Day 100 / 365
When I bought this dress, I still believed, in the back of my ignorant mind, that Free People's production couldn't be that inhumane, nor could the consequences on the earth from this product's creation. I was getting married (I ended up opting for a playsuit I already owned in the end, teaching me a good lesson on impulsive purchases) and I wanted to look cool, confident and comfortable in my town hall wedding. Free People was selling, along with their clothing, the bohemian, hippie, salt-of-the-earth culture I wished to omit and to this day still identify with.
On their blog, they often share organic beauty DIY's, going so far as posting an 'Earth Day Face Mask", vegan foodie posts, spiritual guidance, and even guides to living a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
Yet they don't produce their own brand ethically or ecologically. And being that the fashion industry is amongst the top polluters and human rights harmers, this creates a hypocrisy that is, in my mind, unforgivable.
About a year ago, I wrote Free People to ask them if they had any eco-friendly pieces in their collections. One of their PR people wrote back with two links to vegan handbags, both of which were made with PVC, a non-biodegradable and non-recyclable material that is neither ethical nor ecological.
It isn't made with an animal by product, which is great, but exemplified their true ignorance. The product wasn't even produced by Free People, it was by one of the 'vegan' brands which is produce en mass, and is listed as imported. So though it is kinder to animals on a promotional level, it still harms animals in the end, and what's more, harms humans and the planet. (I'll write about the hypocrisy of 'vegan-washers' in a later post, but long story short, it's not 'cruelty-free' unless the production is also 'cruelty-free' and it's cruel to pay people slave wages for your product's creation).
If you go to the Free People website today and type: "eco" into their toolbar 13 products come up, mostly for dogs, and none of them are produced by Free People themselves. In fact, the only clothing item listed isn't even produced with eco-friendly materials, it is apparently produced with "eco-friendly practices" which is a step in the right direction, but is technically a greenwash all the same.
If you type "ethical" into the search bar, two products come up, again, not produced by Free People. One of their "ethical" products, produced by another jewellry company goes so far as to say their product is made with "ethically sourced mako shark teeth, leaving me to wonder how one procures teeth ethically from a shark.
I applaud Free People for including the few outside products which come from small conscious businesses they're attempting to personify. Their support helps those few eco, ethical companies grow and gain a following they'd otherwise have to work tirelessly to achieve. But it's not enough.
Free People's consumer community is happy to spend hundreds of dollars on one of their beautifully designed items, so it is not like fair wages for the people who produce their clothing and a few extra bucks spent on choosing fabrics and dyes which protect the planet would harm them. In fact, I'm almost positive their community would be happy to pay a few extra $ for a wardrobe free of malice.
The thing that is important to remember is: you can shout 'namaste' til the cows come home, but that doesn't make you an enlightened person. Your thoughts and actions make you an enlightened person. Your soul is not honouring another's soul in the slightest if you're profiting off another's pain; whether it be animals, humans or the planet. It is a completely ass backward, selfish and ignorant way to live your life or run your brand. Especially when you're using enlightenment and consciousness to sell, sell, sell.
Whether you're a fashion brand, or a yogi who earns money of a community by creating, supporting, promoting and/or downward dogging in items which cause harm to the earth and her inhabitants, you're a hypocrite. You might not realize it, and might not care, but you are. You're not a conscious person if the eco and ethical aspects of your purchases and actions are not included in your thoughts, and ignorance doesn't count as an excuse.
I realize how harsh this sounds and how judgmental, but I'm speaking to myself as much as anybody else. No one is perfect, I certainly don't consider myself to be a shining example of ethical and ecological living. I make mistakes daily and I'll likely continue to thoughout my life in one way or another, there are thousands of people doing it much better than me, but I'm at least trying to be conscious about the circular affects my actions, choices and purchases have on the world - and being transparent about my findings and mistakes. I'm thinking and asking questions and adjusting my life as best I can to quite literally be the change I wish to see in the world. It takes effort, like any individual growth does, but it is far more fulfilling than zombie-ing through life making choices and purchases which benefit me, myself and some careless company.
My conscience, once conscious of the answers to questions my consciousness poses to me, is unable to consciously make unconscious decisions without much deserved regret. And with this growth in conscious decision making, my spiritual consciousness grows ten fold. I'm acutely aware of how the way I live my life affects the earth and her inhabitants, and though the daily growing pains associated with changes of any habit are uncomfortable, I emerge much happier at the end of it, having also worked through the negative personal characteristics which so often materialize through any conscious decision to change.
You can do this by supporting brands who are transparent about their production, thoughtful about the procurement of fabrics, and honest about their mistakes and the improvements they are working towards. Just like personal growth, it's the journey, not the destination, which inspires positive change.
So ,Free People, and all the other brands hawking enlightenment extraneously, though I love that you support the community by sharing righteous rhetoric, I would LOVE for you to at least try to be the change you use in your rhetoric as promotion for your brand. Falling short ethically and ecologically taints you, and all who support you, and you've created such a strong community of genuinely gracious people you really could shift the world to an authentically better place.
I'm happy to help you on your journey, all you have to do is ask.
photos: Shane Woodward *unedited
clutch: (eco + ethical) Leotie Lovely Souk Soiree