When it comes to Goth brands, especially the larger ones, the supply chain is pretty opaque to the average customer- we rarely even buy them from the brands themselves, but from resellers. These are often niche companies, ranging from very small businesses run by either one person or two or three, to small companies, to much larger companies making thousands of garments, maybe tens of thousands, but very few are anywhere near the scale of the big high-street retailers selling millions of garments each. They are not large enough companies to attract the attention of the groups monitoring sustainable and ethical production, and it's often very hard to find out if the companies just design and distribute the garments, or if they also produce them in their own factories rather than contract that out. This makes it very difficult to know anything about the production and supply chain.
Some, like ::Holy Clothing:: (fantasy, Medieval-inspired and bohemian styles, usually available in black, dark purple and other colours that make them very Gothic - great place to get gowns!), make a point to say their clothes are 'Ethically Made' and even have a section on their website about their workers, and Dracula Clothing also seem to be treating their staff in their tailoring workshop in India well, and others like ::Alchemy Gothic:: are very proud of their production methods and tell you all about it if you look on their blog (part 1 of the process is ::here:: and you can find the rest of it on their site. Their jewellery is made in Leicester, England). There are also companies like ::MoonMaiden:: and ::Hysteria Machine:: that are very small operations, making their own garments and accessories.
I thoroughly endorse Alchemy Gothic's products, and I'm not being sponsored to say that or anything! I've been collecting their jewellery and homewares for several years now, and am a very happy customer, and I think their jewellery designs are gorgeous!
Production & Pollution
There is also an issue that is part of all fashion - the manufacture of fabric, especially synthetic fabrics made from what are essentially plastics derived from the oil industry, and the dyeing process. The dyeing industry is notorious for water pollution issues, With fabrics derived from natural materials there is also the concern for the farming methods used - for example pesticide use on cotton grown on irrigated land and the leaching of pesticides back into the water system, especially as cotton is often a crop grown with high use of pesticides. Check out ::this article:: for an overview of the issues relating to specific fabrics. One piece of bad news for Goths is that one of our favourite materials - PVC - is a plastic with a particular issue when it comes to production.
It is important to look at what materials a garment is made from. Personally, I think this is a good reason to look towards either secondhand or recycled clothes as much as possible rather than towards brand new clothes made of brand new materials, thus not encouraging further excess production. Of course, that's not always practical, plus there'd be a pretty big negative economic impact if everyone suddenly stopped buying new clothes!
When making our own clothes, it also important to think about where we are sourcing our materials. Some fabrics and trims are made in factories that are just as much sweatshops as garment factories can be, sometimes even worse as the dyeing and synthetic fabric production processes use a lot of harsh and dangerous chemicals. There is also the issue of health and safety, especially in factories that use antiquated machinery and child labour. Conditions in some places aren't much better than the lethal cotton mills of Victorian England. It is unfortunately very, very difficult to find out the conditions in which our trims, buttons, lace and fabric were made, as we are usually at the end of a very indirect supply chain. It is certainly possible to reclaim materials from used garments and furnishings, but this isn't always practical, and good quality materials secondhand can be hard to come by - especially as another aspect of fast-fashion flooding the market is that cheap, substandard materials have become the norm, and therefore the secondhand market is full of things that are simply already too worn-out and damaged to be easily up-cycled.
Carbon Footprint & Air Miles
Cheaper & Greener
I really recommend shopping secondhand for Goth clothes. It's how I get about ⅔ of my clothes, initially only out of budgetary concerns as I just can't afford most new clothes in the Romantic Goth, Gothic Aristocrat and Gothic Lolita styles that I like, but now also because I don't want to contribute financially to the encouragement of overproduction.
It takes a bit more time to look through charity shops and online to find what you want, but I think it is definitely a worthwhile endeavour; I've bought fancy buckled pointy boots for £1 and a heavy winter woollen coat that was probably £100 or more new for under £4. One thing I will note is to always check the cost of postage, and from how far away someone is selling. It requires patience, and knowing the nuances of how to shop secondhand; something that is outside the scope of this particular article, but there are plenty of guides out there, including ::this one:: I wrote.
Reuse, Recycle and Resell
If something no longer fits, alteration is also an option, especially if a garment is now too big. Things can also be made larger with the insertion of fabric panels, or where the seam allowance allows. If something is damaged, see if it can be mended before you throw it away.
Reselling clothes in good condition is certainly an option. There are many second-hand sales communities on the internet, as well as second-hand marketplace websites. You can often recoup a reasonable amount of money, especially for the more elaborate and unusual items, especially if you're in the right targeted group for a niche community. People will still buy fancy garments with minor damage if they're informed of it up front, as buttons can be changed, tears mended, etc. Permanent stains are often more of an issue, especially if they're obvious. There are also Goth swap-meets and bring-and-buy sales in person in some areas.
Donating old clothes to charity is also an option. Charities prefer clothes without tears, damage or stains, because they are selling them to a broader market, and most people outside of looking for a niche garment where there's less of an availability issue, will reject damaged clothes. Some charity shops can sell on damaged clothes by weight for material recycling, but this isn't possible with all fabrics and with all shops - some shops are actually charged for the disposal of clothes they can't sell.
There is also the option of reusing garments as something else. The staples of this in our subculture are long socks with the feet cut off and a thumb-hole made used as arm-warmers, and ripped tights being ripped up even more on purpose for a textured, layered look, especially in post-apocalyptic and ruination inspired fashions, Deathrock, and Trad-Goth. With more sewing skills things can be dismantled and the fabric, trims, etc. all reused. Plenty of my clothes are repurposed from the fabric of something else; a torn lace skirt turned into a 'butt-cape', a over-sized neck-tie turned into a headdress, an old jacket turned into a hood and cowl, etc. The internet is full of crafting ideas for reusing unwanted and damaged clothes. I have a stash of reclaimed fabric, trims and buttons.
We hold on to our clothes longer, have less of a demand for new clothes, and are more likely to buy secondhand, or to make our own clothes, including up-cycled clothes, all positives, and it is good to acknowledge this is already an aspect of the fashion of our subculture and the attitudes within it.