This article was originally published in 2015. It has been updated for a re-launch today in 2022. Some 2015 references remain - you'll know'em when you see'em.
Join the Fashion Revolution on a Budget
On April 24, 2013, the Rana Garment Factory collapsed in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. In less than ninety seconds ONE THOUSAND THIRTY FOUR garment workers were dead and over 2500 others injured. Yes, you read that right - 1134 mothers, fathers, sisters, grandmothers, and loved ones gone in an instant in the name of "fashion".
"Experts have since concluded the garment factory collapse was entirely preventable” and the reason for the collapse ultimately came down to greed - greed from the major international brands pumping out more, more, more clothing from the factory; greed from the owner of the factory focusing on growth, growth, growth to satiate those brands. And you know these brands. They included brands for Walmart (USA), Joe Fresh (Canada), JC Penny (USA), Carrefour (France), Primark (UK), Zara, and more.
The companies involved faced no consequence despite choosing to make their clothes in a factory that engineering inspectors had warned was in imminent danger of collapse.
We wish so badly we could say today that the world learned a valuable lesson on that dark day and that everything is better today. Sadly, it has not. According to the ILO (International Labour Organization), in the years since the Rana factory collapse, "35 were textile factory incidents in which 491 workers were injured and 27 lost their lives". Fast fashion may be tinged with more "green" marketing copy - we call that greenwashing - but otherwise, the industry continues to thrive. There may now be lipstick (greenwashing) on the pig (fast fashion) but don't be fooled, it's still a pig.
At KOOSHOO one of our core values is to speak with honesty and compassion. We always endeavour to uplift with our writing but this - blind consumption led by billionaire brands - is an emotionally-charged topic for us. We have dedicated over a decade of our lives now to proving there is a better way to consume - one in which customers, suppliers, and planet all win - so to see those fast fashion brands claim credit for tiny "green" capitulations while continuing to harm people and planet without consequence gets us riled.
There is Good News
Unimaginable hurt came from that building's collapse but a real legacy for change came of it. There is today the biggest unified movement on behalf of fair fashion that we've ever seen, centered around Fashion Revolution Week.
The movement has shone a spotlight otherwise missing on an industry that often lacks scruples. We encourage you to read up on it further.
Below we've put together 4 simple steps of how you, even on a tight budget, can ensure it doesn't happen again.
I'm going to be honest here.
We've built a fashion business on the foundations of social good and equality. Our supply chain is designed to take care of every stakeholder in the making of our products - from the farmers growing our organic cotton to you, our end consumers wearing our products.
The result is a premium product and we know it's not within everyone's budget. For example, our headbands - the most responsibly made headbands in the world - retail at $25 USD. This pricing is at the higher end of the market - although there are many more expensive headbands.
Rachel and I (Jesse) are the founders of KOOSHOO and also parents to two beautiful young children. We don't own a home and have given this company everything for more than a decade now. Like so many others, money is tight for us. Life is expensive.
We fully understand why folks opt for cheaper alternatives for their hair accessories. With that being said, we believe all our products - hair ties, scrunchies, headbands - are the best value products of their kind in the world. That's because there is so much more than meets the eye when it comes to fashion. Here's what you don't see when holding one of our products:
- We choose to only work with social-good, ethically-credentialed (audited) manufacturers. Our supplier facilities are in India, Japan, and the USA.
- We pay workers fair wages to work in safe, well-ventilated, regulated workplaces. We've spent lots of time personally in these facilities and they're genuinely wonderful places to be.
- We use organic cotton, rather than conventional, pesticide-heavy cotton (conventional cotton is the most sprayed crop on earth - making fashion the world's 2nd most polluting industry). It's softer and more forgiving on your hair. It's also vegan and cruelty-free (looking at you, silk).
- We use fair trade natural rubber grown on sustainable rubber plantations. Rubber is typically either synthetic (made from oil), or planted on clearcut land where magical, native forests once stood. It's not always a pretty industry and this is why choosing certified sustainably farmed natural rubber is important.
- We use 100% biodegradable shipping materials. Almost every garment on earth is shipped/stored in a single-use plastic bag. The fashion industry alone goes through BILLIONS of these bags a year. Meanwhile, fully recycled and recyclable solutions exist for just a few pennies more. That's what we use - right down to plastic-free shipping tape.
- We dye using non-toxic dyes in facilities that must clean dye-water to drinking-water levels before returning it to waterways in order to maintain their certifications. Local waterways should not run blue because blue jeans are in fashion.
And while all those intangibles are incredibly important, the quality and comfort of our products, along with meticulously designing for style, rounds out the offering to the best value hair accessories in the world.
Supporting Fair Fashion on a Budget
Here's how we like to summarize fashion: fashion companies exist along a continuum from good to bad. It's a simplistic framework but it works. Some are earnestly trying to do good by others; others (most) are purely trying to make a buck (or a billion). The ones trying to make a buck are always doing so at a cost to others - planet and people that you cannot see in their fancy showroom/store/site. There are plenty in between.
As customers, we have more choice than you might think, even when budgets are tight. Here are 4 tips we follow, as a family on a budget, when making our fashion purchasing decisions:
1. Educate yourself.
Google "Ethics + (favorite brand)" and see what comes up. The old adage holds true: if there's smoke, there's fire. Choose your fashion responsibly. Among fast fashion producers there are decent guys and bad guys. Support the decent guys if you're going to shop fast fashion. If they don't tell you where, how, or what your item is made from then it's correct to assume they don't want you to know. Any company proud of their inputs will always tell you what they are up front.
2. Spread the word.
Whether eco fashion is in your budget or not, it still helps tremendously to spread the word on what you've learnt about fast fashion (watch the video at the top for a refresher).
By calling out the worst of the worst on social media, to friends, to family, we force the hand of those worst offenders to make changes. The result to you may be a few dollars more for a garment, but the result to a garment worker could be life and death.
3. Quality over quantity.
OK, I know this was the budget option but what if instead of 4 cheap, questionably-made, landfill-filling hair tie packs you bought 1 pack of the world's only organic cotton, ethically made, headache-free, long-lasting, plastic-free Hair Ties?
Or instead of 5 "disposable" $40 summer dresses from fast fashion you bought one beautiful, locally-made, locally-designed summer dress from an eco-fashion designer. There are thousands upon thousands of companies out there doing fashion right so give'em a search and support the future you want to see in this world. Your dollars are real world votes for the future of this planet.
4. Shop thrift.
It's estimated that 68lbs of clothing and textiles are THROWN IN THE GARBAGE every year by Americans. That's an absolutely crazy number and doesn't account for the hundreds of thousands of garments that get worn just once before ending up in a thrift store. Heed Macklemore's advice and: "No for real - ask your grandpa - can I have his hand-me-downs?" Thrift stores are packed with gems and often owned locally. Support them and diversify where your fashion comes from.
Enjoyed this and ready to join the fashion revolution? We've got you covered with the 11 easy tips you need to know to make a real difference in the world of fashion.
There are surely many other ways to shop consciously while on a budget. If you've got a good tip, let us know in the comments below.
You are the fashion revolution.