When faced with the need to shop, my mental flowchart goes something like this:
Q1: Surely I have everything I need: do I really need this?
Q2: If I really need it, can I hire it, borrow it from someone, or buy it second hand?
Q3: Failing that, can I buy fair trade?
Q4: If fair trade is not an option, can I buy it from a local shop or small business, in which a relationship is formed and resources go back into the community and where my kids may get a decent holiday job one day which may even involve mentoring and no organisational flow charts?!
Q5: If I need it, can’t borrow it, and can’t find it second hand, fair trade or locally, then I shout ‘*%?@ it’ and head to the nearest multinational.
The following list is by no means exhaustive; it’s just the businesses we’ve used and will use again. I have no commercial arrangement with any of them; I list them only because I have bought items from them and found them to be good.
Blessed Earth:- Absolutely wonderful bed linen: thick, sturdy, soft. If you’ve stayed with us, you’ve probably slept between their sheets. Very daggy undies for adults. Good undies and singlets for children.
3Fish:- Their fantastic singlets are cut long for real women; no tummies hang out. They also sell t-shirts, long sleeve tops etc – good basics, long in the body.
Eternal Creation:- Kids’ clothes are gorgeous. Men’s pyjamas are good, also the long sleeve summer weight shirts. Women’s shirts, scarves, leggings and pyjama bottoms are all good; however, most styles are not very Melbourne. Nice jewellery and little cloth toiletry pouches – they come as an unexpected bonus from time to time!
New Internationalist:- The socialists are alive and well, and now they’re selling things including the cheeky Pants to Poverty undies (men’s and women’s, no kids), soft men’s pyjamas that make my husband look like an extra from Logan’s Run (but they feel nice in the dark), hemp socks, hemp belts, the etiko line of sports balls and business shirts (to be worn for a day in the office, but perhaps not quite sharp enough for clients), and lots of other odds and ends.
One Village:- Lots of ‘ethnic’ stuff, but sells a simple scoop neck t-shirt that I live in (I have three in different colours!).
Cornflower Blue:- We get most of our new kids’ clothes from here: lots of choice. Many brands have fair trade certification; others are organic; some are both; some are neither. You can choose to shop just organic, then check for fair trade brand by brand. Very reliable, very fast, clothes well made. Socks, undies, pjs, t-shirts, dresses, leggings, shorts, you name it, we bought it. The sales are good – check out the bargain bin!
Missy’s and Macho’s:- Terrible name, terrific girls’ leggings and dresses – look for the Kids Case and Mim-Pi brands, which have the Made By certification (sustainable, organic, people friendly).
Whimsy Child:- They sell Pure Baby, which has just received Made By certification; and the expensive but hilarious Shampoodle tracksuits which are organic (not fair trade), incredibly comfortable, and last for three sizes! You can easily search only organic lines.
Fairground Child:- Beautiful fair trade toys and some children’s clothes, also the etiko line of sports balls. I’ve bought a few things from the storefront (84 Station Street, Fairfield), or you can shop online.
Of course, if you can find locally made ethical stuff, even better! Look for the Qualitops label for No Sweat Australian made clothing. Some other Melbourne designers are certified No Sweat (more recently rebranded as Ethical Clothing Australia); and of course, there are workshops such as Olive Grove which are too small to have employees so they don’t qualify, but the clothes are hand made by the collective and use lots of remnants and other reasonably ethical products. I’ve bought jeans, tops and men’s t shirts from there (Olive Grove, 159 Sydney Road, Brunswick; no website). The Rose Street Market feature some lovely handmade clothes (Saturdays and Sundays, 60 Rose Street, Fitzroy). Or search out a pair of Wonderpants made by McCallister in Castlemaine. Organic cotton, fabulously soft and comfortable, and surprisingly flattering; sells at markets in the goldfields.
You can visit Eekos for fair trade and earth friendly stationery items, cleaning products, toiletries and other goodies including balls and sneakers; also second hand stuff. (318 Victoria Street, Brunswick; 71 Anderson Street, Yarraville; online store coming soon)
You might stick a copy of the Ethical Consumer Guide in your bag when you go grocery shopping, or, if like me, you shop with children, do your research and make your list including brands before you leave the house. It’s available from lots of places, including Eekos and New Internationalist.
Final tips: There are a few fair trade directories on line – use them and good luck! Don’t buy Pants to Poverty from the UK – it takes an age and the postage costs an absolute fortune; wait for their Australian site to be up and running... still waiting. And when it’s all too much, put your feet up and pour yourself a fair trade coffee – we *heart* Padre’s FTO Compton Blend.
Last of all:- Many of the clothes are as expensive as the mid-range shops in the mall, or even a little more. Underwear is especially dear when compared to run of the mill multipacks. However, many of us have great piles of clothes – at least, our wardrobes and cupboards are enormous, and I presume they are not all empty – which raises the question of whether it is possible to get by with fewer items, and to slowly replace things as they wear out with clothes which are fairly made? Just a thought...
Alison wears scarf from Eternal Creation; t shirt from One Village; cardy and jeans from the op shop; belt from New Internationalist; and Pants to Poverty on her behind. Unfortunately, she forgot to do her hair, and she never wears make up. Now you know what a real woman looks like wearing real fair trade clothing - and that's my upstairs bathroom, toilet to the right. Nice, huh?