Sustainable Fashion and Financial Responsibility

woman fans out $100 bills - Sustainable Fashion and Financial Responsibility
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Sustainable Fashion and Financial Responsibility

I must admit that I’ve been pretty bad with money lately. I’ve always had a shopping problem, but the thrill of a new job and new connections with ethical clothing brands exarcerbated it over the past couple months.

Shopping is what I do when I have free time. It’s a hobby and, like most hobbies, it can gobble up money rather quickly if you don’t watch it. When I have a moment to spare, I like to plop down in front of my computer and seek out new products on the internet.

I like to tweet ethical brands and feature product boards. But I’m here to remind myself once again that a fair trade lifestyle is just as much about cutting back as it is about redirecting my shopping.

Fair trade products add up! The ethos of the industry allows us to use positive words like support and invest instead of splurge and indulge, but we’re not really off the hook for our spending.

I knew from the start that this journey would be a challenge and that it would mean changing the way I think about consuming, but I got to the point where I thought, “I’ve abstained from a good shopping spree long enough. Why not go a little wild?”

Going wild is dangerous no matter what avenue you choose, but it comes with startling financial consequences when you’re purchasing high cost, fair trade items.

Indulging versus Supporting

The advertising industry has successfully convinced a lot of us, myself included, that we deserve to indulge. But that’s an outright lie! Shopping shouldn’t be conceived of as a guilty pleasure we get to partake in if we’re good people.

Unfortunately, ethical brands often employ the same tactics with a twist. They tell us: “Not only do you deserve to cut loose; by doing so, you actually help people! In fact, the more you indulge, the more you support the disadvantaged in faraway lands! It’s a win win. It’s the future, people!”

But I’m convinced that the future is really about being as thoughtful as possible about each step we take on our path through the world. Think about where you spend, but also think about whether you should spend at all. Think about the repercussions of a choice from every angle. Think about your life goals and financial responsibilities.


So, I sent a lot of stuff back, but I’m left with many things I shouldn’t have purchased. I’ll be alright, but I know I didn’t make the best choices.

The silver lining in all this is that I realized I have successfully gone a year without purchasing from brands with poor corporate social responsibility standards. I now naturally steer clear of companies that don’t align with my values. That’s progress. But I’ve still got a ways to go.

Leah Wise

Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.

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  1. Thanks for responding! I think it's something we're all figuring out together and I appreciate you and other like minded bloggers out there trying to make a difference when it's so much easier to succumb to unchecked consumerism.

  2. What a great reminder, Leah! It is far easier to justify spending when you feel like it's for "the greater good." Mine is always to educate and empower consumers to make those choices and if I can stay in front of them, dangling that ethical/organic carrot, that they'll make better choices. It's a sword I'll fall on, but I should have a more measured regard for overall financial stewardship. Thanks for the challenge! XO, Brandi

  3. I agree with you about the marketing twist. Many ethical brands still keep that "indulge" call to action but, as you said, they turn it into "you're helping by indulging!" With that tack, people could pretty much feel guilty for buying OR for not buying. "I can't really afford it, but it helps people, and I want it… should I or shouldn't I?" I think getting away from the "indulge" idea would be good for Western consumer society as a whole. I completely agree with you that there's the idea out there that shopping is a reward for being a good person, as if shopping has no greater ramifications or effects outside one's own person.

  4. I always struggle with this. There are a lot of smaller brands that I want to be around for a long while so I try to balance supporting and consumption. It's a very fine line!

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