I am not someone who has always been into being green. Confession - I do not recycle (we just haven't got around to getting a green bin!!). I eat meat. We walk a lot but never really don't use the car when we feel like it. But more recently, as a blogger, I've felt quite militant about something I've decided that I refuse to be complicit in. And that thing is fast fashion.
If you watch YouTube (you can find my channel here), you'll know that I like making videos for this blog once a week. I was inspired by watching a great deal of YouTube videos where bloggers pull out items from 'hauls' and show off how much they had gotten for very little from big chain stores like H&M. Recently, Zoella did a haul where she was showing off items from Primark. She'd paid a pound fifty for a tank top and had bought about three. Once, I would simply have marvelled about how cheap things are in the UK. Instead, I felt repulsed.
You see last year I came across a Facebook Post of my friend Nevada Leckie who owns Okewa Rainwear. She's recommended a documentary. It was called 'The True Cost'. About a year later I actually watched it. It changed the way I feel about clothes forever.
The basic premise is that socially and environmentally, cheap clothes are one of the biggest drains on our resources and lead to terrible conditions for workers in countries like Bangladesh. You can find it on Netflix to watch.
After watching that documentary, in line with the ethos of this blog, I decided I would only recommend clothes from companies who were either made in New Zealand or mindfully or ethically made. Everything is on a spectrum - so obviously not all companies can be perfect - but I personally think that it's probably a bit old hat to recommend Zara or H&M to smart Kiwi's like yourselves. You want brands that are creative, clever and fresh - not just take offs of last season's catwalk. I refuse to be complicit in the mindless consumerism of YouTube ASOS Hauls. It encourages fast fashion.
"I refuse to be complicit in the mindless consumerism of YouTube ASOS Hauls. It encourages fast fashion."
So - I've put together a list of companies that I think are worth considering buying from if you want to make an impact by supporting local and buying more ethically. This list is by no means exhaustive. It is just some that I personally wear and rate. Some are totally organic and fair trade. Other's are simply made in New Zealand. None of them is completely perfect. But all of them have made a conscious decision to think about their brand and the chain of production. And that is something worth valuing and supporting.
I've also interviewed one of these brands, Kept Limited's co-founder Jonarhon Hall, to better understand his take on ethical fashion and dig deep into the decisions he makes about his clothes. I recently discovered Kept on Instagram and truly adore their incredibly made scarves and accessories. I hope you find this useful and maybe even think about it when you next look at buying that cheap $30 dress from that huge chain store...
THE RESIDENTS RECCOMENDS...
6 Better Fashion Brands
- WELLINGTON FOUNDED & DESIGNED
- SCARVES AND ACCESSORIES
- MADE ETHICALLY OVERSEAS
- ARTISNAL PRODUCTION
- MADE IN NEW ZEALAND
- WELLINGTON FOUNDED & DESIGNED
- READ FULL INTERVIEW WITH THEM HERE.
1. Why did you decide to work with the manufacturers you do and source the wool from where you do?
I've been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time in Italy over the years, one thing that always struck me is the quality of made in Italy accessories is, on average, a lot higher than the accessories available here in New Zealand, even if they are not a lot more expensive. I'd bring a scarf back from Italy for myself and arrive home from work to find Justine (my partner) had worn it that day - when that happened three days in a row we started the conversation about why she'd choose one of my scarves rather than one she already owned, the quality (in this case, how nice it feels to wear) was one reason why.
When we made the decision to start Kept we knew we wanted to work with real artisans, businesses that specialised in one particular product. I reached out to people I'd met over the years and decided on the three manufacturers we work with now. Each is a family business, the youngest of which was established in 1931, the oldest in 1860.
When you produce accessories you rely on the manufacturer to supply the raw materials (unlike clothing where you select the fabric and send it to the manufacturer) and the quality of those raw materials, therefore, becomes part of the process of choosing the right partner to work with. Our scarf manufacturers are Reach and Oeko-tex certified, these programs keep harmful chemicals out of the scarf (and therefore away from your skin) and out of the environment.
By choosing partners in Italy and Germany we can feel comfortable that the strict local laws regarding workers rights and the environment are an integral part of the quality of our products.
2. What do you think it means to buy clothes consciously?
We think it means something slightly different to everyone. For us the most important criteria are the fabric composition (what fibres are used) and country of origin (both wear the garment was made and where the fabric was made) as well as designs that are enduring.
Clothing supply chains are incredibly complex so "perfect" information is almost impossible to come by. In many cases you're making a decision that sits comfortably with your values. For example we choose only to use natural fibres (the recent study regarding micro-plastics in the oceans reinforces how important this is to us) but we know there are people who don't believe in wearing any animal products and so our accessories won't be for them. We believe the real essence of buying clothes (or any other products) consciously is to be curious, to ask questions and to be prepared to pay more for genuine quality.
3. What trends do you think will emerge in the next 5 - 15 years in the way we consume clothes?
On the positive side; we'll buy fewer, better things; we'll go back to those (old-fashioned) values of quality over quantity; we'll become more and more informed about what it is we're purchasing - and all of this will relate to everything we buy, not just our clothes. I am concerned that growing inequality in the developed world means the rate at which we, as a society, change our behaviour is not as quick as it should be because people feel as though they can't afford to buy better quality products.
4. Did you ever buy fast fashion? Do you have a story about your awakening to appreciate quality?
Because I've been in the fashion industry (particularly working in tailoring) for so long I've always had an appreciation for quality. I know that I'm very fortunate in that respect. Having said that, there are always items that you just want to buy reasonably cheaply; underwear and children's clothing are a couple of examples.
(I suspect that) Like many people watching The True Cost was an awakening, since then we've really tightened up, we research the brand before buying pretty much anything.
5. What's the process that a scarf goes through from Kept from start to finish to get to the wearer and why should people pay more for that?
It's a long process! And the process is slightly different depending on the item but let's use one of our wool/silk, made in Italy scarves as an example.
We start with the designs, there is a lot of back and forth; Brian and I discuss concepts and he creates artwork, we all then critique and refine both the designs and the colours until we feel as though we've got it right.
The files are sent to Italy and samples are printed and shipped back to New Zealand for our approval. We then either make further tweaks or proceed with our production order.
The fabric is woven in Italy, digitally printed, the edges are rolled and the ends are frayed. The final step is that the labels (even these are made in Italy) are sewn on by hand. All of this is expensive and hence the reason we sell exclusively at keptlimited.com - if we were to wholesale our products and sell them at retail stores they'd be at least twice the price!
One of the benefits of working with the manufacturers we've chosen is that we can produce very small quantities, for our customers that means you really are buying something very exclusive. Working with family businesses in Italy and Germany, where labour and environmental laws are robust, gives us confidence that workers and the environment are treated with respect.
6. Anything else you'd like to add?
Before we started the brand we asked ourselves if Kept would simply be adding to the problem of excessive consumerism but in the end we decided that Kept offers our customers two important things; firstly, a better choice, we're confident if people like our designs and compare them to other brands they'll see that ours represent quality and value; secondly, Kept is a vehicle to discuss these sorts of issues, if someone reads this article or our journal and feels better informed, even if they don't buy from us, then that's great!