Even by practicing good shopping habits and being knowledgable about where your clothing comes from, you can affect fashion industry practices
I've had The True Cost, the 2015 documentary about human exploitation and suffering at the hands of the fast fashion industry, on my watch list for months now and finally got around to watching it when it popped up on my Netflix earlier this month.
As consumers and individuals, we are on a constant quest to keep up with the latest trends and, in so doing, communicate our identities to the world. But we often forget — or don't know — where the products we consume come from.
I've written about fair trade practices and ethical fashion before but watching this documentary really pushed it home for me; after all, even I've become a 'victim to fashion' and many of the items I feature in my photo shoots are purchased or borrowed from high street stores. With the continuous rise in the cost of living, the drop in salaries, and the prominence of consumerism and glabalisation, fast fashion has become the one place where individuals can purchase multiple products at a reduced cost and satiate their appetites for owning more and being trendy.
That being said, South Africa is one country that's known for its fair trade and equal rights in the manufacturing industry with many local designers and stores focusing on developing local skills and sustainable production, sourcing ethical and sustainable products from other countries, recycling, and using eco-friendly materials and production processes. And while the journey hasn't been easy —the 1990s saw an influx of imported products while in the early 2000s, the country's garment industry jobs dropped from 220 000 in 2002 to 100 000 in 2011, according to Statistics South Africa — and factories have a long way to go to be 100% problem-free, we can proudly say that the garment factories in South Africa are good and safe workspaces. Additionally, when you buy products that sport the 'Made in South Africa' label, you're also putting your money back into the industry, supporting the ethical practices of brands and designers, and helping keep factories safe environments for the people that work there.
The clothing featured in this shoot were specifically chosen from stores and designers that reflect this change in the South African fashion landscape: From Poetry to Pichulik, these garments speak directly against the capitalist and glabalist notions that fast fashion prescribes to.
Which is not to say that you should boycott every single retailer or toss out your entire wardrobe and start from scratch. But it is possible to buy affordable, socially responsible clothing by practicing good shopping habits and being knowledgable about where your clothing comes from.
Images 1and 2: Tiger Lily dress and ERRE leather neckpiece
Image 3: The Bridal Edit sweater, Paige Smith bodysuit, Poetry shorts, Pichulik neckpieces and bracelets, and Mami Wata Skom surfboard
Image 4: Poetry jumpsuit and neckpiece, Pichulik bracelets and Mami Wata Ponta surfboard
Image 5: The Bridal Edit slip and dress
Photography: Mohammed Hoosain
An extended version of this post first appeared in The Good Weekend, a Weekend Argus: Sunday Edition supplement on 19 November 2017.