You may have heard of ethical fashion, slow fashion, eco-fashion…but what the heck is it anyway?! And why should you care? This post will provide a broad overview of this movement to help make sure you’re a fabulously informed consumer.
Some people trivialize fashion, but when you think about it, clothing is something that every single human wears every single day. So when you’re considering ways to live a more intentional, mindful life, fashion should be a large factor. Where do your clothes come from? How and by whom are they produced? How and why do you choose what clothing you wear on your body? What is the life cycle of your clothes, and how do you dispose of them?
The ethical fashion movement aims to help you feel empowered. As a consumer, you have the power to decide where to spend your money. The awesome news is that you can choose to support companies whose policies align with your values. You can support clothing designers who are ethical and transparent in their employment and environmental practices. Let’s break this down a little bit so you can learn which causes you’d like to support.
Ethical Fashion Series
This post is the first in a series exploring ethical fashion. This post is more of the broad, technical overview, and later posts will break down the issues with fast fashion, as well as the link between slow fashion and mindfulness. So stay tuned!
Full disclosure: I am a total newbie to the ethical fashion world. The last thing I want is for you to think I’m some type of expert. Rather, I’m a human who is trying to live a conscious life, and ethical fashion is something I’m dying to learn more about. I’ve taken the time to watch documentaries, pour over amazing blogs, and draw inspiration from those who are truly slow fashion rockstars. Let’s dive and and explore more.
Intro to Ethical Fashion
Ethical fashion means different things to different people, but I’m going to break it down based on my understanding. The terms ethical fashion, slow fashion, sustainable fashion, etc. are overlapping but also carry their own meanings. For my purposes, I want to be as inclusive as possible so I can provide a broad overview.
I believe that ethical fashion generally refers to products that are produced in a mindful manner. This is kinda one of those “ignorance is bliss” issues. So #sorrynotsorry, but now that you’re here, the curtain is gonna be pulled back, for better or worse.
Ethical fashion means taking an honest look at the way our clothing is produced. Examining our relationship with our wardrobe. Making sure that relationship is aligned with our values.
The way I see it, there are are two main categories here: ethical factors involving workers, and sustainability/environmental factors. Even these overlap, but for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to discuss them separately.
Ethical Fashion Factors: Treatment of Workers
Examining ethical factors focuses on the people who contribute to the process of garment creation.?There are a variety of forces that combine for ethical treatment of garment workers:
- Fair Wages: ensuring that workers are paid a living wage
- Workplace Safety: making sure factory buildings are safe and work environments are healthy and non-toxic
- Stable Employment: moving away from the “contractor” model where workers lack the stability or benefits of regular employment
- Transparency in Supply Chain: revealing a company’s supply chain so consumers can make informed decisions
- Fair Trade: alleviating poverty and promoting sustainable development
Sustainable Fashion Factors: Environmental Impact of Garment Production
I was shocked to hear fashion designer Eileen Fisher proclaim that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, second only to the oil industry. WHAT?! I had absolutely no idea. That does not sit well with me. My beloved wardrobe is responsible for massive amounts of pollution and mistreatment of our earth? Not cool. So what are some factors that contribute to this? Check it out:
- Sustainable Materials: choosing materials that utilize less water, toxic chemicals, and energy to manufacture
- Farming Practices: using organic fibers that minimize soil damage and pollution
- Transportation: shopping local to reduce carbon footprint
- Water Usage: choosing materials that minimize water pollution and water usage
- Upcycled or Deadstock Fabric: resusing materials that would otherwise be thrown away
So there you have it. This is by no means an exhaustive review, but will hopefully spur you to dive deeper into whatever facets of ethical fashion interest you. What are your thoughts on ethical fashion after reading this? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your feedback.