My blogger buddy Leah Wise from Style Wise blog and I have had numerous skype conversations about how closely we feel our blog life represents our real life, and I know we're not alone. The eco / ethical community of bloggers is still finding their footing in the blogging world as we need to use the same formula proven to work for conventional fashion bloggers, while promoting a lifestyle which represents the exact opposite point of view (buy less, not more).
The problem we have is there are a lot of really wonderful brands doing super spectacular things in the sustainable world and we have platforms to promote them. It is hard to promote something genuinely which you haven't ever seen or used and thus we sometimes find ourselves in a conundrum when it comes to "do as I say, not as I do"
After creating a reader survey of her blog's fans which brought up this issue, Leah, ever the critical thinker, responded transparency on the issue(s) at hand. Below are her thoughts.
* you can follow Leah on her blog Style Wise, here.
After reading 49 well-crafted, thoughtful responses from you, my readers, in my recent Reader Survey, I'm struck by how attentive and supportive this community is. And it really is a community - even if we don't always get to meet each other or have a long chat online - because we're learning from each other, encouraging one another, and calling each other out with respect in order to make the whole community better. I was particularly struck by the comment below, and think it's worthwhile to devote a post to it:
I know that you write an ethical blog, but something that I struggle with re: both your and other ethical fashion blogs is the amount of free/discounted products that you receive from brands. While I think it's awesome (we get to see what it looks like on an actual human!) I also struggle with the fact that you're still amassing more clothing/products when you preach not purchasing/attaining new things when there's so much out there that's used already. This is something I think about a lot and something that I've never seen a single blogger address—it's the elephant in the room...Firstly, this question is super legit, and even in an anonymous format, I think it takes guts to just come right out and say it. Women especially are socialized to avoid conflict at the risk of missing out on important conversations, so I'm glad we're here having an important conversation. It's not the first time I've seen this concern in the ethical blogosphere, either, but I don't think anyone has answered it satisfactorily.
So let me break it down a little bit:
[THE AMOUNT OF FREE / DISCOUNTED PRODUCTS THAT YOU RECEIVE FROM BRANDS]
Every blogger approaches this question of a minimal lifestyle versus consumption differently, but rest assured we are thinking (and talking to each other!) about it. Some blogs are very clearly shopping blogs, while others (like mine) are a bit of a hodgepodge of topics and formats under the umbrella of ethical style and living. While it's undeniably true that a big part of making thoughtful clothing purchases is simply making fewer clothing purchases, there's a question of what the end goal of an ethical style blog should be.
Are we role models for a lifestyle, or style and shopping directories? Is what we do supposed to be an exact version of what you would do? Should we be embarrassed of our mistakes, or push forward to greater progress?
Change must happen collectively.
If we're going to question the amount of stuff ethical bloggers receive, we might also need to question why we ethical bloggers think it's a good idea to have a fashion blog at all. After all, existing in the modern world is full of ecological and ethical compromises. But, while I believe that the pinnacle of
ethical living on an individual level would be throwing out the computer, stopping shopping, finding a homestead, and living off the land, that's neither practical nor particularly human. Community is important, and the potential impact I can have on the world is arguably much greater when I stay planted in the modern society I find myself in, and when I determine to reach out to like-minded people across the world through this beautiful invention called the internet, even if that means that my personal carbon footprint is greater.
I'm not always right.
I also feel uncomfortable with being held up as a perfect model of what it means to live ethically. I'm a self-described recovering shopaholic. A big part of why I became interested in ethical fashion is because I was really burnt out with meaningless consumption, but that doesn't mean it's easy for me to stop accumulating stuff. I share a fair bit of my personal struggle on StyleWise because I want you to know that I am with you, not above you or ahead of you. That means I'm not always right. That means I over consume. And sometimes that means I work with brands I shouldn't have worked with.
It's hard to say no to free things.
When a company emails you and says, "Hey! We like you and want to give you a free thing," it is very hard to say no, especially in the beginning when receiving free stuff feels like a way of legitimizing the blog project you spend entirely too much time on without any compensation. Now, that's no excuse for taking whatever comes my way, but I just want you to know that it's not easy to say no. I've worked with a couple of brands I wish I'd said no to when I realized that neither the style nor the quality of the product I received measured up to what I wanted for myself or for my blog. Those brands are notably not listed on my Resources page, but I felt stuck when it came to writing posts about them.
That was an important lesson: Think carefully about the repercussions of collaboration.
There are some ethical bloggers who review products on a near daily basis and, while I have no interest in pursuing that for StyleWise, I think their train of thought is that the more brands they can promote, the better. There's some logic to that since bloggers - and particularly ethical ones - have proven to be great resources when I'm trying to find that perfect gift or accessory or whatever, but I would have to let them answer this question to make a judgment call there. I know it can be difficult when a blog reads as "Do what I say, not what I do," but I think one possible solution is simply more transparency about the blogger's individual mission. More conversations like this one.
Transparency, as in most things, is the key.
All that to say that I don't think that doing reviews and the occasional sponsored post is inherently wrong.
And I know that you all can probably tell when I'm wearing something that is sort of off for me, even if I like it. It's probably taken me longer than it's taken readers to get a sense of my personal style. But I think having a very strong sense of that is what helps reviews flow naturally into the stream of other content.
I'm working to develop a sense of my "uniform" so that I will only choose brands and products that fill a need in my closet, and suit my personal taste.
[Promoting Secondhand and Innovation]
* head to Leah's blog for the rest of her thoughts on this subject HERE