What the hell does ‘ethical fashion’, the industry’s latest buzzword, and the main focus of my blog and career, even mean? I decided, after getting asked asked this question by friends, family, readers, colleagues and customers multiple times, to explore and explain the subject a little more. I am by no means an expert nor a perfect example of an ethical fashion blogger or eco-friendly shopper (I’m a shopping addict on a student budget!), but sustainable apparel is a subject I’m becoming more and more interested in as time goes by.
These joyful images are from the fair-trade and sustainable Peter Jensen x People Tree Collection (available here). I hope this post helps to shed a little more light on the somewhat overwhelming category of ethical fashion.
What is the definition of ethical?
The word ethical to me means morally sound. Whether that is socially, culturally, economically, environmentally, politically or any which way, it means investing in what’s right. When it comes to fashion, this means thinking about the factors that weigh into the design, manufacturing, packaging, retailing and disposing of the garments you buy and wear, in a way that is in line with your own personal values.
For example, if you are a proud vegetarian in terms of your diet, like me, why not make a more conscious effort to ensure there has been no animal exploitation in the life cycle of your clothing too? Or if you treat the baristas who make your morning coffee with respect and tip your waiting staff at restaurants, why not think about the livelihood of the people who make your clothing too?
What must a fashion brand do to be ethical?
Ethical fashion as we know is a wide area that can cover so many subjects and has no strict guidelines or definition. In my opinion, any of these factors can be considered when judging for yourself whether or not a brand is ethical, and of course there are so many more I haven’t listed…
Organic natural fibres (eg. organic cotton or linen)
Natural or eco-friendly dyeing and finishing processes
Fairtrade policies with farmers and factory workers
Support of artisan craft in local communities and cultures
“The Fashion Transparency Index by NGO Fashion Revolution shows how ethical or unethical, affordable, high street fashion brands are. A quick google can help you decide if you really want to part with your hard-earned cash for a poor quality dress made in a shambles sweatshop that you’ll probably only wear once. The main point here is to do your research before you buy.”
Whether it’s an easy search through the internet, or a string of emails to brand headquarters, always demand to know ‘Who Made My Clothes’. For me, transparency throughout the supply chain is the only way we will achieve a more ethical fashion industry.
Is ethical fashion just hippy clothes?
Hell no! Kill this stereotype! Ethical fashion is not just hemp ponchos and jesus sandles, although hemp is a wonderfully sustainable natural fibre by the way. Contemporary apparel at every end of the market from high street to haute couture can be made more ethical when the brands behind the products consolidate their efforts to be more sustainable.
What are the best affordable ethical fashion brands?
In my humble opinion, these fabulous clothing and accessory brands are my ultimate favourites when shopping for affordable ethical fashion that doesn’t compromise on aesthetic:
A ‘fast fashion’ brand that actively encourages you to buy less but wear more following the ‘slow fashion’ model, People Tree clothing is environmentally sustainable, using fair-trade and organic fabrics.