Fashion has a conscience; Are your purchases politically correct?

JaLynn Hardy

Some students are concerned with the ethics of their fashion statements. They opt out for faux fur, fake leather and clothes from socially responsible companies.

Credit: Andrew popik

During winter break, I decided to take a trip to New York City. After all, if you love fashion, there’s no place better in America than New York. It was my first time shopping there, and it was everything I’d hoped it would be.

I avoided buying a watch in Central Park and a Coach bag from a lady on the streets of Chinatown. However, I did discover a really cool place as I was strolling down Broadway Avenue by Soho.

I walked into the American Apparel store, a name which I had never heard of. As I made my way through the store and looked around, I noticed that all of the clothes were made out of cotton jersey-based material in bright colors like yellow, orange and green.

But I was even more intrigued that the American Apparel company advertised on its walls that it doesn’t use sweatshops to make their clothes. A company exists that doesn’t use labor overseas and makes everything in its own factory in Los Angeles?

Not only do they not use sweatshops, but there is a strong effort to take good care of their workers. The company pays well with wages from $13 to $27 an hour for sewers. American Apparel also offers English classes, bus passes, affordable healthcare and a part-time masseur for their employees.

Certainly, you have all the reasons to feel good about your purchase from them. You know that you’re supporting a company who thinks that people deserve to be treated well.

Which brought me to the question, “Is it trendy now to buy clothes that are cruelty free?” According to the Web site,, about 96 percent of clothing is imported with wages that pay as low as 9 cents per hour.

I’ve read about sweatshops and how children work for nothing 20 hours a day, and I find them abhorrent. However, if I traced the origins of most of my clothing, I don’t think I would like the truth.

Maybe shoppers do agree that ethics are important. This company is doing well enough to be opening new stores internationally soon.

Sweatshops are only one of the fashion industry’s problems with cruelty. Just the other day I was reading a magazine and there was an article on fake-leather shoe companies springing up.

I have to admit, I am a little skeptical of fake leather. I really like my leather shoes. They wear well and last long.

But, when I went online to find fake leather goods, I was surprised at what I saw. carries shoes and all sorts of faux-leather goods like jackets, wallets, belts and purses. The items were very trendy and cost about the same as leather products.

Mooshoes was the first cruelty free-shoe store in New York, according to their Web page. Leather-free goods have a large market, as there are a surprising number of vegetarians and vegans who don’t want to use animal products.

There are some people I talk to about these subjects that really don’t seem to care where their clothes came from or how animals suffer for fashion. Well, as long as it’s not affecting them.

And there are a lot of problems in the world that may seem greater. But as a consumer, it’s nice to see corporations take a stand to be more humane. I may not always buy sweat-shop-free clothes or non-leather goods, but I like to be aware of the world around me. It’s good to know if I want an alternative product.

JaLynn Hardy is a senior broadcast journalism major and the fashion columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].