I’m trying to live more ethically. About what I eat (hello delicious veggie boxes from Ceres), what I wear and what I make my Macrame with.
I think that one of the issues around fashion is that your clothing is only as sustainable as the number of times you wear each garment. If you buy ten pieces of clothing and wear them once or twice, then it’s pretty pointless. If you buy one thing and wear it till it wears out, then you’re really maximising its life. This avoids the fashion mess we seem to have at the moment.
I’ve worn my grey Melbourne Apparel Co. dress for four days in a row now. It’s getting excellent wear to cost value. It is also locally designed and manufactured. Bonus points.
On the one hand, you could say ‘How boring! My clothes express who I am’ but, I reckon I’m an interesting enough person to be able to wear the same clothes four days in a row and not be boring!
Also, I have an excellent collection of locally made jewellery to switch up every day.
If wearing different fabulous clothes every day is your thing, I’m not here to fight you! But I do worry about where that clothing goes when you’re not in it anymore. I also worry about over-production and over-consumption in relation to the sustainability and ethics.
I try to think about how these ideas impact on my own creative pursuits.
I make all my Middle Aisle Macrame from a Melbourne manufactured cotton sash cord. This is the main reason it’s more expensive than other Melbourne macrame being sold.
I’ve often gotten the look from people at markets when they see the price tag and mentally compare it to something they’ve perhaps seen at Kmart. They move along and that’s fine.
I’ve been trying to source another three strand cotton rope for the last 5 months. So far I haven’t been able to find ANYONE in Australia who makes it. Three strand cotton is constructed differently to braided sash cord (what I currently use) which makes it easier to get those lovely long tassels which take FOREVER with sash cord.
(Cut to a shot of me combing out sash cord deep into the night, looking slightly manic)
I went through the process of getting samples of a three stand rope from a company in Sydney, but after a lot of thought I’ve decided that I can’t reconcile using their product as they are importing it from China. When I asked what the wage and working conditions were like I got this response,
“Workers are payed there award rate and work around 40-50hrs per week. And the workshop is always being updated with new up to date rope making machines”. (sic)
Not really a great answer.
It’s hard to say what the people making the rope in China are actually getting paid per hour, as the minimum wage varies by each region. I can only guess that they are getting paid somewhere between AU$1.68 and AU$3.78 per hour. (Based on an estimate using Google currency calculator and the Wikipedia minimum wage by the country chart. I’m by no means an expert. Just someone trying to understand a little better than I did before. )
This would make the rope very affordable for me and in turn my customers. I won’t deny the sample was lovely, I would really love to use it but it will support a system that doesn’t really align with my morals.
Basically, would I work in a factory for somewhere between AU$1.68 and AU$3.78 an hour? Hells no. So why would I expect someone else to do it? It doesn’t seem very nice.
Then I discovered another company that make their rope in Spain. When I asked about their working conditions I got this response:
“Our rope is made in Spain, in a town near Girona, Catalonia.
It is a small factory, run by a Catalan family.
The cotton they use is recycled and sourced in Europe. (translation from the certification provided by the factory).
Description: Macrame Material: 100% recycled cotton
Origin of the materials: Europe Material that complies with Standard 100 Oeko-Tex product class I meet the conditions into force, with respect to human ecology, stándard for items.
Items meet the requirements of Annex XVII of REACH (including use azo dyes, nickel, etc …) as well as meet the requirements Americans in the total content of lead in children’s articles.” (sic)
Recycled cotton? Oeko-Tex certification? I’m a lot more comfortable with that.
From a bit of research, Spanish Law says that says workers can’t work more than 40 hours a week and according to the Eurostat website the monthly minimum Salary is 764.40 Euro, which is about AU$8 an hour. (Again this is according to my research on Google currency calculator and the Wikipedia minimum wage by the country chart.)
What is the result for me? The rope is more expensive from Spain and sadly doesn’t come in the exact thickness I would like, but I can live with that if it means it’s recycled and workers are paid a better wage. (Travel distance isn’t great but seriously I cannot find ANYONE in Australia that makes the stuff!!)
Contact me if you hear about any rope products you might know that are sustainable and made in fair conditions.
I also have another little passion that I started recently. I made a Feminist slogan Tee Shirt for myself and then someone else saw it and liked it and asked if I could make it for them too! I posted a photo on @middleaisle Instagram this week and lots of people loved it!
I printed my Feminist Tee Shirts on AS Colour Garments as I had them instantly available. They scored a B+ in the Baptist World Aid Australian Fashion Report for 2016, which sets them quite high on the ethical chart but I’d love to partner up with a locally made T-Shirt to keep making these with. Does anyone have any suggestions?
I’m not saying that I am perfect with my clothing choices or that the rope I use is the absolute best and most sustainable option. I am certainly not trying to set myself up as the poster girl for sustainability here, but I’m trying and learning more all the time.
I know that since breaking up with huge clothing chains and supporting local makers I’ve spent less money on clothing and felt better about my purchases. I also reeeeeeeeeally think about my next clothing purchase and it makes it all the more special!
Basically, I’ve been asking myself the question
“If I value the sustainability of my clothes and the makers quality of life, is having fewer clothes/rope/anything to choose from something I can live with?”
I think it is. Let’s see how I go with it. I look forward to researching and writing more on the topic.
Here are some great websites that I’ve been checking out in relationship to the above article.