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What is ethical fashion?
Ethical sustainable fashion is essentially going back to the original form of the fashion industry: Well made pieces, made from high quality materials, and made to stand the test of time.
Even though ethical fashion is based in the past, it’s a present and future trend and becoming more popular as the general public starts to realize the destruction that the fashion industry can create.
Ethical fashion is the exact opposite of the fast fashion you see on websites like Wish. Those cheap clothes are the product of horrible working conditions, low pay, bad materials, and fast production times that make the end product quick to break down and contributes to both human rights abuses and climate change.
There are different “levels” of ethical fashion. The most basic is fashion that doesn’t contribute to human rights abuses and harms the environment less than fast fashion, but you can take it further by choosing vegan-only options, local materials, local companies, and companies that are carbon neutral or carbon negative.
It doesn’t matter how big or small a brand is, if they exploit human labor, are cruel to humans or animals, and damage the environment, they are unethical fashion. The goal is to purge your closet of clothes from those brands, and fill it with clothes from brands that are a net positive on the world (or, at the very least, net neutral).
When trying to figure out if a brand is ethical, consider these questions:
- Would you want to be treated the way their workers are treated?
- Would you be willing to do to animals what they do to make their clothes?
- Are you happy with how the brand treats the earth? Are they polluting the air your breath or the water you drink?
Personally, I want nothing to do with unethical fashion anymore. I mostly buy thrifted clothes now, but on the rare occasion that I do buy something new, I make sure it is from a company that treats humans, animals, and the earth in a way that I agree with.
Why is ethical fashion important?
There are so many important elements of ethical fashion that it would take a whole book to discuss why ethical fashion is important. But the simplest answer is that ethical fashion improves our society in a simple way.
For people who only think of fashion in dollars and cents, it can be hard to understand why expensive ethical fashion might be worth it.
Why is ethical fashion expensive? Many people rightly notice that ethical fashion is too expensive, but there are reasons that justify the hefty price tag. Clothes that are made in an ethical way generally are made with better materials and with better techniques that increase the life of the clothes.
The hidden cost of fast fashion is that it isn’t just fast to produce, it’s also fast to wear out. There is also the hidden cost to the environment, which will cost us all money (and so much more) in the long run. And it costs human and animal lives, which are worth more than money.
So when you buy fast fashion instead of ethical fashion, you have to ask yourself… is that flimsy shirt worth the cost?
How can you make your wardrobe ethical?
- Care for all of your clothes in a way that will increase their lives. Fast fashion relies on you to not care for your clothes so that you have to buy more from those fast fashion brands. It’s planned obsolescence but for clothes.
- When your clothes have met the end of their life, recycle them or use them for craft projects. Turn them into a new clothing item, use them for embroidery, or create napkins from them.
- Buy vintage and thrifted clothes. This is the one area where I allow myself to buy without worrying about the brand, because the brand won’t be getting another dollar from me. I personally don’t wear anything that advertises the brand, though. Find local thrift stores (preferably a thrift store that doesn’t have a recognizable name, as all the big thrift stores have become greedy and focused more and more on profit).
- Buy local. You probably know someone that sews, knits, or crochets. And you probably have a shoe cobbler nearby that you could use to care for your shoes. When you do this, you’re also able to make sure the clothes were made in the US, where the labor laws take care of a lot of the issues you would otherwise have to research.
- Buy from ethical brands. Research the brands you might buy from and never buy from a brand without having researched their practices. When you buy from ethical companies, you reward the companies doing well and incentivize the companies that are abusing humans, animals and the environment to change their ways.
- Invest in quality pieces that will be useful for years to come and could possibly even be passed down if taken care of. Think back, and you can probably remember some clothes that your grandma wore that was passed down to your mom and maybe even you. That’s what happens when you buy quality clothing and take care of it. Yes, this means spending more now, but in the end you and those you pass your clothes down to will be spending much less.
How to shop ethical fashion?
Whether you want to make your entire wardrobe more ethical or just focus on a few pieces, there are a few tips you can follow to make the transition easier:
- Research your favorite brands. Often, it’s as simple as Googling whether or not a brand is ethical. Important things to consider: How much do they pay workers? Have they been accused or bad working conditions? Are there any reports on chemical spills? You can use the following sites to research clothing companies:
- Buy handmade. This doesn’t mean you can just go on Etsy and assume the clothes you buy there will be ethical! Some people do skirt by the rules and sell fast fashion on Etsy. But if you do some research, Etsy is a great place to buy fashion. Other options include farmers’ markets and craft fairs.
- Buy from thrift stores. Clothes that are thrifted are clothes that are subverting the fashion industry, increasing the lifespan of good clothes and avoiding contributing to the problem of poor working conditions.
I hope with this information you will find it easier to shop for ethical fashion. If you can make it easier, you’ll be more likely to follow through and convince others to do the same!
I am committed to shopping more ethically, choosing thrifted items and slower, more traditional methods of clothing creation because I care about human rights and the environment. Why are you committed to ethical fashion?