Challenges, Ethical Choices, Money, Reflection

Friction : My Constant Foe

I went through an astonishing amount of cheap denim in a year.

Last year alone, I wore out 4 pairs of jeans, and one is so close to death-by-thigh-holes that I only wear them while cleaning the apartment. I’m afraid of investing in expensive, allegedly higher quality, more ethically produced denim because of the likelihood that it will meet the same fate as all my other cheap pants.

Clearly, this is one of my biggest areas for potential change in terms of the human and environmental costs of my consumption. I’m looking for a replacement brand that has to meet “sufficient” standards for the treatment of their factory workers, the sourcing of their materials, and the environmental impact of their production process.

I’m looking for a brand that pays its workers a living wage – not just the local minimum wage, as many countries keep these artificially low to attract big brands. In terms of materials, I’m aiming for either 100% organic materials, or 100% recycled synthetic fabrics. Finally, I want the brand to be transparent about its water, chemical, and electricity usage in the production process.

Ekyog is the first brand that I’m looking in to – it the French leader in sustainable fashion practices, but the information leaves a bit to be desired. I read their publication on their ethical practices, but it’s very vague about the factory standards. They are Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified and they require their factories to comply with SA8000, a standard set out by Social Accountability International that integrates independent auditing as a means of enforcement.

Still, this essentially requires that workers are paid at least the local minimum wage, and enough to cover ‘basic needs’ which says very little about a living wage, or the dignity of work. I emailed Ekyog customer service in French, and I requested their information about the real monthly wage of the workers, either in Euros or in local currency. I mentioned that I’m an economics student, so that may add a shade of legitimacy to my request. I highly doubt that I’ll actually receive the information, but I wrote that I would also accept a range of average salaries, so we’ll see…

Ekyog is my first choice for ethically made clothing because they do have a pretty decent amount of information available on their manufacturing process, and because there’s a boutique literally next door to my apartment. I’m a sucker for an easy purchase, but if they can’t offer at least an estimate of what their workers actually make, I plan on looking elsewhere. Based on my own specifications, it looks like don’t think any of Ekyog’s denim will qualify as ethically made – they’re 94% organic cotton, but 5% generic lycra and 1% brand name lycra. That 6% of the fabric isn’t marked as recycled.

Depending on the outcome of the email, I may look to Ekyog for work shirts in the future. For now, there’s a People Tree retailer in Paris, and one my jeans rip, I’ll start there for a pair of trousers instead of jeans. They make a lot of work appropriate clothing, so it may be worth it to buy a pair of work pants and wear those while I search for an ethical pair of jeans.

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