Choose your clothes wisely

Lillian Peterson, Staff Writer

I enjoy fashion and shopping. I like observing and following different trends to figure out what looks good. But I am also a high school student with an extremely small budget. In order to still be able to shop and find clothes, I often turn to fast fashion and cheap clothes in stores like H&M. But when these fashion corporations sometimes end up in multiple controversies, I have to ask myself, is it worth it?

H&M recently came under fire for an ad that featured a young African-American boy dressed in a green sweatshirt that read “coolest monkey in the jungle.” The company was accused of being racist, with prominent celebrities publicly breaking ties with H&M.

Even if the advertisement was unintentional, it is understandable why many would be outraged about it as it seems to reference a racist caricature that dates far back in history. But it is also important to understand why something like that could slip past the company and be published.

One of the possible explanations could be the examining the team of directors. A closer look reveals that all the members are white and may not be thinking of possible subtext. If H&M does not have a diverse team, or a diverse focus group, something like that could get approved.

Even if the benefit of doubt is given, it is not the first time fast fashion stores have printed controversial materials on their shirts.

Abercrombie and Fitch printed shirts that were mocking Asian-Americans through designs that portrayed Asians as laundry labor, made fun of Asian names, and took cultural aspects and turned them into a joke.

Urban Outfitters and Zara are other companies that have also printed offensive material. Urban Outfitters printed a sweatshirt that had Kent State printed across it and was blood stained. This is making light of a tragedy where several students lost their lives and should not be sold as a commodity.

Zara created pajamas that seemed to imitate concentration camp uniforms. This turned a genocide into a profit that disregarded the suffering and deaths of millions. All these different products drew outcries and were pulled.

The question then becomes: how do my morals and integrity reconcile with my love of fashion? This is not even touching on the fact that many of these corporations also use sweatshop labor to be able to produce their wares.

So I question myself: Can I really claim to have a high ground? Is it even possible for one to be an ethical shopper in today’s society?

There are several things people can do to shop more ethically. For one, encourage companies to foster a more diverse advertising and directorial board. This allows for more viewpoints to be heard and fewer chances of casual racism to slip through.

Another way is to hold companies accountable. It was through protests and outrage that the offensive shirts at Urban Outfitters and Abercrombie and Fitch got pulled. When clothing is distasteful or offensive, make it known.

A third option, and one of my personal favorites, is thrift shopping. There you are helping the environment by making sure clothes aren’t going to waste. The clothing also fits a high schoolers budget and sometimes is even cheaper than fast fashion stores.

In addition, tools like ProjectJust provide lists of ethical stores, including many independent sellers, which is another good option. People who are independent sellers rely on their stores as their livelihood. Check your community for these stores, and you´ll be supporting your community in addition to shopping ethically.

What I am saying is that we should question and protest stores when they market questionable content. It is possible to shop while keeping your morals.  You don’t have to give up your hobby; just have to shop more critically.