Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability


Guest Post: The Seduction of Stuff by Hannah Theisen

I asked Hannah of Hannah Maria if she wanted to contribute to Style Wise since she's doing such a great job (a better job than me) living conscientiously. Below is the story of her transition to ethical consumerism. Thanks, Hannah!

A year and a half ago, I made a commitment. A commitment to what I like to call “conscientious consumerism”, or the practice of making ethical choices in the products that you use or buy. In 2012, I spent an entire year purchasing only fair-trade and ethically produced products as an experiment in promoting social justice and learning about ethical production.... And it’s a habit I’ve kept in this new year, as much as possible (I have yet to find a source for fair-trade toasters). Why? Because my eyes were opened to the human suffering that often accompanies the production of the cheap, convenient “stuff” that we buy. Labor trafficking and forced child labor are more of an issue today than they were at the HEIGHT of the trans-atlantic slave trade, and complicated supply chains and a general lack of consumer interest/outrage mean that big companies can get away with all sorts of unethical, exploitive practices.

sale rack
I’m very happy with the choice that I’ve made, and have become accustomed to this way of life... but still it happens; I round the corner of aisle eleven, shopping cart wheels squeaking along the scuff-marked tile floor. And there it is, one of those red-numbered signs that are so hard to resist. SALE, it screams, pointing towards the rack of frilly dresses below. I love sales. I love feeling like I’m getting a steal. I love frilly dresses. They make me feel beautiful. For $19.99 I could waltz out of this store feeling extraordinarily good about myself. SO worth it, right? Or wrong? The voice of my conscience kicks in: “Hannah, you have SO many dresses already. more than you need. This is not necessary. Plus, you know you can’t buy this stuff- look at that tag! ‘made in Uzbekistan’? You’re committed to Conscientious Consumerism. Don’t do it."

In the end my conscience wins, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t take one last longing look at that rack of dresses. What is it about stuff that is so seductive, so addictive? How can a few yards of fabric hold such power over me? I suppose it’s not the dress, itself, really... it’s this entire mentality of consumerism that my brain has been conditioned for. It’s advertising, it’s labeling, it’s that small voice that whispers from a billboard: “Buy me. I’ll make you beautiful. I’ll make you seem clever/healthy/smart/popular." And so we fall victims again and again. The average American household’s credit card debt is $15,956. The total U.S. consumer debt is estimated to be $2.5 trillion, as of December 2011. We’re slowly sinking in this swirl of frantic stuff-accumulation. Learning about Conscientious Consumerism is one way to combat the seduction of stuff. When you are thinking hard about each product you purchase, you’re less likely to make a quick, poor decision about buying unnecessary stuff. And it cuts out that morning-after-shopping-spree guilt, too.

Visit my blog,, and click on the “Conscientious Consumerism” tab to view a list of everyday products you can feel good about purchasing!

Hannah is a blogger, social justice advocate, abolitionist, and social entrepreneur. Read more of her thoughts at

Why I Buy Secondhand

why i buy secondhand relevant

My article, Why I Buy Secondhand, went live on the Relevant Magazine website earlier today. I'm excited by the responses, shares, and dialogue created by it so far. Take a look if you haven't already seen it.

If you have any questions, doubts, or ideas regarding the article, feel free to comment here. I may write a follow up post here on Style Wise if it becomes apparent that people are interested in engaging the topic further.

Thanks for your support. - Leah

Bangladesh factory death toll passes 700

The Bangladesh factory collapse that occurred a day after concerned workers noticed a crack in the building's exterior wall has killed 700 people and counting, becoming the worst garment industry disaster in history (Associated Press via ABC).

Now is a time for grieving, for emotional recognition of the hundreds of innocent lives lost for no reason. But it's also a time for righteous anger. It's a call to action. We have an obligation as human beings to come to the aid of those who suffer. We have a duty as partakers in the fast fashion industry to repent. And we have the power as consumers to do something, to hold companies accountable, to change our habits.

Below are the companies that worked with this particular factory (Time):
  • Walmart
  • Joe Fresh
  • Primark
  • JC Penney
  • Benetton
  • Children's Place
  • Dress Barn
  • Cato Fashions
  • The Walt Disney Company

We should take note that dozens of other first world retail chains are likely affiliated with the Bangladeshi garment industry; they're off the hook for now because their production practices haven't ended in visible, large scale disaster. We have an obligation to stop shopping at the retailers above and always do our research before shopping elsewhere.

700 people. That's more people dead than my high school graduating class that filled the floor level of a college arena. That's 2 people dead for each day of an entire year. And for nothing. There is no spin we can put on it to make it better. People died for $38.00 a month in wages. To feed their families. Just trying to make a life for themselves.