You’re interested in ethical fashion, right? Of course you are… you wouldn’t be reading our blog if you weren’t. And there are several reasons why you might support the ethical clothing movement.
Maybe it’s the soft, comfortable feel of organic cotton on your skin. Perhaps you are driven by the Fairtrade certification on these products; resting assured in the knowledge that when you purchase something Fairtrade certified, each person involved in its manufacture was treated fairly. Or are you in it for the many environmental benefits; from reduced pollution of waterways, to the prevention of GMO seeds. Whatever the reason, the most important thing is that you are on board with it, and we think that is fantastic! Ethical products are unique in that we cast a vote for the world we want through the purchases we make.
Yet despite all these benefits, why is the movement still in it’s infancy; why is it struggling to take off? It is not a stagnant movement by any means, and it is definitely expanding. However, it is only prominent in distinct pockets of the market; without truly taking hold on a wider scale.
The way we see it, people can be classified in three groups when it comes to ethical fashion. There is the conscious consumer; who loves Fairtrade, ethical, and organic clothing, and makes the effort to purchase it whenever possible. Then there are the people who are totally uninterested; they know about it but have no desire to purchase it. Either because they simply don’t care, aren’t well informed, or don’t think they can make a difference. The third group is the one I want to focus on. It’s those people who are interested in ethical fashion and want to start purchasing it, but aren’t. I will explore three common concerns some people have, and explore how we, Tummah Ethical Trade, are looking at addressing them.
“I can’t afford a $100 t-shirt”
If you were to survey people interested in ethical fashion, then I believe price would comfortably come out as the biggest hindrance and barrier. By price I am not necessarily meaning that people think ethical clothing is overpriced; but more that people can’t afford it. As a society, more and more people are struggling financially, and for many people purchasing ethical fashion remains nothing more than a dream. However, some promising changes are underway.
Initially, almost all ethical clothing was well beyond the reach of most people. People had to pay a premium, and the vast majority of ethical clothing was reserved for the boutique market. Comments such as “I can’t afford $100 for a t-shirt” were very valid, as these were the prices you were looking at. However, this is changing now. In recent years, we have begun to see ethical clothing available at every price point. To clarify, by every price point, I am meaning t-shirts starting at $25-$30. In all honesty, this is the lowest price you can realistically expect to pay for a fairly made tee. You are never going to get a tee for $5 or $10, it simply won’t happen.
Okay so $30 is much better, but what if it is still out of my price range? You may be someone who says “I am used to purchasing those $10 t-shirts.” I think it is reasonable to assume that a lot of people who like to purchase those cheaper clothing items also enjoy purchasing clothing more frequently. However, Ethical fashion focuses on quality over quantity. Items that are made better, feel nicer, and are going to last longer. If you continue wearing something to the end of its life, you will see that better-quality products pay for themselves over and over. Ethical clothing is an investment.
So, what are we saying? Tummah Ethical Trade was set up to make ethical clothing affordable for more people. We are providing products as the lowest prices we can, but it takes a little change from the consumer too. Why not start from the bottom up! If you haven’t already, try a pair of underwear for $14 and see what you think. Or, go all out and look at our No Nasties range. Instead of buying 3 dresses and wearing them a handful of times each; save up and give a stunning No Nasties tunic a go. It doesn’t hurt to try; and more importantly, it’s not going to hurt the people who are producing the clothing! I think the number one take away is to try to get full use out of the product you are purchasing. When clothing is no longer seen as a consumable, the true value of ethical products will shine through.
“It’s not available in New Zealand, and I am not comfortable purchasing from overseas”
Been there, had that problem. Okay, that’s not entirely true. Yes, what we wanted wasn’t available in New Zealand; but we were still comfortable purchasing overseas. However, at the end of the day, there is risk involved and it is an inconvenience. We thought to ourselves “there must be an easier way…” Tummah Ethical Trade is our ‘easier way’. In hindsight, I’m not entirely sure how creating a brand-new business was the easiest option for us; but it definitely creates an easier way for New Zealanders… you’re welcome!!
Accessibility is the second big barrier for people. “I want to purchase Fairtrade clothing, but it’s so hard to find in New Zealand.” It’s true, with New Zealand being so isolated and relatively small, we don’t have access to a wide range. This is why we started Tummah Ethical Trade, out of our own frustration. Before this business started, we could not find a single retailer of Fairtrade certified undies here. Fairtrade t-shirts were available but very limited, and affordable designer clothing and formal wear (aka No Nasties) was not an option either. Don’t get me wrong, there were some beautiful offerings of designer clothing from some fantastic businesses already available; but they cater to a different part of the market.
Enter the market Tummah Ethical Trade. Our goal is to give NZers access to all sorts of ethical clothing at affordable prices, with a specific focus on Fairtrade certified clothing. And we do understand that our offering is currently very limited, but as we continue to grow we will be able to offer more. Products we are lining up soon include more options in our range of underwear, and introducing kids tees. In the future, we will also be looking at more children’s clothing, infant’s clothing, and women’s bras. We want to bring leading international Fairtrade brands to New Zealand, so all New Zealanders can easily have access to and enjoy them. Is there a brand you have come across overseas which you would like to see available here? Then let us know and we will consider the possibility of stocking them.
“Isn’t ethical clothing unfashionable?”
The last concern I will quickly touch on is the style of ethical clothing. It is still commonly thought that ethical clothing means; unstyled, old-fashioned, unprofessional, or uncomfortable. It is not modern and up with the latest trends. Again, I think in the past this argument had more validity. However, those days are gone!
Our brands cater to different style areas. With Etiko, you have everyday undies and tees that look modern and are comparable with conventional options. Side by side, you would be unable to tell the difference. Products that are a good fit, comfortable, and made well in a fair way.
On the other hand, No Nasties is up with the leading fashion trends. A range that includes stylish pocket tees, henley’s and dress shirts for men; as well as elegant tunic dresses, jumper dresses and angled tees for woman. These wouldn’t look out of place at any high-end fashion store, and there is no argument about this range being outdated. Beautifully made, they are characterised by their lightweight soft fabric, and precision detailing (such as rolled edges). Best of all, they are affordable and Fairtrade!
The barriers are quickly coming down and the more people that get on board, the faster things will change. Tummah Ethical Trade is doing their bit to change the fashion industry in New Zealand, and to promote Fairtrade clothing as a viable option for everyone! Further, we are customer focused and encourage your recommendations on increasing our range.
There are ways to make ethical clothing work for you, but you need to be willing to make some small sacrifices too. We do not believe ethical clothing should be limited to a select group, but should be commonplace within the fashion market. So get on board, give it a try, and encourage others too.