It’s no secret – I love clothes. So much so that at one stage of my life it wasn’t uncommon to be asked point blank, “So how much time do you spend shopping?” (Honestly, not that much, I’m a targeted shopper, I know what I wants and I gots to have it!). But certainly over the last two years, my views towards the all-hallowed, all-hated, and much-debated word fashion (or fashuuuurn if you must) has changed, back-tracked and evolved.
What things have changed the most? I’ve come to realise that more and more a few key principles are informing my choices, almost subconsciously, emerging from life experiences, travels and integral encounters with amazingly selfless and foresighted people. Travelling through Burma and wandering through a number of textile stores and factories got me asking questions and cemented my views even more.
In essence, less is more. And simplicity is king.
And why? Well, not only does this reflect a maturing sense of style which flits around less and less with the tides of trend and seasonality, but more importantly a desire to live more responsibly and knowledgeably, being aware of where my clothes come from to where they will end up.
This isn’t always easy. I mean, there are so many righteous pillars to uphold. Buying local vs abroad. Supporting the artisan over the multimillion dollar megacompany. Is the cotton organically farmed? Is the way in which the natural fibres of my favourite chambray shirt sustainably farmed? Is the clothing made by children or underpaid individuals? And while we’re at it, let’s talk about ethics and fair trade?
There is much smoke and many mirrors that confuse and hardly help us make our decisions. Companies and labels can easily masquerade as seemingly smaller ones and portray an image of “organic-ness” and wholesomeness, but may not always display transparency in the sourcing of materials or making of their products. And, let’s just be honest, sometimes you just need something and you need it quick, like it’s a lot easier to buy a flat-packed coffee table from Ikea than bang one out of upcycled wood in your own backyard, isn’t it?
So, one of my personal endeavours this year is to scout out local companies that think beyond their money-making capabilities and actively make the principles of fair trade a core part of their business ethic, partly because it’s sometimes really hard to ask all those questions yourself when searching for that new shirt for work, but mostly because their example should lead the way for all businesses out there. Fair trade should be a requirement and the norm, so let’s get behind and support the companies that uphold it.
These photos capture traditional handloom weavers at work in a small workshop on Inle Lake, Burma. They use cotton, silk and even lotus root fibres, which is itself a waning craft as it is highly labour intensive.