To fur or not to fur? For me, the question has the same answer as many other conscious consumer quandaries. Here is my checklist for feel good shopping:
1. Buy old: A great thrift find, a vintage steal or a refurbished master piece- it’s already made, it’s already taking up space in this ever shrinking world. The best shopping you can do is the kind that doesn’t create more excess in this consumer culture. Turning trash into treasure is an essential for our own art and what we look for in other art. When it comes to fur- yes, I actually think it is more ethical to buy an old fur (like this $40 mink steal from the Alameda Antique Fair) than to purchase a new vegan leather jacket. Other bonuses: it is often cheaper, nobody else has the same one and we all know rescuing a dog is better than breeding a dog
2. Buy human: There is just something undeniably beautiful about things made by hand. Maybe it is the minor flaws or the unique nature of each piece. The quality just doesn’t compare- things made by hand are durable enough to sustain wear and tear. (Hence, why buying old is another good guideline.) I love the actual connection in small shops and etsy stores that Target doesn’t offer. There is nothing better than meeting the person who made what you are buying- it also ensures you aren’t wearing something made by little hands or underpaid workers. Other bonuses: You can often make a connection to the artist that can lead to promotion of your own work, possible bartering and collaboration on future projects.
3. Buy Woman Made: First of all, we are lesbians- so we kind of have a crush on any woman who makes anything… But more importantly, there is a long and vibrant tradition of women making things (food, clothing, house goods, etc.) and having their art discarded as mere “craft.” These functional arts have made our daily lives more beautiful and have the ability to empower women to live life on their own terms. We have all heard that investing in a woman is often more beneficial to a community than investing in a man. They are more likely to reinvest in the community and more likely to teach someone else their craft. Other bonuses: We also know first hand how hard it is to break into a male dominated industry, like upcycled furniture. We are out there, fund us, support us, buy us (er, our goods.)
4. Buy Local: So much could be said about buying local. We live in a peak oil world, anything to cut back on the toll shipping takes on the environment is a worthy venture to us. In addition to the eco benefits, you get the same benefits of human made and women made. You are investing in your community and getting to make actual human connections. Other bonuses: buying local tends to come in the form of fun events like art walks, craft fairs, farmers markets and neighborhood exploration.
5. Love above all else: You can’t always help what (or who!) you love. I’m not going to lie, sometimes Target is the most practical, affordable place to find a good interview outfit or some cheap heart shaped shades that you know you will lose in a week. I believe if you practice the prior rules, they will begin to be organic choices that you make more often. And in the meantime, if you find a dope t-shirt made by a guy in Mexico- GET IT! We live in troubled times and sometimes piece of mind requires a little less self judgement. If you are being a conscious consumer most of the time, you are already making a big difference.