Let’s face it. Ethical fashion is not the easiest topic to talk about. There are awkward silences, unintended guilt trips, softly spoken accusations, and often the conversation would have been better off not existing. Not cool. As an ethical fashion enthusiast, I have had my fair share of awkward ethical fashion conversations, and honestly; I’m sick of them. Ethical fashion should bring human empowerment, provoke thought, and ultimately exist as a topic you can drop into conversation without fear, rather excitement and intrigue at the thought of the future. After consciously changing and analysing my conversations, having an open discussion about ethical fashion isn’t impossible. Heck, it’s not even that hard. Here’s my 5 top tips on how to have an open (and kick ass!) discussion about ethical fashion:
The term ‘ethical fashion’ describes the counteracting phenomenon of the exploitation of garment factory workers. But, this doesn’t mean an open conversation about ethical fashion looks like a cry-fest over the terrible things happening in the fashion industry. Trust me, I’ve been there done that, got the (ethically made) t-shirt, and although there should be a level of acceptance and acknowledgement around the cold hard facts, this type of conversation won’t get us anywhere. Focusing on the positives and changes that have already been implemented is crucial to keeping the conversation open and alive. Knowing that there are already eco-wins and warriors out there building a revolution, instigates more change than dwelling on the negatives ever will.
KNOW YOUR SHIT
Coming into a conversation with knowledge around the topic is always a good thing. Firstly, I’ll be frank: you don’t end up looking like an idiot who doesn’t know what they are talking about. You can confidently support your ideas and claims with concrete evidence. You gain credibility, and can offer knowledge and insight into a conversation, rather than simply soak it up. A good, productive discussion is full of give and take. You don’t want to be the one who always takes. Secondly, spreading research and education through conversation is a huge part of growing the ethical fashion movement and demolishing the monster we call ‘fast-fashion’. If we all share tid-bits of knowledge, slowly they will pass through society, snowballing, forming one brilliant ball of fast-fashion destruction.
This tip is for all the ethical fashion advocates out there with passion oozing out their eyeballs and knowledge jumping up their throats. Yes, you may be an ethical fashion guru, but no one wants an info vomit. This has never gotten any one anywhere. ASK questions. LISTEN to their perspective. WAIT in between silences so they can think about it. Nobody will care what you say until they know that you care about them.
NO NEED TO GUILT TRIP
Have you ever been in a conversation and felt horribly condemned, even if the person isn’t talking directly about you? It is easy to take someone on a guilt trip when discussing ethical fashion. We all wear clothes, so we all participate in the fashion industry- except for ugly naked guy of course (cue: Friends fans chuckle). The challenge is to avoid the guilt trip; make it clear that you’re not perfect either. It’s not a contest, it’s a conversation.
SHARE ECO FASHION BRANDS
When I first heard about ethical fashion in its entirety, I left feeling helpless and cynical. I felt like an ant in the ocean; powerless and tiny. I remember thinking: well, how can I make a difference as one person? Offering alternatives on where to shop and how to make a difference is crucial to keeping the conversation open. You also can follow up with them on how they got along investigating ethical fashion brands, and continue the conversation multiple times at later dates.
Conversations about ethical fashion can be difficult. Once you know enough about the industry, it is hard to have a conversation without slamming the other person with facts and heartbreak, or pointing fingers unfairly. Come at the topic from a positive light, do your research, listen, don’t guilt trip, and always keep a few ethical fashion alternatives handy in your back pocket.