In this reflection for CatholicCare Sydney, Sandie Cornish reflects on slow fashion and solidarity with the poor and the earth.
For more on ethical clothing labelling, visit Ethical Clothing Australia. New ethical brands are emerging all the time, so check their accredited brands list from time to time.
My grandmother used to say that the Easter Show was the last time you wore your summer clothes. After the Show she would pack away her summer things and bring out her winter clothes. Wardrobe rotation is a bit trickier now with less predictable weather!
Each Lent I conduct the great wardrobe purge. It’s always a bit fraught – is it wrong to dispose of things that still fit and have some wear left, or is it even worse to hold onto something and rarely wear it?
I spent quite a bit of the 1980s hand washing organically dyed clothes made by women’s development cooperatives. Now I try to buy fewer clothes, and to choose good quality ethically produced things that I will wear in fashion and out. There’s a trendy new name for this – “slow fashion”.
I felt challenged this year reading that Mercy in the City author Kerry Weber gives most of her clothes away every six months . It sounds like an excuse for consumerism, but actually her motivation is respect for the dignity of people who have no choice but to wear second-hand clothes. Think of the families whom CatholicCare serves who struggle to clothe their children, or long-term unemployed people who need to turn up at a job interview looking the part – shouldn’t they be able to wear clothes that are current and in good condition?
A “slow fashion” approach is difficult for those on low incomes to adopt, but by promoting decent labour conditions for clothing industry workers worldwide and environmentally sustainable production, it is on the side of the poor and the earth. Efforts to slow down the pace of fashion cycles also ease social pressure on low-income people.
Just as CatholicCare addresses immediate needs and works for structural change, both strategies are needed here – high quality giving and efforts to change patterns of production and consumption.