There is a large buzz about the importance of ethical fashion and smart purchases, but surrounding this buzz, there is little substantial information detailing what makes fashion ethical and why it is better than regular clothing vendors. The word is used interchangeably to represent a lot of clothing manufacturing types, but here is your beginners' guide detailing just what makes ethical fashion ethical and how to modify your shopping habits to implement these lifestyle choices.
What is Ethical Fashion?
Ethical fashion works to minimize the environmental impact of clothing manufacturing while also protecting the people and communities of these manufacturing areas. This involves not destroying local resources, contaminating local water, or otherwise negatively impacting the lives of local inhabitants. In addition, ethical brands often give back to the communities that support their clothing production.
Ethical fashion also encompasses the social components of fair trade fashion (which emphasizes the fair labor conditions for workers such as seamstresses) and the environmental components of sustainable fashion (fashion production that does little or no harm to the environment).
ProductionEthical fashion seeks to ensure the process of producing clothing and other items benefits communities and harms the environment as little as possible. This encompasses sourcing materials that are organic/ safe for the environment and don't require harmful chemicals or create harmful waste during the production process.
Working ConditionsEthical working conditions that benefit employees are a core tenant of fair trade fashion. The factories are sage, hygienic, and do not rely on child labor or underpaid laborers. By maintaining these safe and ethical working conditions, workplace death and injury is reduced, as well as larger issues like human trafficking for labor and slavery. (Unfortunately, such practices are commonplace in the developing world and making a difference still largely relies on the consumers' ability to be informed about their purchase.)
Ethical Fashion and Pricing
Often times, ethical fashion is higher in price than “fast fashion” -- which refers to mass production clothing retailers that have an abundance of options and cheap prices but often produce in factories with little regard to labor standards or environmental impact.
While ethical fashion costs more, remember you’re investing in fashion that supports communities and has a minimal impact on the environment. Additionally, many of these pieces are higher quality, made by hand, or made in smaller facilities and with less harmful materials. So even though you are spending more, you will have a longer life for the piece. This longer life span also reduces textile waste, leaving an even more sustainable impact on the environment.
How to Find Ethical Brands when Shopping
Fashion brands market themselves using terms such as fair trade, ethical fashion, or sustainable fashion. There is no one official or global certification for such titles, therefor it is really up to the consumer to do a bit investigating. The easiest way to do this is to review the company's website and social media. On the company's blog, about pages, and in their social media updates you can see what ways they are working to actively make improvements in the industry. You can also email the company directly and ask them if no information is available.
Generally, companies that are socially conscious will be actively speaking about it on their web presences. They may also offer information on their packaging. At Tropic Bliss, we share a little about our brand and its practices on our clothing tags.
Here is a helpful guide from The Guardian with more resources to assist you in ethical shopping.