Ethical fashion is a hot topic these days, everyone's wanting it and brands are striving to provide it but what exactly is it? Let's start by examining the keyword as defined by the Oxford dictionary, ethical means morally correct, honourable and connected with beliefs and principles about what is right and wrong. The concept of ethical fashion is built on what the majority of humans would agree to be the 'morally correct' way, where ethics are at the forefront of every decision made throughout the supply chain.
So what are the steps in a supply chain?
Every natural fibre begins its life as a plant, meaning that a good portion of their impact begins well before they become clothes in your wardrobe. Some of the most popular natural fibres include; cotton, linen and rayon.
So what about fibres that aren't plant-based? Generally speaking, synthetic fibres are plastic-based and while they have their place for things likes swimwear (where lots of brands are now using recycled fishing nets and plastic bottles on their fabric choice) generally speaking they aren’t a great choice for everyday wear.
Key takeaway: look for and choose fibres that are light on resources and conducive to environmental regeneration
Fabric choice is an important factor when it comes to garment longevity and impact. There are many things to consider including; how durable is the fabric? Does it wear in well? Does it hold its shape and colour? Is it comfortable? Does it shed microplastics when it is washed? How would the fabric be disposed of once the garment is no longer wearable?
Key considerations: Choose natural fibres that are durable, take up dye well and are compostable at the end of their life
This one is extremely important for both human and environmental impact, we know that toxic dyes are doing serious damage to our waterways and our environment, we know that slave labour and poor working conditions are still being exploited, we know that fabric waste during the manufacturing process is a huge contributor to landfill and is a huge waste of resources but what can you do? Now is the time to become a detective, ensure that the brands you buy from are transparent in their practices, dig deep into their processes and don’t be afraid to ask questions, email them, message them, do your research to become a savvy consumer in this department.
We hear a lot of talk about food miles and the environmental impacts of travel, but what about our fashion miles? If our fabric starts at a farm, moves to a factory to be spun into yarn, moves to another factory to be manufactured into clothing, then some exchanges of samples before the final garment is decided on and finally, the stock is shipped to the brand and distributed to stores and/or posted out as online orders. That's a lot of miles our clothes have travelled before they arrive at our door!
Key takeaway: Choose locally made products wherever possible
Another contributor to our huge waste problem is single use packaging, clothes need to be protected during transit from factory to store front which often means being packaged in plastic, unwrapped for display and then repackaged upon purchase or if shopping online, repackaged for distribution. So what are our ethical options here? Some brands are choosing compostable bags from manufacturer right through to customer. Others are choosing not to use packaging from their manufacturer and packing in reusable bags. There are also many compostable postage satchels on the market now so if your favourite brands aren't using them, shoot them a message and ask if they'd be open to making the transition.
Key takeaway: feel free to email or message a brand and ask about their packaging before you buy and make sure you compost or reuse the packaging appropriately.
Marketing + Turn over
Ever feel like you can never keep up with the constant newness? Marketing plans based around making you feel like you aren’t enough or what you have isn’t enough each time a new season rolls around to meet sales targets and sell huge quantities of clothes that are being cycled through at a rate we can’t even keep up with. We’re even seeing ethical or sustainable brands on the treadmill of pushing new products constantly. It cannot be kept up, the environmental and humanitarian impact the fashion industry is having from the constant turnover of the supply chain is a never ending drain on resources.
Key takeaway: the ball is 100% in your court on this one! Know your style, plan your wardrobe so outfits are versatile, high quality and will stay in your wardrobe for a long time. Buy less and buy well.
Ethical Fashion is about more than choosing fairtrade, it’s about ensuring that brands are making high quality ethical choices when it comes to people and the planet at all stages of their supply chain.
We'll share more about our practices and reasons behind our ethical choices in the coming weeks, in the meantime we keep our sustainability info up to date here.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about what ethical fashion means to you, leave your comments below :)
Until next time, much love
Kel and Em x