The past few years have seen a major increase in social consciousness among consumers. People are more aware of the impact their purchases have on the world, and they’re voting with their wallets accordingly. Buying local and secondhand is commonplace, and overall, people care more than ever before about where their clothes come from and how they are made. This movement has also been referred to as the ‘fashion revolution’ or the ‘ethical fashion movement’. The common thread amongst all of these labels is that it is a growing awareness of how our clothing is produced, who produces it, and the impact it has on people and the environment. Ethical fashion isn’t just about buying fair trade or locally-made clothing – rather it’s a way of thinking that extends to every part of that process: sourcing materials ethically, designing with sustainability in mind, producing ethically with fair conditions for workers not just in your factory but across your supply chain, as well as selling only what you need and donating unwanted items so they can be re-used instead of ending up in landfill sites (which sadly is still an issue with fast-fashion).
Why Is This Movement Happening Now?
The demand for ethically produced clothing is increasing at an exponential rate because people are becoming more and more aware of the issues that plague the fashion industry. People are disgusted by the shocking treatment of factory workers in other parts of the world, including children as young as 10 years old, as well as the pollution caused by the dyeing and manufacturing process. The internet is partly to blame for this growing popularity in ethical fashion. It’s given people the ability to research issues within the industry in a way that wasn’t possible before, and therefore the ability to make informed purchasing decisions and demand change. Indeed, the internet is also partly responsible for why the fashion industry is so unethical in the first place. Low-cost, fast-fashion brands like H&M, Zara and Topshop now account for a large portion of our clothing purchases, giving us a never-ending stream of new trends to follow. This has also led to a large problem with over-consumption and fashion-owners that care more about profit than longevity.
Why should you care about what’s ethically-made?
Because you care about other people – and their right to be treated fairly. Because you care about the environment and want to reduce your carbon footprint. Because you don’t want to throw away your clothes after one season because they’ve stopped being in fashion. Because you want to invest in clothes you can wear for years, decades even, and still look good in. Because you know that the way our clothing is produced has a huge impact on the planet and on people, and you want to do your part to help change it.
What Does Ethical Fashion Look Like?
This is the tricky question. There are no set criteria that mark an item as ethically-made. There is no label that guarantees ethically made clothing. That’s why it’s so important to research brands, their supply chains and the materials they use. Ethical clothing brands are transparent about their manufacturing processes, materials used and sustainability efforts. They are upfront about where their materials come from, and they aim to pay employees fairly and treat them with respect. Ethical fashion looks different for everyone, but there are some common themes. It’s made from high-quality fabrics such as natural fibers like cotton, linen and wool, or synthetic materials like tencel and modal. It’s produced ethically and sustainably with consideration for the environment and people working in the supply chain.
How Can You Shop Ethically?
- Research brands and their supply chains: The best way to start shopping ethically is to research the brands that you currently shop with. Are their products made ethically? Do they use sustainable materials? What is their ethos? Are they transparent about their production methods?
- Start with your basics: Buying ethically doesn’t just apply to clothing – it extends to all items that you purchase. However, when clothing is the goal, start with items that are essential to your wardrobe. Items like jeans, tops, and workwear are great places to start.
- Shop secondhand: Not only is it a great way to reduce your environmental impact but it also allows you to shop ethically and get the look you want. Resale shops like Charity shops and Etsy are brimming with ethically-made clothing, and if you don’t find what you’re looking for you can always create it yourself.
But Where Do I Start?
We know how overwhelming all of this information can be. But don’t worry, there are plenty of ways for you to get involved in the ethical fashion movement. Whether you want to start shopping ethically, or want to get involved in campaigning for change, there’s something for everyone.
- Shop ethically: As we’ve highlighted above, the best way to shop ethically is to research the brands you currently shop with, and see how sustainable their practices are.
- Support ethical brands: There are so many ethical brands out there who are doing their best to change the industry for the better. Support them by buying their clothing and spreading the word.
- Volunteer at a charity: Ethical fashion has many facets, and you can get involved in whichever way you see best fits your lifestyle. You can volunteer your time at a clothing charity to help donate and repair unwanted garments, or even donate your clothing when you’re done with it.
- Write to brands and politicians: If you’re feeling particularly passionate you can write to brands that use unethical practices and let them know that you don’t approve of their actions. You can also write to your local and national politicians to encourage them to make changes on a legislative level.
- Start your own blog or podcast: You don’t have to be a big name blogger or politician to make change happen. You can do it from the comfort of your own home, and be your own voice for change.
The fashion industry is broken, and it’s up to us to fix it. We don’t have to sit idly by while our planet and its inhabitants suffer at the hands of the fashion industry. We can take action, and we can demand better. The fashion revolution is happening, and it’s up to us to make it happen.