Getting Honest About The One Mistake That Every Ethical Shopper Makes

Your wardrobe is probably never going to be 100% ethically made. And that's fine.

I struggled for a while on whether to write this. Thought that maybe I should let it fly under the radar so I wouldn’t get into messy discussions.

And then I realized: that’s exactly WHY I should write it! I don’t want anyone to be afraid of an honest, open, kind discussion. Almost everyone goes through this situation at some point. So! Here’s the story.

When I first made the decision to shop ethically and have a more minimal lifestyle, I was blown away by every blogger’s ability to have a beautiful wardrobe and perfect range of consciously made clothes. It was inspiring, but also made me a little self-conscious that I still had a lot of clothes in my wardrobe that were fast fashion.

Slowly, as things began to wear out and I noticed gaps, I would replace them with items that were ethical. Steadily, it became the new norm—and it wasn’t difficult anymore to resist fast fashion—in fact, I didn’t crave it at all.

The Infamous Leather Jacket

Everything was going well until I added a leather jacket to my list.

A leather jacket is every woman’s staple. It goes with everything, it makes even the shlubbiest outfit instantly pulled together, it’s cool, it’s effortless, it lasts forever.

And it’s one key item that was missing from my wardrobe.

To start any search for a piece that will last in my wardrobe, I always start with a list of criteria.

Here was the list for this jacket:

  • Motorcycle-style
  • Fitted, but flexible
  • Must be ethically made

I wasn’t looking for the leather jacket when I found it. I was at my favourite boutique—trying on shoes, when I happened to look up. Hanging just under the ceiling, way out of reach, were two leather jackets. I instantly vibed with them.

For a while, I hesitated. If I tried it on I knew I’d love it. On the other hand, I didn’t want to fall in love with something that might not be ethically made.

I knew of brands like Deadwood that made jackets from reclaimed leather, but duty fees across borders meant that it would be SO expensive for me. So I ventured to take a chance on this one, if only to skip the shipping & duties.

“What brand is the jacket?” I almost cringed when I asked it, thinking I’d be disappointed.

She told me the name. Going to be honest, I’d never heard of it until that moment even though they were apparently a major brand in the UK.

When I asked if they were ethical, no one seemed to know.

Doing the Research

In comes Google: where I went instantly. After a quick session of digging, I found the answers I wanted: that they are part of the Ethical Trading Initiative and that their factories comply with the Ethical Trading Code according to the International Labour Organisation’s Core Conventions on Labour Standards.

In the fluster and excitement, I pronounced myself impressed and closed the browser window.

I loved the jacket. The silhouette, the versatility (the front can zip up, or fold in so it’s not bulky when wearing it open!) And it even had an inner breast pocket for your phone (like, whaaat?!) and it had just checked off my last box.

5 minutes later, I was walking out of the store feeling amazing.

Then, the research for writing this post began. I set out to be helpful to all of you, seek out the answers so you wouldn’t have to ask questions before you bought.

Digging Deeper Revealed Some Darker Secrets

After a few weeks of wearing the jacket around town, I dug into my research and emailed customer service to ask about their environmental impact, as well as how they source their leathers.

They were responsive, and mentioned that their leather sourcing processes were “in line with the recommendations on animal welfare set out by the World Organisation for Animal Health,” and that they closely monitor their suppliers to understand environmental conditions and minimize impact.

Then I did a more in-depth search outside of the company’s own sources. I Googled the “ethics,” “manufacturing,” or “human rights” tied with their brand name, and looked more deeply into detailed abstracts from ethical consumer websites.

I didn’t have to go far to find some discrepancies from the impression I got on their own website.

Not All Companies Are So Forthcoming

That’s when I felt my stomach drop. I found articles from early in the 2010s about human rights issues associated with the company. Not just small issues – big time sweat shops.

It seemed like there was a big reveal exposing nefarious manufacturing practices in those days. I had no way of knowing how true their new ethics standards were, and it made me feel awful.

Here I was writing content about shopping ethical, and I just bought something that might not be.

I had to stop myself from a stress spiral of heat coming up my neck to my cheeks. Two thoughts went through my head:

I should return it.
It was too late.

And I’ll be honest with you: I loved the design so much, and I’d been looking so long for one—that I wanted to overlook what I’d found.

I wanted to believe that their customer service email outlining animal treatment, and their site with details on human rights meant that they’ve improved since the big scandal revealing them years ago. They still use third-party factories (which means a higher risk of exploitation), but claim they are frequently evaluated.

I can hope that all this means it was manufactured in better conditions than their product used to be.

Everyone who makes the decision to shop ethical will, at some point, find themselves at one of these roadblocks: the temptation to buy fast, a situation where you have no choice but to buy fast, or a time when you purchase it without knowing.

It’s not the end of the road. It’s a natural part of the journey.

My Takeaway

What I learned from this—and why I’m sharing—is because I believe so strongly in the power of community through honesty. When we see that we’re not alone, we can move forward in understanding and kindness to each other, instead of guilt.

If it’s happened to you, then you’ll feel that familiar pang of conflictions. If it hasn’t, know that if it ever does, you’re not alone, and it’s ok ☺ we’re all forgiving humans here.

Since the whole jacket kerfuffle, I’ve been a lot more diligent with my searches in-store. I take my time, and don’t feel pressured. We all make mistakes, and we could all use some more time breathing and being comfortable with slower decision-making. Always feel ok stopping for a little while in a shop to do some good in-depth Googling. It’ll save ya the pit-in-the-stomach feeling later!

As for the leather jacket?

I just promise from here on, to wear this jacket over and over to give it a nice, long, slowwwwww-fashion life.

Looking for an ethical leather (or leather alternative) jacket?

Well, I’ve learned from my experience and have a few great brands below ☺ I very highly recommend Deadwood, and a few people I’ve met through this community have shared their experiences with their jackets – all incredibly good feedback! So if you’re in the market, look no further.

Deadwood (reclaimed leather)
Dauntless (Vegan leather)

xo

Petraalexandra

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