It ought to be a simple question. Is this fabric sustainable?
But of course, as always, there’s more to it than just finding out what our clothes are made from. I co-hosted an RSA Sustainable Households subgroup workshop with Nicola Mansfield, Senior Lecturer in Sustainable Fashion at the University of Westminster. During the workshop we had to identify and rank various items of clothing according to the sustainability of the fabric. I learnt about the relative benefits and issues of various fabrics and it really made me rethink my fabric choices. And something I made use of recently, when I actually needed to buy a bed sheet, I learnt about the GOTS logo.
Nicola then told us the story of her wool skirt that she thought was a good sustainable purchase, until she looked into how far the fabric had travelled.
The wool fabric of her skirt started out as fleece from sheep in Australia, which was then shipped to the UK to be woven into wool fabric in a UK mill. But that wasn’t the end of its travels… It was then shipped to China to be made into a skirt, and then shipped back to be sold in the UK.
My policy is to shop in charity shops. I’ve been doing that for so long now, it is second nature
This lovely dress had even been taken in as if it had been made for me!
It is not going to be the kind of fashion that falls apart after two wears that I’m going to find in a charity shop. So I would urge anyone to complain to the shop or seller if something you buy is poor quality. The fact that it is cheap doesn’t make it not worth an email to them alert them. If they are an ethical company and something is going wrong they would want to know about it to investigate and put it right. For a not-so-ethically minded business, ideally consumers should make it harder for them to continue with bad practice and bad products by making it expensive for them to continue selling poor quality. Taking up their time and giving them back the poor quality clothes is a good way of doing that.