Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Operation Ethical Fashion

Summertime is supposed to be a time to experiment, right? Well, even if it isn't, that's what I'm doing. With clothes, I mean. For this entire summer (at least), I will not purchase any item of clothing that was not made in good ol' US of A. No label will go unchecked before I even consider a purchase.

Why take on such a difficult task? ABC News says that 98% of clothing purchased in America is imported from other countries. I'm not exactly a flag-waving, "God bless America" type myself, but I'm all for supporting local designers and manufacturers. Plus, I'm not a big fan of the sexual harassment, verbal abuse, ridiculous hours and extremely low wages the sweatshop workers who make most of our clothing (in countries like China, Vietnam, Bangladesh) are often faced with. Unless labor laws are suddenly adhered to and workers are being treated better, I am going to steer away from any clothing made from outside of the U.S.

This is no easy feat, as everything I am currently wearing was probably made by "tiny brown hands" (30 Rock reference). If you investigate a little more thoroughly, however, there are plenty of totally cute either locally-made or at least domestically-made options out there. When it comes to online shopping, I simply type in "made in USA" in the search bar (at ModCloth, for example) so I know my only options are all safe buys. An even better idea is purchasing more handmade items because I know that the designer actually cares about the product, plus I'm supporting people who truly love what they do and rely on loyal customers for their income. Fabulous handmade items can be found on Etsy, like this pretty dress from Crumpet Clothing, and this awesome hand-sewn, hand-printed tee from Leroy McGregor. And why buy mass-produced jewelry when handmade, locally-designed pieces, like those designed by A. Marie Jewelry are far more unique? (I'm not being paid to say any of this.)

One designer whose clothing I adore (and will someday be able to afford to buy) is Nanette Lepore. All of her pieces, such as the one Leighton Meester is donning on the left, are manufactured in the garment district in New York City. By keeping it local, she is supporting U.S. workers and maintaining full quality control. (Thanks, PBS.) If more designers (come on, Marc Jacobs!) did the same, more jobs will become available for my fellow Americans. Not too shabby.

So by buying exclusively U.S.-made clothing, I am refusing to support sweatshops AND buying unique items that are not going to make me tear up every time I put them on. And since I'm not going to cry as much, I will be using less tissues. The benefits are endless!