Fast Fashion & Luxury: Our Ethical Choices

Chinese New Year is around the corner and that means ‘spring cleaning’.

This year, we decided to look back at our fashion choices or better said: brand choices.

If you know me long enough then I wear $5 dollar t-shirts but also $1000 ones.
My two most worn brands are Uniqlo and Loro Piana.

One is dirt cheap and the other one… well it costs about $3000 for a hoodie.

My wife is in the same boat. She either buys extremely cheap or more YSL, Bottega Veneta, and Diane von Furstenberg for dresses.


But then at random the keywords ethical and fast fashion sparked a conversation 2 days ago and we dug deeper.


We Can’t Support Fast Fashion

Brands like H&M, Uniqlo, Zara, etc are fast fashion brands with often immoral and unethical practices.


Because fast fashion equals overproduction and exploitation of women, and children under modern slavery.


It made me realize that no matter how many times I said to someone: “I only need $5 t-shirts because I just work at home”, it’s completely unjustified.

For years in our e-commerce in Asia, we only supported independent and smaller brands/designers and now I feel I betrayed my own beliefs by buying clothes that have been manufactured by children in bad conditions.


Fashion Transparency Index

It then hit me, there is something like a Fashion Transparency Index which I forgot.

Some of the elements counted are

  • Supply chain traceability
  • Tax and purchasing practices
  • Waste & Overproduction
  • Transparency
  • Living wages
  • Carbon Footprint
  • etc


I dug deeper and it’s worth a read how an entire industry like this can do so much bad without not enough people caring.

I only considered the wages during our ‘closet audit’ and ethical practices around getting fair pay but brands like Louis Vuitton stuffed in our closet had their bad rep of paying children $2 per hour for a luxury bag.


Whilst they were stepping up their game in sustainability, the element of labor is so unclear where one says it’s a great brand and another source tells investigation tells kids to sew their $5000 bag together.


So my wife and I went with the following reason:

  • In case we doubt it, we don’t buy it anymore.
  • If we have unethical fashion or fast fashion in our closet, it’s ripe for the bin, and we won’t touch it again.


This meant that all her Louis Vuitton and other brands from the same LVMH group had to be tossed out in case they were as bad as LV.

My first reaction was… fuck. Loro Piana has been acquired by LVMH but luckily they have very different views or ethics than Dior, which btw is as bad as LV.


Brand Audit


We decided to check all of our closets.

Which btw, I stumbled upon a brand new Macbook Air 15-inch, untouched and unwrapped since last year and we forgot about it.

But that’s a different story.

Back to the closet:

Our closet primarily contains the following

  • Hugo Boss – Goes into the bin
  • Diane von Furstenberg – Stays
  • Dior – Goes into the bin
  • Fendi – Goes into the bin
  • Louis Vuitton – Goes into the bin
  • Loro Piana – Stays
  • Uniqlo – Goes into the bin
  • Under Armour – Stays for now
  • YSL – Stays
  • Mont Blanc – Stays
  • Local Taiwanese Designers – Stay
  • Nike – Goes into the bin
  • Superdry – 50/50 currently on that decision
  • Bottega Veneta – Stays
  • Chanel – Goes into the bin
  • Lacoste – Goes into the bin
  • Loewe – 50/50
  • Miu Miu – IDK yet


In other words, 80% or more will go away without emotions and we have no problem tossing all the luxury brands out that are known for using sweatshops, using children and females, or do not have a high score on the Fashion Transparency Index.

For the record: We are not going to sell or donate the items we throw away. They go simply into a shredder and never see the light of day again.

Reconsidering My Choices

It made me realize how blind we are and what’s right in front of us. From a consumer perspective, I never took THIS much time to consider what to buy.

I only went for brands that have no logo or very minimal display of it. (She cares less about it, but I do)

Since our New Year starts differently than the West, then consider this part of our joint NY resolution to at least sway in the direction of ethical brands, being ethically sourced or having a score high enough from a brand that is working towards better labor conditions.


The reality is that not a lot will pass that test and that makes us buy from local brands over the mainstream brands.

We are totally okay with it.


Close

Whilst we cannot prevent using all products being ethically sourced or made, my wife and I believe that we need to contribute.

Does this mean our bill goes up? Yes.
Do we care? No.

We are going with the approach of buying less now but with better-informed decisions before just walking into a store.

Understandable that this would be a surge in costs for anyone who wants to follow the same approach, but if you’re in a position to buy Chanel or Louis Vuitton, you might as well buy something else.

Do I feel good about it? Absolutely yes.

Because if we don’t abide by ethics, it’s hard to project that in a company DNA or you probably follow the same rules by hiring cheap labor to do your legwork in a business. Which I cannot support. Overcompensating skills is one of the key rules or principles I have in business.

Now I am extending that principle somewhat to our fashion choices.


It’s a start.