This is my friend Elizabeth. Total babe!
Last night she sent me this photo of her wearing this fabulous floral jumpsuit. I died.
It really is an incredible garment, aesthetically speaking. Given what I wear on a normal basis — neutrals, solids, occasional stripes — you'd be forgiven for not expecting this to be the thing I'm dying over. But I'm here to tell you that it's these random one-off bizarre items that give a wardrobe it's zing.
There's a place in my heart (and my wardrobe) for very specific wild things. This floral jumpsuit speaks to that desire for something special, but only in the context of my wardrobe as a whole, not necessarily as indicative of the wardrobe as a whole. I have a thing for a good floral print (it's hard to find a good floral), and this is so good. It reminds me of a very specific shirt I bought at H&M in 2007 that I donated at some point and I TOTALLY REGRET having donated it.
But I digress.
Turns out I wasn't the only one enamored by the jumpsuit. Elizabeth first spotted it on HER friend Ciara.
So after this exchange, I started down the rabbit hole. I am vaguely familiar with Mango but wasn't sure what their deal was. Are they an ethical company? Do they have sustainable production and business practices? Pay fair wages?
Those two buzz words — ethical and sustainable — are often murky in meaning. Transparency, organic, eco-friendly — those too. As slow fashion gains in popularity, more and more brands throw around those terms in what can sometimes end up as green-washing. In an effort to find out what was up with Mango, I learned more about the company but also a little more about the viscose, the fabric the jumpsuit is made of.
I feel like it's hard to find clear answers sometimes, but after pulling up some articles touching on this question, I felt (reluctantly) confidant that I couldn't spend money on a brand new garment from Mango and still meet my goals for keeping a more ethical and sustainable wardrobe.
Here's what I know:
The floral jumpsuit's composition is 100% viscose. The product page does not list a country of origin.
Viscose is a fabric made from plant fiber, yes, but it requires potent chemicals to process, and workers — and the communities they work in — using those chemicals are subject to unsafe health risks (Source: Ecocult). The demand for the fiber is causing massive deforestation worldwide. If the spent chemicals are not disposed of properly — and with fast fashion, they probably aren't — it can wreak environmental havoc. (Source: Good On You)
While Mango is taking steps to change some of their damaging production practices and ethical violations, for the most part they are not transparent about any of that, which I feel you can take to mean they aren't doing much. Rank a Brand gives them a D in sustainability and actually has a pretty intense but clear rubric it grades on. It includes sources for each claim and whether or not the company complies. (Source: Rank a Brand)
Mango is also one of the companies with factories in Bangladesh's Rana Plaza, site of the horrific collapse of a garment factory in 2013. (Source: East London Lines) I don't know whether their factories are in compliance with the newly adopted Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. (Sidenote, here's an enlightening essay about one blogger's visit to Rana Plaza since the collapse)
Is there any good news? About a year ago, Mango got some press for presenting a sustainable collection. "Mango’s collection of sustainable clothing has finally launched, and it looks amazing," wrote Refinery29 breathlessly.
Yay for them, but it doesn't look like this jumpsuit is from that collection. I'm not even clear on what they are calling sustainable — I see no mention of specific practices or materials.
The sad, disappointing conclusion is of course: I can't buy the jumpsuit — first hand, at least. I will keep my eagle eye on the secondhand markets and watch out because I'm snapping this one up. It's the only way I feel like I could have this jumpsuit while sticking to my wardrobe goals. If it's already bought and exists, I see less harm in giving it the use it deserves instead of dooming it to the landfill.
The temptation to buy fast fashion — even just this, just this once — is real. How to resist? If you set yourself some standards, what good are they if they are broken? While I make no claim to perfection, I try to be true to my gut and my conscience.
Slow fashion is about slowing down the entire process of consumption. Slow down production, slow down the shopping, slow down the environmental decline. That might sometimes mean saying "no, thanks" to things that catch your eye, but I promise, you'll live.
Weaning myself off fast fashion wasn't an explicit goal of mine when I initially became more interested in focusing my style. I was attracted to the particular aesthetics of certain designers; that many have turned out to be proponents of the local economy and ethical production is a lucky coincidence.
Without meaning to, I've gravitated more and more towards those slower fashion designers. Along the way I became more aware about different facets of a garment, like, who made it? And in what conditions? And with what materials? Now I try to look for more in a garment than whether it looks good. While the Venn diagram of My Style and Slow Fashion has quite an overlap, there are outliers like this jumpsuit. But I can choose to say "no, thanks."
It's the least I can do. I mean, really — the least. I haven't declared a shopping ban or taken any other really drastic measures in my wardrobe. Sure, I shop more secondhand than I used to because it is easier than ever to do online. I am trying to limit what I add to my wardrobe to just the things that fill defined gaps. But I'm still shopping, still consuming. Just not as much as the average person maybe.
So it's incumbent on me to make responsible decisions when I do these things. I have the privilege to be choosey with my choices and where I spend my money. Choose the thing that isn't as bad as the other thing. Forgo the thing if you don't think it meets your standards. After all, the most ethical choice (and the most financially feasible) is to buy nothing, right? You don't need expensive clothes from slow fashion designers to have an ethical wardrobe.
We can all set our own standards for what we are OK spending money on. Maybe you decide to make your own clothes. Maybe you only buy organic. You try to buy one thing instead of three. You try to not buy anything. When enough people start noticing, all the small actions gain steam and become large actions. Maybe more brands start noticing what people want in their clothing, and what they will not abide.
I begrudge no one their decisions to buy what they buy — I speak for myself only. Still, I hope that by sharing why I didn't buy this jumpsuit, I am able to demystify how one person broke the cycle of liking something, wanting it — but deciding not to indulge. Maybe you will be encouraged to say "no, thanks" the next time you are tempted by fast fashion.
Appreciate the design vicariously. Appreciate it secondhand. Advocate for change in the smallest way possible — by not buying.
It's still an amazing looking jumpsuit. My friend looks amazing wearing it, and I dream of a future where we go out in the world together as twins in our matching floral jumpsuits. I dream of a world where more ethical production is the norm and not the niche.
Until then, here's a thing I didn't buy.