Accidentally Ethical

Accidentally Ethical

When I started working on VTC, I didn’t know what ethical fashion was. And honestly, I didn’t care. I knew that I didn’t want to run a “sweatshop” – although I didn’t really know what that meant. I also knew I wanted women to earn a fair wage for their work. You guessed it – didn’t know what fair wage meant either. Let’s just acknowledge the fact that there’s a lot I didn’t know, and my learning curve has been steep – really steep.

I set a coffee date with a local fashion guru to learn more about manufacturing and sourcing. I literally did not know what kind of machines I needed, how to find a pattern maker or what a coverstitch was (hint: it’s critical for professionally hemming knits, the only fabric we currently use). Remember I was trying to launch a clothing line? Awesome start. She agreed with me when I said I was crazy, but she graciously offered her knowledge because she was impressed with my plan to employ refugees.

As our lattes reached half-empty, we dug deep enough to hit her passion – ethical manufacturing practices. She offered two resources and a warning. She recommended that I read Overdressed, that I watch The True Cost, and she warned me that I would never want to buy clothes again.

A couple weeks later, I was on the phone with another social business founder and she mentioned The True Cost. Then one of my closest friends sent me a link to the ethical fashion blog Dress Well Do Good and told me that she and a friend challenged themselves to buy only ethically for all of 2016… I was starting to pay attention.

Something about the conviction of these women resonated with me and I decided to look into it. I knew at this point that VTC would by default fall into the ethical fashion camp because we’re choosing to pay fair wages and offer a clean, encouraging work environment for seamstresses. What I didn’t know was how drastically my personal convictions about fashion would change as I spent the next few weeks and months investigating.

I started to read Overdressed and was not only horrified at the truth behind manufacturing, but I was ashamed by my own naivety on the issue. One Friday evening, I decided to watch The True Cost. My coffee date was right. I don’t want to buy clothes any more. Don’t get me wrong – I like clothes and like to be trendy, but I have been ruined for shopping. When I read where a garment is made, I can’t help but wonder…How much did they pay the woman who made this? Does she make enough to feed her kids? Is the factory clean and well-lit? I know the odds are not in her favor. I’m no longer comfortable spending my money to support this. I hang the garment back up and walk out of the store.

I started out doing research so I’d be a little more knowledgeable as the leader of a company in this arena. Now, it’s a personal conviction that has transformed the way I spend and shop. If you’re brave enough, I’d encourage you to look into it as well. I can almost guarantee you won’t like what you find. Sometimes, the truth really does hurt. But it’s also usually what’s best in the end.

Want to learn more? Just us for our fundraiser and screening of the True Cost on Monday, March 27 at 7 PM.