/or other Black-owned businesses (such as urban farming operations); hiring at-risk youth, people struggling with homelessness, or ex-offenders—and paying them fair wages; and traditional environmentally-conscious methods like using sustainable, non-plastic packaging.

Again, it WILL be more expensive because small businesses are flipping hard to run and also people deserve a living wage.

(Graph of the White/Black Wealth Gap via Asset Funders Network)

Even though you’re spending more money on less things, remember that money will be going directly into the community whose small business you bought from (when that business owner pays their bills at the local level and hopefully shops at other BIPOC businesses) and NOT into the pockets of capitalist corporations who don’t pay they workers enough and hardly pays taxes to the cities/towns they impose upon.

(via Giphy)

By supporting specifically Black-owned businesses you can help them close the generational wealth gap that has kept their community oppressed for so long; to help them save enough money to afford higher education, vocational training, business license; to simply give them a better standard of living all around. Buying from Black-owned businesses is investing in social justice.

Other bonuses from buying from BIPOC businesses is that:

  1. In many cases you are getting a HANDMADE, unique item that was crafted with attention and care,
  2. Items purchased may have been made with recycled/upcycled materials,
  3. It will MOST CERTAINLY be of better and longer-lasting quality than fast-fashion items,
  4. BIPOC-owned businesses might choose to donate a portion of their profits to local organizations!!

Again, please consider switching to slow fashion and buying more clothing/accessories from Black/BIPOC businesses. It’s a win-win-win situation for you, BIPOC communities, and the planet 🌹

Check out Etsy’s page dedicated to Black-owned businesses below!

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