Ethical fashion offers a pathway to sustainable living

The state of ethical fashion in Kamloops and how consumers can be more responsible with their money

Thrift store sign highlighting recycling of used clothes. (Jennifer Will/The Omega)

Thrift store sign highlighting recycling of used clothes. (Jennifer Will/The Omega)

Hanna Martens, a second-year environmental studies and geography major at TRU, says that in order to create sustainability, we must first look at our own lives for change. Being conscious of the ethics of fashion is a big part of living an ethical sustainable lifestyle.

“I think that it’s important that what we wear comes from ethical sources, because a lot of clothing is produced in very unethical ways, whether it’s because of where it’s sourced, how it’s made or what is used to make it,” Martens said.

Where and how our clothes are produced reflects greatly upon our environmental impact. Martens says that shipping clothes from across the world and the production of “fast fashion” is one the biggest impacts on our environment.

“How it’s produced includes the environmental impact of it. That can mean looking at who makes it and making sure it doesn’t come from sweatshops, or it can mean making sure that the chemicals that are used are environmentally friendly,” Martens said.

Brands rely on consumers to stay in business and it is up to the consumer to know what that brand represents. Whether it’s cruelty, a lack of human rights or unsustainable fabrics or materials, where we put our money and who we are giving it to matters, Martens said.

“We just don’t always know what impact we are having, when we purchase things we are supporting people [or industries]. I think it’s important to look at who we are actually supporting. Some companies are not so great, and it’s really hard to find ethical places to shop. So I love shopping at the thrift store, that’s where I get most of my clothing,” Martens said.

“I try to make sure that when I purchase things that they are as ethical as they can be, which can be really hard,” Martens said.

Rhea Erin, the owner of the Lavender Lotus Lounge & Glow Bar is the event coordinator and founder of the fall clothing swap in Salmon Arm. Now in their seventh year, the swap has grown in popularity and encourages people to reduce, reuse and recycle.

“We just kind of wanted to eliminate, not only waste of the landfills, but also give women a chance to support each other by swapping stuff, rather than go for the cheaper factory-made clothing,” Erin said.

Erin said she started the swap due to the lack of shopping in Salmon Arm and as a way to contribute to sustainable fashion over fast fashion.

“I had a lot of girlfriends who all had a lot of clothing that they were no longer wearing and we just thought it would be a really good way to recycle and give back to the community,” Erin said.

Due to a lot of boutiques closing down in Salmon Arm in recent years, the options for shopping have become even limited. These mom-and-pop shops are often replaced with big corporations, Erin said.

“There is a lot of harm and slave labour that goes into making all of those [factory-made] clothes and it just ends up in the landfill because you paid $5 for it,” Erin said.

The appeal of these trendy stores is that they can provide mass amounts of clothing at a very low cost to the consumer. Erin said that the cost of buying an ethically made item can be significantly higher, and that is not something everyone can afford.

“I find that with the fashion industry it’s so hard for women to buy the nice designer handmade clothing because it’s priced so high. So there’s not a lot of options when it comes to supporting more ethical manufacturing of clothing and sustainable fibres and things like that,” Erin said.

Erin says that these skeletons are probably going to exist in the fashion industry for awhile, but it’s important to get people to at least start thinking about it.

“It’s more about teaching women to be more mindful of the clothing that they do buy,” Erin said.

Along with promoting the ideals of a more ethical way to shop, all of the leftover clothing is donated to local charities. Erin said that the clothing swap is also a way to raise money for a special cause within the community.

An upcoming event at Aberdeen Mall called Waste Not Want Not is the perfect chance to dip your toes into ethical fashion. The event will take place on Oct. 23 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Best Buy parking lot. The event is a chance to clean out your closet and get rid of unwanted items. Organizers are looking from bras, nightwear and robes that will be refurbished and then donated to a women’s shelter in Kamloops.

You can also bring gently used clothing to be donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters. A donation will get you an entry for a draw for gift cards and tickets for local theatre and concerts.