Marian Keyes: I want more stuff, but I also care about the planet
Sudden Wild Enthusiasms: Arket
Arket: the website tells us about the factory where this wool coat is made
More and more I’ve been worrying about the state of our planet and my own contribution to the worsening situation, and although I realise this is rich coming from a person who writes a column about wanting more things, I really am trying to do better.
Which brings me to ethical clothing companies. There are many types. Those that try to use recycled materials. Those that minimise their consumption of water by making long-lasting garments. Those that are transparent about which factories they use, making it clear they eschew sweatshops and child labour.
The most impressive companies I have found, such as Everlane and Pact, are based in the United States. But they either don’t ship to Europe or, if they do – and maybe it’s not so good for the environment – they take forever, and when the stuff finally arrives there’s all that messy tax and customs business, where the postman shows up on your doorstep, looking for money and bracing himself for a shouting.
So I’ll tell you about Arket instead, because it’s part of the H&M group. Obviously, they’re no eejits, and they’re doing this not out of the goodness of their hearts but as a response to customer demand. But still! Let’s not get hung up on motive, and instead let’s see the cut of their jib.
Right. They don’t do fast fashion. If something appears on a designer catwalk there won’t be a watered-down, much cheaper version a few weeks later in Arket. Their mission statement says: “We’re focusing on a long-lasting collection that could be an everyday uniform.”
What they’re going for is “classic pieces”. But don’t panic at that phrase. “Classic pieces” doesn’t have to mean soul-crushingly dull. Their pieces are functional, utilitarian but still stylish. This is to try to stop us (me) buying a pink duffel coat last winter, a leopard-print coat this winter and a feck-knows-what next winter and instead buy one plain, high-quality coat to last me six winters.
Each garment comes with a little biography, like people used to write in online looking-for-love ads – “Non-smoker, cries easily, loves reruns of Murder, She Wrote”. So that we can check on how ethical a particular thing is.
See this lovely coat here? It’s made from 100 per cent wool, with a lining made from “sustainably sourced viscose”, and we’re told about the factory where it was made. (Somewhere in Romania, on the banks of the River Milcov. There are also three photographs from the factory, including one of a kindly man bent over a sewing machine, making something with what looks like loving care.)
If I were in the market for a new coat this winter, this one is slightly better for the planet than other options. But, in fairness, the best thing I could do is to buy nothing at all.