After the tragic events in Bangladesh last year ,when a factory of workers being paid next to no money in Western terms to manufacture clothes for some of worlds biggest retailers collapsed, there was an understandable outrage within the denim and work wear community to draw the attention of consumers to the effects of buying cheaply produced clothing. It is a fact that consumers in all markets need to be educated about what they are buying and where it comes from, right the way through the supply chain. For some people decisions are made for them by what they can afford, and what they NEED to afford for their families continued well being, but for the privileged others there has to be an awareness of how their purchasing habits effect other areas of the planet and not just to do with people but also wildlife and the environment. This is a key point I make to any brand who I work with, ethics need to be king.
This awareness of impact though needs to spread into the higher priced, ethically produced items. Simply because an item is high priced and fully ethically produced through its supply chain it does not absolve the consumer from responsibility in fact I would argue that it heightens it as we are the people who can afford to choose. The choice for us who buy in this market (and this is where I am slightly at odds with myself as a retailer) is not so much focussed on what to buy as how much to buy. I must insert my caveat here and say that I am well aware that people are free to spend their money exactly how they feel, I am just asking that they think before they do, I’m not even asking them to buy less, just that they question themselves before buying their 20th flannel shirt.
You see, the thing is this, no matter how much care and attention is taken throughout the design, sourcing and manufacture stage of a product (any product) there is still an impact, that impact may be environmental due to processing, it might be the carbon footprint of the goods traversing the planet or it may even be something as simple as the financial impact on the customer who cannot really afford to be spending as they are. The manufacturers and retailers do not carry the full responsibility of these things, the consumer is culpable too and well produced, justifiable greed is still greed by anyone’s measure and something we are all guilty of to one degree or another.
The other argument to this is more of a personal opinion, this is high quality denim, work wear and boots right? This stuff is made to last and evolve with the wearer by people who actively encourage and take pride in the evolution of their products (and rightly so) right? So, if you buy so many things that you cannot possibly have a chance to wear them all are you not missing the point somewhat? Is this not where work wear becomes a costume of work wear? Do you not run the risk that you are not so much a denim head as a person dressed as a denim head? Think about the kid at the mall with his brand new Tony Hawk skateboard still unmarked and complete with rails, trying desperately to convince people that he is a real hardcore skater.
Materials like denim and leather are made to wear and change over time, their joy is ephemeral and their state of being is in constant flux. With time and wear our jeans change, as do our boots, wallets and jackets, to delay this process by simply not using them is to defy time and to deny them of their purpose, it just seems to go against the natural order of things in a very counter intuitive manner to me. Again though I should stress that this is only my opinion.
I would suggest that the money spent on those 20 flannel shirts could be used to enrich your life in other ways, you could vary your wardrobe to the nth degree and invest only in the very best things and then use them to their purpose, you could invest in other hobbies or interests or you could travel and experience the world in all it’s wonder, seeking adventures to share with your super well made wardrobe, and you can even look good doing it.