5 Ways to Build a Slave-Free Closet

February 23, 2017 Kristin Schulz Opinion 
Slave Free Lifestyle

Shopping. It may be your favorite sport or simply a necessary task to be accomplished. For me, shopping allows me the sweet satisfaction of checking an item off my to-do list. I prefer to go alone, stay focused, and find my items quickly. My sweet grandmother on the other hand approaches shopping as a social outing. She browses until her heart is content, tries on many options, waits for the opinion of her squad, and finally makes a decision.

Whether you are a shopper on a mission or roam the mall for fun, we all have one thing in common. We all wear clothes.

Self-assessment time: do you personally know who made the clothes you are wearing right now?

I don't. I know the brands I am wearing and where I bought them, but I don’t know the story behind the seamstress. Is it my responsibility to make sure my favorite brands aren’t exploiting their workers? I would argue yes, to some degree we are responsible. After all, we provide the demand for these products. And personally, I want to make sure my demand is for slave-free goods. Don’t you?

Here are five simple ways to build a slave-free closet:

1. Support Ethical Brands
Do your research. Support fair trade companies. Make sure your favorite brands are ethical. That they are providing fair wages and safe working conditions for their employees. Every time I make a purchase I am “dollar voting.” Using my dollar to cast a vote in favor for a company or brand. Your vote counts. Your decision to buy or not buy matters. You can fight slavery by supporting ethical brands. You can make a difference in the life of another every time you shop. A few of my personal fair trade favorites: Mata Traders, The Shop for Freedom, and Krochet Kids.

2. Shop Less: Choose Better
Shop less! I am definitely guilty of not always doing this one. I don’t “need” those extra pair of shoes like I think I do when I am in the store. Embrace a minimalist lifestyle. Purchase a small number of items that you love rather than having tons of options you only wear out of guilt.

3. Quality > Quantity
Invest in ethical pieces that will last. Fast fashion brands (H&M, Forever 21, Zara) have all received bad press for sweat-shop labor conditions for their workers. However, we can’t assume high dollar items equal fair wages for the garment workers either. There is often an incredibly high mark-up on high-fashion pieces. A seamstress may receive 45 cents for sewing an expensive pair of jeans. I can’t over-emphasize point number #1 enough. Purchase fair trade, ethical brands. It may be more expensive, but the quality and the accountability in a slave-free supply chain is worth it.

4. Buy Vintage or 2nd Hand
Thrift shopping is my new favorite hobby. I love it. You can find some great gems in thrift stores all over the country. Embrace gently used and well-loved clothes. It is eco-friendly and a great way to support local and national stores that are giving back to their communities in more ways than one.

5. Value the Clothes You Have
Embrace the clothes in your closet right now. Host a clothes swap with your friends or mix and match your current wardrobe for greater variety. I definitely don’t “need” as many clothes as I think I do. Less is more. Hold onto the items you love and give away those pieces that haven’t seen the light of day in months. Cleaning and reorganizing your closet can be very therapeutic. It certainly is for me.

I can’t emphasize enough how we all can truly make a difference in the fight to end slavery when we collaborate together. Do your research on your favorite brands. Start small, but dream big! We can fight slavery one purchase at a time.

Topics: Slave Free Lifestyle

About the Author

Kristin Schulz

Kristin Schulz is the Shop for Freedom Manager with Justice Ventures International. The Shop for Freedom sells handmade items by women once held captive in the sex trade. All proceeds support efforts to fight trafficking in India, Nepal, and China. (www.shopforfreedom.com)