The term “ethical fashion” is something many people have heard of in passing – but what exactly do we mean by sustainable and ethical fashion?
Ethical fashion is an umbrella term for fashion design, production, sourcing, and research that is in-keeping with environmental, social, and economic standards. It encompasses a plethora of contemporary issues, such as exploitation, environmental conservation, and humane working conditions. The ethical fashion movement has gained traction with the rise of veganism in mainstream culture. It has also gained a lot of momentum in the time since the garment factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2013 due to unsafe working conditions, in which over 1,000 people lost their lives.
Figures such as Stella McCartney have been spearheading the ethical fashion movement for years, back when the idea of sustainable fashion was considered largely eccentric, uncooperative even. Stella McCartney is a partner of the Ethical Fashion Initiative founded in 2009, along with many familiar partnering luxury brands including Vivienne Westwood and Vogue Italia. Celebrities such as Emma Watson (UN Women Goodwill Ambassador), Rosario Dawson, and Lauren Conrad are but a few household names who have founded companies dedicated to the production and practice of ethical fashion.
Why is it relevant?
The practice of ethical fashion is not simply a passing trend. It is a vital component in ensuring safe and fair working conditions globally. “Fast fashion” is also unsustainable as it is increasingly damaging to the environment. Globalisation means that fashion trends are now coming and going in the blink of the eye, and with this rapid turnover comes an accumulation of unwanted clothes, along with a high cost of staying “on trend” – both financially and morally.
How to shop ethically/get involved
- Currently, it’s easier to get involved and shop ethically than ever before. On The Rocks, for example, is hosting an immersive showcase in ethical fashion, called RE FORM, this coming April. Documentaries, such as The True Cost (available on Netflix), provide a great starting point for anyone looking to learn more about the subject.
- Keep fabrics in mind. Natural materials like cotton and wool are biodegradable, and are often better condition, too. Faux fur jackets and vegan leather are also on the rise, so shopping ethically doesn’t necessarily mean being dressed in hemp, day in and day out!
- Reduce, reuse, regift. Invest your money in time-tested items you’ll wear again and again. We’re all guilty of those impulse buys, bouts of retail therapy sessions perhaps where you bought a garment simply because you wanted to treat yourself. Instead, before purchasing an item, consider its versatility and whether you’ll still be wearing it in a month, a season, a year’s You’ll save on waste, on spending, and on time in the morning spent rummaging through layers of unworn, unwanted clothes.
- Finally, thrift thrift thrift. Vintage shopping is now more accessible than ever, with top-quality thrift stores cropping up everywhere. Instead of hitting the high street, consider spending a Saturday thrift shopping: it’s sustainable, really fun, and honestly so rewarding when you stumble across a unique item you’ll cherish for years! Alternatively, there are a range of online thrift stores to cater to all tastes. Depop is another option frequented all too often by this (financially challenged) writer.
The ethical fashion movement is no longer a taboo, nor is it reserved strictly for the radical ‘hippy’ stereotypes. It’s relevant and it’s happening. So jump on the bandwagon – all the cool kids are doing it.