BLOG: Giving up buying clothes?


Today marks the beginning of Fairtrade Fortnight. Ashley Jackson shares below what she is doing to make the world a fairer place.

Everyone has heard the word ‘Fairtrade’, but I wonder what you think of when you hear it.

I know I think of tea, coffee and chocolate. Fairtrade is an organised movement whose goal is to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions. Whilst tea, coffee and chocolate are important products within the Fairtrade movement, cotton is also a huge area of concern.

Fashion is a multi­billion­pound industry. One that most of us pay into daily, monthly or at least yearly.

Many of our clothes are not made fairly.

Cotton may be made by trafficked children, men and women may well be in the t­shirt you are wearing right now. Many of our retailers and fashion labels still don’t know where they buy their cotton from and who made it.

Human trafficking is defined as the trade in humans including by use of threat or the force, or other forms of coercion, for the purpose of exploiting those humans.These include sexual exploitation,forced labour or services, and extraction of organs or tissues. It is the second largest criminal industry in the world, with an estimated $32 billion in annual profit, surpassing the arms trade and second only to the drugs trade.

As a customer I no longer wanted to pay into a support a crime.

As a customer, with a voice, I decided this was no longer good enough.

As a customer, I wanted a to know where my clothes came from.

I decided to do something.

Women and men are well known for spending a good amount of their wage on clothes. I am one of these. I roughly estimated that I spent more than a quarter of my monthly wage on fashion. I calculated this and realised if I stopped buying clothes, this would make a small but significant dent in the ‘multi­billion­pound’ industry.

So that is what I have done.

A fashion fast.

From the beginning of February, for one year, I have committed to not buying clothes.

Am I doing this for me? No of course not, I love clothes!

Yet, if the money I save helps at least one person enslaved to make my cotton socks, the journey will be worthwhile.

If the voice I have lets others have the right to choose Traffik­free clothing, it is worthwhile.

If my writing helps to end the exploitation of workers through the Sumangali scheme, it is worthwhile.

So what if?

What if you can do something too?

I get that many of you don’t want to give up buying clothes, but your voice is just as loud.

Use it.

- Write to your local shops and start petitions in your area to find out where they buy their cotton. This is free information which shouldn’t be withheld from you, the customer.

- Buy certified products – look at your labels, find out where they are made and if they were made fairly.

- Shop in charity shops – Still buying clothes but the money you spend will go to a charity of your choice. This is also limiting the amount of money going to fuel unfair exploitation.

This Fairtrade Fortnight. You have a voice.

Use it for justice.

“Justice is doing for others what we would want done for ourselves.” Gary Haugen

I would want someone to speak up for me. Wouldn’t you?

Follow me on my journey here.