The word ethical brings to mind righteousness and morality. If you put the word ethical onto any piece of clothing or food sold these days it obviously sounds better and perhaps even sells better. But what does it really mean? We will explore this in the first post of a series in collaboration to shine a light on slow fashion, sustainability and ethics. Think of this as your entryway to be a part of building more sustainable yet fashionable earth.
Ethical fashion sounds great in principle but what does it mean? It simply means that every decision in connection with the making, distribution and selling of the garment should be made keeping in mind our moral compass. We should be mindful of the social impact each step of the process will have on us and the planet.
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Ethical FASHION considerations
The obvious thing to think of when we say ethics is to consider how the people employed in the fashion industry are treated. From the ones tolling away in unsafe conditions in developing countries making below minimum wage to the ones employed in tall towers in the developed world, expected to be forever available. Is everyone feeling emotionally and physically safe, are the expectations of their time and effort humane and realistic?
Certainly, we will also have to look at the beginning of the process with raw materials used in the creation of a garment to the end of how it lands up at the consumer’s door. We need to understand every minute detail of the process such as sourcing of raw materials, the impact of the end-to-end creation on wildlife, waste disposal and usage of harmful chemicals.
An in-depth business audit will help brands understand their current status and find ways on how to address the gaps. Ultimately a brand must answer how it impacted the planet and what it’s doing to replenish what was lost as a result of their creation.
Everything about a brand, in the end, comes down to the consumer and how much the brand cares about their needs. For developing long term relationships with customers being honest with them about your brand ethos is essential.
As millennial and Gen-Z consumers are more and more curious about shopping from sustainable/ethical brands, the thought process and actions at brands have to change. Brands need to understand what they stand for and how to represent those values across their whole chain. We can’t expect perfection but we do expect transparency about attempts to change and innovate.
Imagine if we used our personal ethics in decisions we make at work and in our personal life. Wouldn’t it ensure that we treated people and the planet better? In the case of fashion, if we reviewed our unhealthy consumption habits and the mindset of instant gratification via new purchases we would make great strides towards consuming ethically.
Now, remember this is not an easy place to get to and that we are not perfect. We must learn to be kind on this journey because we are only human and to go from 0 to 100 is simply not possible. There is really a lot of groundwork that needs to be done to unlearn the habits of consumption encouraged by beautiful campaigns and concepts such as the ‘American Dream’.
Being aware of our rights and holding brands accountable has never been more important than in this sphere. In a rush to meet the demand for sustainable products we often find a number of organisations claiming to be sustainable and ethical and sometimes those claims are not substantiated with evidence.
This false promotion of fitting a legitimate standard as a sustainable brand is referred to as Greenwashing. Given these dubious efforts by brands, shopping sustainably is not always easy. A lot of it is unfortunately left to you as the consumer as your purchasing power can push the needle in the favour of sustainability and transparency from brands.
The good news though is that there are actually a lot of brands and educational initiatives started by people who really care about the planet such as Common Objective, Fashion Revolution, Ethical Made Easy and The Good Trade to name a few.
Ethical fashion Style factor
Surprisingly the road to ethical fashion is paved with self-discovery about your personal style. Real style is always individualistic and tailor-made to you. It’s the reason why style icons such as Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, Diana Vreeland and new-age influencers have a unique style that they end up sticking to. A great indicator of your style is identifying pieces that you wear often and feel great in.
Try to invest in key pieces that will be versatile and will last you more than a trend cycle. Being ethical doesn’t mean you have to put an end to being trendy it simply means you have to be more creative. But more on that later in the next post.
Ethics being slightly subjective to human interpretation means that we may all have varying responses to what is really ethical fashion. In the end, though it all starts from you making your surroundings better and hopefully your good deeds will influence other people to be more ethical eventually multiplying to everyone.