Clothing connections

The flurry of media coverage about the collapse of a Bangladeshi garment factory has me thinking about my own purchasing habits, specifically how differently I approach buying groceries and clothes.

I lean towards shopping locally for groceries. I enjoy getting fruits and vegetables from the farmers’ market or the neighbourhood green grocer and chatting with the vendors. I like knowing the staff at the butcher around the corner and asking for suggestions on what to have for dinner. I love that the counterperson at the bakery down the hill knows which bread is my favourite.

I also favour organic groceries whenever possible – although often the price differential shocks me into non-organic purchases! If organic isn’t viable, I’ll look for options that are locally raised or grown.

I’ll pick apples from BC or Washington over those from Australia or New Zealand. I’ll choose free-range eggs from a farm I could reach in under an hour instead of those trucked in from a different province.

Buying food from people I know, supporting stores where I live, and choosing organic and/or locally-grown options feels good.

When it comes to clothing, however, all of those considerations go out the window.

I prefer a more anonymous approach and almost entirely ignore questions of sustainability, ethical production, and support for local manufacturers and retailers. I blame it on a strong dislike for clothes shopping. I’d rather not spend time, effort, and money on finding things to wear – I want cheap and easy.

Instead of small boutiques with attentive salespeople, locally-crafted goods, and sustainable options, I head to H&M or Old Navy and try on a flurry of different styles and colours while interacting with staff as little as possible.

My dislike for clothes shopping feeds itself as I feel no connection with the items I end up taking home or the people who sold them to me. Grocery shopping satisfies not only my need to eat, but also helps me connect with my community.

In addition to limiting connections with those around me, not making conscious, deliberate choices when shopping for clothes encourages a larger problem of manufacturers not being accountable and transparent. I vote with my dollars when grocery shopping, but haven’t taken the same action when apparel shopping.

Frequenting smaller retailers that carefully select their suppliers and have salespeople who help me feel good about the process of clothes shopping could allow me to mimic the experience of grocery shopping; personal, local, and maybe even enjoyable!

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