As you may know I am trying to direct my blog in a much more ethical direction, featuring sustainable, locally made fashion and beauty products and brands with strong values that they stick by.
As you also may know, I am currently studying at Heriot Watt School of Textiles and Design, and this semester I have been delighted to see that as a university they are integrating ethics into the fashion courses, because they realise that fashion is one of the most environmentally and socially damaging industries in the world, and that we as the new generation of workers need to have sustainability in mind with every decision we make in this industry.
With this in mind, after a series of lectures on textiles, I have been thinking about doing more regular posts on the impacts of the apparel production cycle, and also some more on cruelty-free beauty, as when talking with my classmates I am totally shocked as to how few people know about the impact of their everyday purchases. I hope you find this post useful, and let me know in the comments your views on ethical fashion and beauty!
Many toothpastes, body scrubs and cleansers contain tiny pieces of plastic called microbeads, which are often used for their exfoliation purposes. Lately they’ve had a lot of press because the US, Canada and hopefully the UK are banning the use of microbeads in manufactured products because of their catastrophic environmental impact. These tiny particles don’t get properly filtered through our sewerage systems, so they enter the oceans in mass, polluting the seawater and causing damage to the lives of sea creatures. They are not biodegradable so exist in our waters infinitely, getting passed up and down the food chain and threatening the health of all animals, humans included, as they are unintentionally consumed.
It goes without saying, for the majority of people, that testing human cosmetics on living animals is unnecessary and cruel. Most countries, the UK included, outlaw the sale of any hair and beauty products tested on animals, so you’d think there’d be no worries there, however, the laws in China, one of the largest global beauty markets, are radically different in that any cosmetics sold there have to be tested on animals to ‘ensure human safety’ or some BS. That means any brand selling in China, which is, in our global economy, most conglomerate brands like L’oreal, Procter and Gamble etc, test their products on innocent, sentient creatures, which more often than not leads to death.
Potentially harmful (to health and the environment) chemicals are often hidden behind deceitful names like ‘fragrance’, ‘colour’ or ‘thickening agent’ on the labels of our beauty products, or given highly scientific aliases that the average consumer has no clue about and will be unlikely to look into. Many of these chemicals are carcinogens (cancer-causing), toxic to sensitive skin, cause hormonal imbalance, contain heavy metals or can contaminate water supplies which impact the whole ecosystem. I recommend watching ‘The Human Experiment’ on Netflix to get more insight into the inconvenient truth behind many of our chemical-ridden consumer products. Try and shop from natural and organic brands where possible.
Since the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013, many people have woken up to the horrors of fast fashion production in developing countries, but there is still a long way to go. Many factory workers that make the cheap, disposable clothes we buy from the high street are paid below a realistic living wage and work in shocking conditions with long hours and no breaks. Find out more about who made your clothes at Fashion Revolution, and watch the documentary True Cost.
Unethical Textiles Those Gucci loafers everyone is wearing this season? Kangaroo fur. They even operate their own python farms for snakeskin handbags. Yup. Gucci is just one of many examples of brands that extensively exploit animals so that they can position their products at a high-end, exclusive, luxury price point.
Eco-unfriendly Dyeing and Finishing Dyeing and finishing, at any stage from fibre to end garment, is an extremely thirsty process, with one pair of denim jeans taking around 7,000 litres of water to produce.The way mass-produced textiles are dyed regularly pollutes large bodies of water, threatening the safety of the drinking water, and even endangering marine species. The finishing used to create an anti-crease shirt, formaldehyde, is a toxic carcinogen that if exposed to human skin can cause severe blistering and burns.
Fake Leather, Faux Fur and new Eco-Textiles
Traditionally, synthetic ‘leather’ or fake ‘fur’ were of really poor quality, but advances in technology mean that you can get pretty close to the real thing, for a much more affordable price and a much greater ethical conscience. I love my faux leather jacket by Mandi Candi Boutique in Dundee, and I’m also fascinated by the new mushroom and pineapple leathers!
Boycotting the Chinese market is a brave step for brands to make in today’s global economy, but to stay true to animal-friendly values, there are plentiful ways to ensure beauty products are safe for human use without compromising the lives of innocent, sentient beings. There are also loads of vegan alternatives for the animal products utilised in make up and toiletries, like milk, honey and gelatine products. I love White Rabbit Skincare for their totally cruelty-free and vegan moisturisers.
Sustainably Sourced Natural Fibres
I think an absolutist, ‘veganzi’ attitude toward natural animal and vegetable fibres such as cotton, silk and cashmere is unrealistic, because these textiles come from a huge variety of sources, some more ethical and organic than others, and not in every case are animals treated inhumanely or killed, so its worth doing your research, and consuming only in moderation. I love Cross Cashmere for their total supply chain control and thorough knowledge of the cashmere fibre and how to create lasting, sustainable products.