What exactly is ethical fashion? Is it similar to sustainable fashion? And more importantly, why should you care?

In this blog post, we will discuss what ethical fashion is and why it matters. We will also provide tips on how you can make sure that your wardrobe
is ethically-made!

So….What Is Ethical Fashion?

Simply put, ethical fashion is clothing that has been made in a way that respects the workers who produced it, the wearer who uses it and the environment that it was produced in, will be used in and will end up in post its useful life. Ethical fashion is sustainable and cruelty-free, but also much more. Every step of the way, from seed to garment, ethical fashion is kind to the planet and people.
If you are familiar with sustainable fashion, then you may be wondering what the difference is between the two. The main difference is that sustainable fashion focuses on preserving resources for future generations through the use of recycled, upcycled, or biodegradable materials in garments. Ethical fashion, on the other hand, looks at the whole supply chain, from the human rights of workers to the environmental impact. In this sense, sustainable fashion is a subset of ethical fashion.

Ethical fashion is sustainable and cruelty-free, but also much more. Every step of the way, from seed to garment, ethical fashion is kind to the planet and people.

The Maker: Impact of fashion on the workers in the supply chain

Fair labour practices are not always clearly outlined or enforced, but ethical fashion brands are transparent about their labour practices. Ethical fashion brands often work with factories that share the same values. For example, a brand might partner with a factory that pays its workers a fair wage and does not use child labour. Also covered by ethical practices are an oft-overlooked part of the supply chain – the farmers and weavers who grow, weave, dye yarn and fabric. Ethical fashion brands will often try to source directly from marginalised farmers and weavers at fair prices.

The Planet: Impact of fashion on the environment

Ethical fashion focuses on finding environmentally friendly materials and processes that allow garments to be produced, used and discarded with as little impact on the Earth as possible. Ethical fashion brands take into account things such as how much water was used to produce the garment, what kind of dyes were used, whether or not toxic chemicals were used, whether any cruelty towards animals was involved and whether the fabric is biodegradable. In order to reduce unsold inventory that ends up in landfills, ethical clothing houses will produce in small-batch or upon receipt of orders. In regards to logistics, ethical fashion brands often use low-impact shipping methods to reduce their carbon footprint. Ethical fashion brands also put a lot of effort into reducing the fast-fashion lifestyle by focusing on high-quality materials and more timeless designs (as opposed to catering to trends), which will prolong the lifetime of their product. The goal is to have a well-made garment that will last. And by the time you are ready to let it go, the garments are usually biodegradable or recyclable.

The Wearer: Impact of fashion on YOU

Ethical fashion for women will look to reduce exposure to chemicals, potential toxins and synthetic materials and instead focus on skin-friendly breathable fabric and dyes that are suitable for the purpose that they are made and the climate they will be used in. Well-made ethical clothing for women also tends to be more durable, reducing the need to keep purchasing new garments, which will help your wallet and the planet.

Why Does Ethical Fashion Matter?

Ethical fashion matters and you should care about it. Why? Because choosing ethical, sustainable and responsible fashion at the individual level can add up to very sizeable gains for the planet, personal health and human rights.

Fashion is one of the few industries where daily individual choices – that do not require great sacrifice – can lead to a significant difference on the global scale. Not only that but there are major ethical and sustainable fashion movements on a global scale that have already achieved significant results. All you have to do is choose to be part of the change, every day.

By adopting ethical fashion choices to your lifestyle, you are playing your part as the game-changer in these areas:

Planet: Our planet is in an environmental crisis. The fashion industry, particularly with its focus on fast fashion, makes a significant contribution to the damage. The fashion industry is within the top 5 of the most polluting industries in the world1. Ethical fashion allows every individual shopper to help maintain and restore our planet’s health, for ourselves and for future generations.

People: Ethical fashion matters because it provides a voice for those who may not have one, such as factory workers, farmers/cultivators, and artisans who are often exploited by fast fashion companies.

Yourself: The effect of poor-quality fabric and toxic chemicals in clothes on the wearer is not discussed as much as it should be. Skin irritation, rashes, changes in the natural pH of the skin are the most commonly experienced after-effects of poorly made fast fashion clothing. The psychological (and financial) effect of continually trying to fit into ‘trends’ by following fast fashion is also understated. Ethical fashion for women focuses on the usage of high quality, natural/ eco-friendly, breathable, skin-friendly fabric and non-toxic dyes. It creates durable garments and sustainable clothing for women in timeless styles. It allows you to buy what you like, buy less and get more use out of your clothing. And of course, you will also be making the world a better place by supporting brands that are ethical and sustainable. You can feel good about improving the lives of others through your everyday fashion choices!

Ethical fashion is sustainable and cruelty-free, but also much more. Every
step of the way, from seed to garment, ethical fashion is kind to the planet
and people.

How Can I Make Sure That My Wardrobe Is Ethically Made?

This is a great question and one that many people ask themselves when they start learning about ethical fashion.

Oftentimes people think that they have to give up style for sustainability and dress in formless garments in beige and grey. The good news is that you don’t have to give up style to be an ethical fashionista! Any garment can be made ethically, including your favourite pair of jeans or your go-to sexy little red dress! Do your research: There are many amazing brands out there that produce high-quality garments and beautiful clothes without harming people or the environment – the key is to do your research and ensure the values of the brand you are buying from are clearly stated and align with your own values of ethical fashion.

Watch Out for Greenwashing!

When doing your research on finding brands that support ethical fashion, you should be mindful of greenwashing. Greenwashing is when a company or brand tries to make itself look more environmentally friendly than it is. This is often done through important-sounding claims on packaging or in advertisements. For example, a brand might claim to use sustainable fabrics when the actual composition contains only 10-15% of sustainable fabric; or claim to be “all-natural” when it uses incredibly polluting synthetic dyes and/ or plastic packaging. To make sure that you are not buying into greenwashing, be mindful of the following:

  • The brand is making a bold claim about being “all-natural” or “organic” without providing any proof, evidence or explanations to back it up
  • The brand is using a lot of marketing buzzwords like “eco-friendly”, “sustainable”, and “ethical” but doesn’t provide any information about what this means
  • The brand has been caught lying or deceiving customers in the past about their environmental or social practices
  • The brand is using a lot of imagery and visuals like green leaves, fields, or other environmental-related images to make it seem more eco-friendly
  • The brand has a “green” product line but doesn’t offer any information on how they are made differently than the rest of their products. The only difference might be that it has a green sticker on it
  • The brand has a “green” product line but doesn’t offer any information on how they are made differently than the rest of their products. The only difference might be that it has a green sticker on it
  • The brand is making claims about being environmentally friendly but doesn’t practise what they preach (for example, the company uses plastic packaging or single-use plastics)

Ethical fashion is a great way to support sustainable practices and make sure that your values are reflected in the clothes you wear. It can seem overwhelming at first, but with research and some time spent looking for brands that share your beliefs about how clothing should be made ethically, it’s easy to create an ethical wardrobe! The planet and your body will thank you for it!