How often do you ask yourself where has my garment come from or who made my clothes? Or did you consider if the employees were treated well?
It makes you think doesn’t it? The clothing choices we make have a significant impact on both planet and people employed in the fashion industry.
Do you remember in April 2013, the devastating collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh (Rana Plaza)? This disaster, killing 1,134 garment workers certainly shone a light upon the shocking conditions of those working in the garment industry. This is justifiably forcing some significant changes to the practices employed in clothing production.
Rather than the historical four seasonal collections, we have seen the arrival of more regular micro-seasons at almost one per week! For many years Fast Fashion has delivered us Catwalk trends in a mass-produced way at an affordable price tag. The resulting consequences of this fast-paced production has been a major contributor to the depletion of the World’s natural resources . Also to a decline in working conditions for those employed in the fashion industry.
It was Andrew Morgan’s Netflix documentary ‘The True Cost’ that then highlighted the detrimental practices that exist within this industry. It’s a sobering watch if ever you needed convincing.
Wind on to 2020 which I sincerely hope has engendered a deeper connection for our environment and the people in it. There is no better time for us all be more mindful when it comes to choosing a more ethical approach to the clothes we choose to wear.
Sustainable vs Ethical. What is the difference?
The leaps that have been made globally in fashion production benefit both the planet and its people and the improvements are ongoing. Firstly let’s take a quick overview of the principles of Sustainable Fashion.
Sustainable Fashion Focusses on overall transparency of processes from choice of materials, garment design, manufacture, packaging and distribution. It is allowing fashion to be produced again and again but in such a way that has minimal impact upon the environment.
Ethical fashion Concentrates on those enterprises that support people working in the supply chain from the farmer to the person assembling the garments. They are committed to paying a living wage, treating their workforce with dignity and offering safe and comfortable working conditions. Increasingly with additional benefits such as childcare and medical care.
Naturally these considerations will be reflected in the price we pay as consumers but as a long-term strategy, buying less often but buying well from an ethically transparent business is where our money is more wisely spent. There are of course ways to make ethical shopping a more affordable experience by buying vintage or pre-loved garments.
At the prospect of wearing an item of clothing made by someone without access to fair pay or safe working conditions, let’s chose to do without and create our own sustainable wardrobe.
How do we choose more ethical or sustainable clothing?
Our own Values
Choosing where to begin making our own smarter clothing choices essentially comes down to our own values. These will differ for each of us and we can choose which element is more important to us. As I see it, there are three categories that fall under the overall banner of sustainability:
- Social and Ethical – transparency that all workers in the supply chain have access to fair pay and good working conditions
- Environmental – in valuing our environment we many prefer to buy clothing that we know to be manufactured in an environmentally friendly way
- Animal Welfare – transparency that animal welfare is paramount by choosing Vegan, Cruelty-Free or PETA approved products
Our Own Research
It is worth noting that responsible clothing manufacturers will ALWAYS work hard to show their ethical credentials. It is up to us as consumers, to research new brands and if information is not clearly visible, we need to ask. Any ethical business will be only too happy to oblige.
The British brands Baukjen and Boden are absolute champions of this and I urge you take a look at their commitment to Ethical and Sustainable Practices. There are also smaller individual brands that take the same care such as Live Lagom who offer small ranges from ethical producers.
Needless to say, we all share a collective responsibility to make some changes that are less damaging to our environment and kinder to our people. Don’t be afraid to ask, who made my clothes?
If you would like some help to develop your own Ethical or Sustainable wardrobe I’d love to guide you. I’d also be interested in hearing your views, do please feel free to leave a comment.
Colours . Clothes . Confidence