Published on March 18th, 2014 | by Alexandra Carr


Shop locally, shop ethically

Shop local. It’s a concept that has been promoted and embraced throughout Tacoma as more independent retail businesses pop up around the city. Compass Rose, Satori, Moss + Mineral, Linda’s, the list goes on. However, as we try to “shop local,” are we also shopping ethically and sustainably?

Courtesy of Elizabeth's blog

Elizabeth Morrow of Delightfully Tacky

Local blogger Elizabeth Morrow of Delightfully Tacky made it a goal to only buy ethically produced and sustainable clothing at the beginning of last year.

She makes her commitment clear on her blog, writing “I’d like the way I shop to reflect my values, and supporting clothing creators who use unethical practices in the manufacture of their clothing didn’t seem like it fit with my values.” So I turned to Elizabeth to learn more about her experience with sustainable and ethical shopping in Tacoma.

Ethical shopping can easily be defined as purchasing clothing made in the USA, but finding such clothes and accessories in Tacoma is easier said than done.

In fact, shopping for only “made in the USA” clothing is virtually impossible (unless you want to head to Seattle and dress yourself in head-to-toe American Apparel; neon shiny leggings, anyone?). And even brands that are committed to being produced in America – like American Apparel – are not without their own ethical issues.

Since sourcing ethically produced brands in Tacoma without going online can be difficult, Elizabeth recommends focusing on shopping sustainably: instead of buying into fast and cheap fashion trends á la Forever 21, she heads to vintage and thrift stores as a means to reuse clothing.

“Buying new can be more difficult as you either have to know the designer produces their clothes ethically, or just search for ‘made in the USA’ on the tags, which can be annoying,” said Elizabeth. “It’s also important to note that an item of clothing that is ethically made is probably going to cost more. This is because it was produced by a person who was paid a living wage in a factory that is safe. The cost is passed onto the consumer, but I’m more than willing to pay more if it means the humans who made that item have enough wages to make a living.”

Luckily it’s not impossible to find new, well-crafted clothing and accessories that also happen to be made in the USA. It just so happened that on my most recent visit to Satori, I was pleased to discover the store’s “Made in the USA” clothing rack. This section of the store is still fairly new; Satori owners Andy Stevens and Diamond Sanger introduced two made in the USA lines, Red 23 and Fifteen Twenty, only a couple months ago.

Fifteen Twenty

New brand at Satori, Fifteen Twenty, is made in the USA. Photo by Alexandra Carr

“We’ve always thought that we wanted to bring in higher quality clothes and once we saw these lines we knew they would be a good fit,” said Diamond. “Tacoma is really into the shop local trend right now, and what is more fitting than clothes that are actually made in the USA?”

Satori has already noticed a positive response to its new brands. “These lines use better fabrics…when people see the quality and know that they are supporting our economy they are all for it,” noted Diamond.

Yes, the price point is usually higher for items made in the USA, but with that comes higher quality products, and as Elizabeth Morrow said, a sense that you, the consumer, are supporting those on the production line.

If you want to go the sustainable route, Megs and MoRetrospectMandelin’s, and Urban Xchange, are just a couple of Tacoma’s consignment stores. I recently snagged a pale blue chambray shirt at Urban Exchange for $16.99 after what seemed like a lifetime of trying to find the perfect one. While I can’t vouch for the ethics of its initial production, after a wash it looked good as new, so at least it’s getting a second chance to be worn in all its classic glory.

Urban Exchange

Fashionable finds from Urban Exchange; photo from their Facebook page

It’s not just clothes that can be produced and sourced ethically, but also accessories. You can support local jewelry designers at stores such as the Constellation Art Gallery, Amore Artisan Boutique, and Urban Xchange, or shop for trinkets at Compass Rose, which gives preference to locally or regionally produced goods.

Go ahead and try it; expand your concept of shopping locally to include shopping ethically and feel good inside and out in your fashionable finds.

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About the Author

Alexandra is a Tacoma writer by way of England. A University of Puget Sound graduate, she currently works as the Digital Media Coordinator at the Museum of Glass.

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