The fashion industry has been at the end of many criticisms, and ethical fashion is a way that consumers can support real change.
Each year, over 100 billion items of clothing get made by the fast fashion industry.
The impacts of this ripple throughout the natural world. It also affects the workers who create garments that get tossed away. It can be sad to think about it all and difficult to know where to start in making a change.
But don't worry! Ethical fashion is growing in popularity every day. More fashion providers are looking to become more ethical and sustainable, which is amazing.
So read on to find out more about what ethical fashion is, and why it matters. We also cover other ways that you can be more ethical and sustainable.
As they say - "Be the change you want to see in the world!"
What Is Ethical Fashion?
Let's start by answering the question, what is ethical fashion?
Ethical fashion focuses on the ethics and social impact behind a fashion company. It looks to answer different problems within the fashion industry, the biggest being fast fashion.
Fast fashion is the mass production of clothing in an inexpensive way to keep up with the latest trends in the fashion world.
The clothes are often of poor quality and quickly go out of fashion. This is because of how fast changes in trends happen and the reluctance of people to repeat outfits.
Many people buy the clothes without understanding the true harm it is doing to the environment and to the workers.
It is this toxic system of overconsumption that ethical fashion seeks to fight.
Is There a Difference Between Ethical and Sustainable Fashion?
You may have heard the term sustainable fashion and wondered if it is the same as ethical fashion.
The short answer is that they are similar but not the same. They both have beneficial outcomes but they do have different goals.
The key difference between the two is sustainable fashion fights for environmental benefits in the fashion industry. This contrasts with the more human-centered approach taken by ethical fashion.
There is a lot of overlap between these two concepts, though. Most brands that aim to be ethical also strive to be sustainable as well, as these things go hand in hand.
Why Is Ethical Fashion Important?
The rise in fast fashion makes it clear that our current industry model is both unsustainable and unethical. There are some key issues that ethical fashion aims to combat, so we are going to look at each of them in more detail.
Shopping in an ethical and sustainable way is the best way to protect animals and the environment.
This is because the environmental impacts of the fast fashion industry are vast. Our planet cannot keep up with the rate that we are producing and then discarding clothes. Almost 3 in 5 fast fashion garments end up in landfills within a year of being made.
Ethical fashion helps to grapple with the unsustainable production of fast fashion clothes. Fast fashion is notorious for excess water and oil consumption to produce synthetic fabrics. Poisonous fertilizers aim to speed up cotton production to an alarming rate.
Toxic chemicals are used to dye and prepare the fabrics. These can enter the environment, polluting and destroying natural habitats as well as harming animals.
Animal products in fast fashion are also of great concern. Over 159 million animals get slaughtered in the industry for leather and fur. Ethical and sustainable fashion is also a way to support cruelty-free products.
Now this is a heavy topic. The issue is rife throughout the fast fashion community, with over 150 million children in child labor. Children as young as 5 have to do dangerous work with toxic chemicals.
Sadly, this is often because some tasks can be performed more easily by children than adults. Employers in cotton picking farms choose children as they have small fingers and are less likely to damage the crops.
On a positive note, the ethical fashion community is pushing for more transparency around child labor. It has created a demand for traceability in clothing and for laws around children to change. So this is one massive reason to shop in an ethical way!
Working Conditions and Wages
Many of you have probably heard the term "sweatshop" as it is often synonymous with fast fashion. These are factories where workers create garments in dangerous, dirty, and cramped environments.
Unfortunately, workers get treated poorly in sweatshops. They often develop physical ailments due to strenuous labor and physical abuse from factory owners.
Currently, 85% of workers in the fast fashion industry are not earning minimum wage. They are usually paid per piece that they make, as an incentive for them to work faster.
But at 2 to 6 cents per item, it is hard enough to feed themselves, let alone their families.
Due to the cheap price of labor, big fast-fashion brands are able to put huge mark-ups on their products, fattening their wallets with profits while the workers grow thin.
Nevertheless, times are changing. There has been a big rise in awareness around sweatshop working conditions and wages, in part due to the demand for ethical apparel.
The average person is now likely to pay 15% more for an item of ethically made clothing. That means more of it goes to the worker and to support initiatives improving wages and working conditions in developing countries.
How Can You Be More Ethical and Sustainable?
Living an ethical and sustainable life is a great goal. Here are some things to think about going forward on your journey to responsible fashion.
Be Mindful With Your Purchases
Asking yourself what you need is a great way to be more mindful when shopping. It is very easy to confuse need and want. Look at the things you already have and try to reuse or upcycle things that you don't use or wear often.
Once you have something in mind, do your research on the best places to buy it both ethically and sustainably.
This helps to challenge greenwashing and impulse buys. Greenwashing is when companies market themselves as being environmentally friendly and ethical when they aren't. They often use buzzwords like recycled, natural, or eco-friendly without any clear way of acting on it.
When you are looking at buying something, either in-store or online, try to research the brand a little first. Looking at a company's mission statement offers a great insight into how they are reducing their impact on the planet.
Check The Label
Most companies that are ethical and sustainable will want to shout out about it. They will make it clear on both their internal and external labels where the garment was made and what the materials are.
They might even give you information on how the material was grown and harvested, making it even easier to avoid anything involving child labor.
Choose Sustainable Materials
Try to avoid buying clothes that have plastic content in them. It is better to stick to natural or sustainable alternatives like recycled cotton, organic linen or hemp, and bamboo.
For other things like accessories, it can be more difficult to avoid plastics. Try looking for metal, wooden, or bamboo alternatives for things like jewelry and home decor.
Learning more about social and environmental issues will give you all the tools you need to live a more ethical and sustainable life. There are loads of great free resources which are accessible online.
It also puts you in a position of helping others to change their buying habits, and encourage them to live in a more sustainable way. With time, this will make huge waves in getting rid of the fast fashion industry for good.
It is easy to feel daunted at how much needs to change in the world. But you have to understand that everyone, including you, is on a journey to be better, not perfect.
If you are kind to yourself and have patience, then you can be a better ambassador in helping others protect the planet.
Ethical Fashion: It Matters!
Change is happening. Things are looking up in the fashion world. In response to what is happening in sweatshops and the impact on the environment, more brands are switching to a more ethical and sustainable model.
Challenging the status quo and pushing for a fairer world for humans and animals is a cause worth fighting for.
So if these things matter to you, then consider supporting smaller brands offering high-quality products. There are plenty of ways to be fashionable, without compromising on ethics!
Support ethical fashion and check out these awesome collections which are inspired by nature, with direct donations to wildlife causes that matter!