It sometimes seems like the last decade has prompted a bizarre switch wherein everything that was once good for us has turned evil, and revealed to have been horribly damaging to ourselves and the environment all along.
New information conflicts wildly with old truths (the food pyramid is a perfect example of this: am I not supposed to eat LOADS of bread?!) with many opinions and contradictions to match. These are resolved usually with an answer in a shade from a vast ocean of greys.
The problem is, it has become so difficult to separate fact from fiction (and to find transparency), and if we really look at our consumption, very few people are squeaky clean. I certainly amn't.* All we can do is educate ourselves and do our best to make choices we feel good about. In terms of fashion, we can try to avoid stores that employ cheap labour (if the clothes are really cheap, there must be a reason), and buy things we love and are going to wear lots. Ask yourself, are you getting #30wears out of your clothes? If not, that's probably a red flag.**
There's always the excuse that we aren't making enough money to spend loads on our clothes, but I'm not suggesting anyone break the bank. On the contrary, spending a bit more money less frequently might actually save you a few bob. It might also encourage companies to sell fewer unethically sourced products.
On that note, below are some lovely, cool brands that are either: 1. vegan, 2. made with ecologically-friendly materials, or 3. pay their employees real wages - in most cases all three. Once you've checked them out let me know if you know any that are worth a mention, and be sure to share your thoughts on the matter in the comments!
Della - dellala.com
Handcrafted by a community in Ghana, West Africa, Della sells bright women's clothing and awesome accessories like African-style printed laptop cases. Shipping from the US to Ireland costs $18.
Matt & Nat - mattandnat.com
You may have heard of this Canadian company that makes great bags and accessories for women and men in loads of pretty colours. It's sold on ASOS and in Avoca shops, and it ships to Ireland too. Free shipping over €70 to Ireland, or under that, it's a €10 flat rate.
Borgeouis Boheme - bboheme.com
This English company makes smart vegan leather shoes for men and women that are crafted by traditional methods in Portugal. They're expensive enough, but maybe worth it if you plan to wear them lots! They also do sales in their 'outlets' section so check back for bargains.
Everlane - everlane.com
Another brand that's gaining popularity fast, this LA-based company doesn't yet ship to Ireland, but promises it will soon (sign up for the newsletter, they'll inform you when it happens). Simple and stylish, their practices are transparent, and you can read about them on their site.
Uncommon Goods - uncommongoods.com
If you're looking for a unique present, Uncommon Goods stocks a number of small retailers and boutique brands with lots of ideas. Some of them ship to Ireland, and some of them don't, it depends on the seller.
Soko Jewellery - shopsoko.com
I got a pair of Soko's earrings not long ago and I love them. You can read all about their practices on their site, but in short, they connect Kenyan artisan jewellers with the world, and drive development within their communities.
Lastly, vintage is always a good option! Read my suggestions here.
Words by Cathy Carey
*There's no glowing halo over my head. I read that some of the brands I buy, and put up on this blog, are engaged in less-than-transparent behaviour. More on this later.
**Some questions, if you will: Does your salad - vegetarian though it may be - come in an non-recycled plastic container, wrapped in a non-recycled brightly printed paper? And where does it go when you're finished with it? If you eat vegan but you buy clothes from cheap labour employers like Primark and H&M, have you got any more moral high ground than someone who eats local meat and buys their wearables from sustainable brands?