As the Boy Wonder is getting older (he is now 7 and a half, I don’t quite know how that happened!) and more exposed to the wider world around him I begin to consider how much to make him aware of. As a mother my instinct would often be to protect him from the nastier side of life, but having lost his dad at a young age I know this isn’t realistic. With so many terror attacks happening all around us these days, I imagine many of us are struggling to know what to tell our kids in order to explain such things while not frightening them. I have the same quandary in some ways with what I tell my son about fast fashion and my work in fighting against it.
Many of us mums have probably said to our kids when they won’t eat their dinner that there are starving children in Africa, but how much of that can they really understand? I know I didn’t when my mum said it to me as a kid and I would tell her to post it to them! So, maybe that distance and separation will help me to protect him a little from the worst horrors of my industry, but it could also make it very unreal to him.
Having been brought up a vegetarian the Boy Wonder is maybe more aware than some on ethics in regard to animals so maybe this is a start. As a middle class, white boy growing up in the western world I want him to be fully aware of his privilege and to know there are many others less fortunate. Therefore, I believe that openness and honesty is the only way to stimulate empathy and understanding in him while maybe steering clear of the more gruesome and complicated areas.
So, how could I explore ethical fashion and yet engage my son? I have come up with a few ideas for this based on the Fashion Revolution course I recently did.
1) Be curious: Firstly kids are naturally curious, so getting them to investigate like a detective will become a fun task. Getting them to find out about their own clothes – maybe the ones they are wearing or a favourite of theirs? Looking at the labels to find out where they are made, and what they are made out of is a great start. Which country are most of their clothes made in? How many are made from polyester? Asking in shops where the clothes are made or whether they have organic cotton.
2) Find out: Then delving deeper into finding out who could have made them, what the countries are like where they live and where the raw materials come from. The difficult part is making it real to children, for example, finding out that a child the same age as them could have made their clothes makes more of a connection to them. What can they find out about the materials used and their impact? Researching, imagining and maybe drawing the journey their clothes have taken to get to them will make them aware of the resources and carbon footprint involved in the fashion industry. How many miles has it travelled? How many litres of water used in production? How much pesticides and their affect? Your local library, school and of course the internet will have all sorts of resources.
3) Do something: The concluding part could be to work out how to change the way you shop together for clothes. They could try out different ways to make our clothes last longer by repairing, revamping, reusing or swapping them with friends. Look at donating and also buying from second hand shops or finding out what clothes you can buy locally? Maybe even considering hiring clothes for a special occasion and explaining the reasons why all these things matter in relation to what you found in your investigations.
Obviously this has to be age appropriate and younger kids would need more hands on help with it. Don’t forget to ask your kids their thoughts and ideas at every stage, you will often be surprised by their insight or practical ideas. By the age of 7 most kids already have a fixed idea of the world, however these ideas can be challenged and changed. So for me and the Boy Wonder that time is now!
#FashionRevolution #EthicalFashion #WonderKids