On ethical shopping
By Maja Bayyoud
I’ve only been part of the Archibald team for a few weeks now, but I’ve been thinking about what ethical fashion, and consumption more generally, mean to me for a while. I’ve taken the time to research the topic, trawling through countless articles with titles like ‘top 10 ethical brands you should definitely know about’, or ‘5 things to look out for if you’re an ethical shopper’. I’ve dug into the data and the research from academics who tell us that fast fashion is not only morally questionable, but that it’s also the main polluter of our seas and shores. I planned on writing my own blog with an explainer of what ethical fashion really is, to get to the ultimate truth of how we should be shopping if we care about the environment. But the more I read, the more firmly I came to the conclusion that no such universal truth actually exists.
What we do know for a fact is that our shopping habits are terrible - we’re a generation raised on a diet of fast fashion, and it’s become far too easy to spend £80 on 10 items from Boohoo instead of buying one well constructed piece of clothing that outlasts them all. It’s bad for us, it’s bad for the planet, it’s bad for the workers who labour over cheap products. It’s also often just incredibly ugly clothing that’s sold to us as a ‘must have’ seasonal trend. And none of us are really to blame - the global clothing industry is confusing and complicated. Like most consumption-based sectors, we’re rolled into an intricate globalised system that structures our shopping habits and distances us from the production process behind the clothes we put on our backs. By the time your Zara jeans make their way to you, they’ve seen quite a lot of the world. From the factory in Bangladesh, to the holding warehouse in Spain, to another facility in London and finally your home. And at such a bargain price, why on earth would you go elsewhere? Our relationship with stuff has changed, and nowadays we love a good bargain. After all, you can’t go wrong with a five pound top, right? Even if it falls apart after a few washes, it was only a fiver anyway.
So while there’s no singular right way to be a good person, and no handy list I can give with a title like ‘top ten ways to stay ethical and look fabulous’, I’d urge you to ask a few more questions and think about what you spend your money on. At the end of the day, we all have the power to turn away from the brands that are doing it wrong- if a five pound top is too good to be true, that’s because it’s no good at all. We all have different purchasing power, we come from different places, we have our own taste when it comes to the products we buy. We also have different moral codes about what we think is morally justifiable to purchase (think: the leather debate). That means that we all have differing scope for how we can shop ethically, meaning there’s no singular off the rack solution. So if there’s one thing you can take away from reading this apart from ‘ask more questions’, it would be to start reframing how you think about clothes. Before mass global production, clothes were an investment to care for, fix and keep for as long as possible - think of your grandad, who probably brags about how long he’s had his dress shoes for.
Spending £400 on a pair of shoes may sting more than spending £20, but it’s a long term investment which will yield a far lower cost per wear. That’s really at the heart of our mission. We want to democratise high quality clothing and footwear, and make it accessible to as many people as possible. Middlemen, complex supply chains, and excessive markups have kept most of us from ever experiencing a well constructed, hand-made piece of clothing. Everything we sell has been made by an individual artisan that we know personally, using materials from trusted suppliers, made to last a lifetime. So maybe my only real piece of advice would be that if you really want to be more ethical in your shopping habits, buy our stuff. We’ve spent a while figuring out the perfect combination of quality, craftsmanship, and price. I guess I ended up writing one of those irritating blogs that tell you what to do after all.