Wednesday, 15 August 2012

an ethical fashion question - how much choice do you give up?

Ok, so that title is rather dramatic for a post that will focus on funny t-shirts, but bear with me.

I have a number of t-shirts with cute or witty or funny or geeky designs on them. Not as many as my husband, or many other people in my circles, but quite a few. Whether there should be so many in my wardrobe is a subject for a different post; for today, we are taking their continued existence in my life as a given.

I really like redbubble as a source for such shirts.  They fit in with our ethical fashion journey in two ways - the American Apparel shirts (and hoodies, although I've yet to buy any of those) that they use are sweatshop free, and they support small designers. In fact, I know three or four people who have designs on the site, whether for T-shirts or other things, and my husband owns t-shirts with designs that were made by friends of ours.

I went to browse through some designs the other day and noticed that since the last time I was there, they've introduced some organic shirt options! Yay!
Except... the organic ones are only available in four colours: black, white, natural, and a weird light purply-grey colour they call 'cinder'.

Now I'm torn. Knowing the organic shirts are available, can I justify buying the non-organic ones just because I want a particular design in a different colour? Or is the fact I already viewed them as an "ok" source for clothes enough to allow me to keep buying any shirts from them, in the colour I want, only going organic when it is a design that works on one of those backgrounds really well?


  1. Wow that is an interesting question. I guess I have often felt it is about making the best choice you can, so the having the option there suggests that you should take it. Plus the popularity of organic in those first few colours would probably determine if they starting offering more colours, I would imagine.
    I guess I would put it around the other way: Buy organic unless a design you DESPERATELY want doesn't suit any of those colours at all. At least, that is my first reaction. If you need any more t-shirts.
    Also, now I need to make my planned t-shirt designs suit those background colours.

    1. The odd thing is, looking at some cafe press shirts (cafe press uses about five or six different t-shirt suppliers) I noticed some organic american apparel t-shirts - in a really nice blue. But that colour isn't available on redbubble.
      But I suspect you are right - we need to support the 'best' option so it doesn't go away.
      And yeah, I probably don't need any more t-shirts. What I really need are gym t-shirts, but new t-shirts are too nice to wear to the gym.

  2. This is probably where you get to correct me on my understanding of your ethical model, but I would presume that it would depend on how much you like the design or colour that is not available in organic (which would in turn inform how much wear you would get out of it).

    I mean, if you don't need any any more t-shirts I would think that the most ethical choice would be not to buy a new t-shirt at all, regardless of how it is manufactured - but if you like a design enough that you're prepared to acquire it, I'd think you should get the design and colour you like in the most ethical version in which that design and colour are available.

    Surely it is better to buy a shirt that is manufactured ethically, but not optimally ethically, that you wear frequently than a shirt that is manufactured more ethically but sits in your wardrobe unworn because you don't like the way it looks on you.

    Of course, that's easy for me to say - I can't imagine a scenario in which I would want a t-shirt in any colour other than black.

    1. I don't know about Rhi, but I am definitely still developing my ethical model, so there is lots of grey area to explore. You make a really good point about getting value out of something and making the most of whatever resources are used in its production. But whether you need the t-shirt at all would have to be the main consideration.

    2. yeah, I'm still torn on the value-scale of this - because on the one hand I do strongly believe that one of the best things I can do is actually wear 100% of my current wardrobe. So buying a shirt that I might not totally love is a silly choice. So if I'm choosing between three designs that I like equally, then choosing the one that is available on, and looks good on, the sweatshop-free AND organic t-shirt is surely a better option than another, but yeah, if I really wanted another design I should get the one I'll actually wear. But then there is also the 'I should buy the organic ones to show there is demand so they'll keep making them'.