These days, shoppers are facing more decisions than ever in regards to making choices about where they buy their clothing from and the moral quandary that comes with this. It seems to be the case that for lots of us that the main issue stems from the sense of ambiguity around the language of ethical fashion. We have seen a rise in recent years of the so-called ‘conscious consumer’. What this indicates is a noticeable shift in the habits of consumers in the UK. With the rise of the conscious consumer, 75% of Brits have adopted ethical shopping as well as healthier eating habits. It is hardly surprising to see a massive amount of consumers consciously modifying their lifestyle choices as well as their buying habits. In turn, clothing is amongst the key items people are really starting to reconsider the consumption of.
No doubt a lot of this information is relatively new to lots of consumers, and reading up on this topic and even identifying basic label information to determine if your clothing items are ethically sourced can be somewhat confusing and misleading. If you are unfamiliar with this, it can be a lot to get your head around.
So with this in mind, we have created a comprehensive guide to understanding ethical fashion and why you should question the origins of the clothing you choose to purchase from in the future. But firstly, let us explore the reason why ethical fashion is so crucial.
What is Ethical Fashion?
The term Ethical Fashion references garments that are produced in an environment that is consciously engaged in regards to the plethora of social issues the fashion industry impacts. ‘Ethical’ is often in reference to the treatment of people in the textile industry. For example, the considerations would be, are the workers paid a living wage? Do employees get proper breaks? Is every one of working age? And so on.
Other considerations are, does the company make a positive impact in relation to the communities in which it creates materials and help them to thrive? Some also implement the term “ethical” in reference to cruelty-free products. Sadly, terms such as “ethical leather” aren’t always ethical for those making the product and often these products do not biodegrade easily. In addition to this, what specific issues are we talking about when we use the phrase ethical fashion?
● Having access to a living wage
● Appropriate working conditions and working hours
● Human rights such as, child labour, gender equality, the right to unionise
● Health and safety standards
So really, it’s pretty straightforward, as a conscious consumer you should be expecting these standards of living and treatment to be met in the places where our clothing comes from. Currently, sadly, these expectations don’t always extend to the lives of the individuals who make our clothing items. We are a nation with an addiction to fast-fashion and cheap clothing which is so prominent that it seems to be overriding the basic concepts of human rights. Think about the UK fashion industry today compared to say, 40 years ago. You probably have double the amount of clothing than the average person back then and the chances are you’ll have paid much less for them.
The duration of time from a designers conception to landing in your shopping bag is shorter than it has ever been, on average a matter of weeks, we want more, we want it faster and we want it cheaper. In order to reach this speed of fast-fashion, the vast majority of production takes place overseas, with almost 97% of our garments being made by around 40 million textile workers, the majority of them being women in the developing world, making less than the equivalent of £3 a day.
The term Ethical Fashion may conjure up different meanings to different people, but on the whole, it indicates, fashion that tries to steer clear of a complex system where pay is very low, forced child labour takes place, and unpleasant and unsanitary environmental impacts are commonplace. What ties all of this together is a commitment to those who make our clothes and the environment around us all.
Once you start actively seeking it out, you will notice ethical fashion everywhere and you won’t need to compromise your aesthetic to keep your conscience clear.
Why is Ethical Fashion important?
The UK’s Fashion industry is worth 26 billion. In addition to this, there is a whopping
800,000 jobs to the British economy, this makes it the UK’s biggest and most impactful creative industry. Textile and fashion exports alone are estimated to be worth more than 6.5 billion. Globalisation indicates that materials and labour can be bought in different parts of the world where the fee would be extremely low compared to what they would be elsewhere. In addition to this, the industrialised techniques utilised for growing cotton indicate that that cotton can be manufactured quick and more significantly, cheaply.
These surplus costs from this are returned to the customer in the sense that, lots of brands high street fashion and online retailers offer clothing at increasingly low costs, and, in turn, much of it is regarded as disposable and the quality lacking and increasingly more and more, we are seeing consumers arguing that all this has a cost that is not included on the price tag.
The issues surrounding Ethical Fashion
The aim of Ethical Fashion is to address the issues it has with the manner in which the fashion industry actively operates, such as exploitative labour, environmental damage, the use of hazardous chemicals, waste, as well as animal cruelty.
Child workers, alongside exploited adults, can be victims of violence and abuse, for example, forced overtime, cramped and unhygienic working conditions, and poor pay.
So as previously mentioned, the low cost of cheap clothing sold means that less money goes to the people who actually make the clothing.
Cotton provides the majority of the world's fabric but growing and it uses 22.5% of the world's insecticides and 10% of the world's pesticides. Also chemicals which can be dangerous for the environment and harmful to the farmers who grow it. In addition to this, current textile growing practices are considered unstable because of the damage they can do to the immediate environment.
The other main significant point being the low costs and disposable nature of high street fashion which mean that much of it is destined for incinerators or landfill sites. The UK just alone, disposes of 1 million tonnes of clothing annually.
The bottom line
Ethical clothing and being mindful as a ‘conscious consumer’ has started to become very important to so many of us. What's more, there is still plenty of work to be done in regards to making progress for basic human rights and making ethical clothing brands the norm.
Having a level of respect for those who make clothing is essential, and although ethical clothing often comes with more additional fees than fast-fashion items, and everyone's price range for what they can afford varies, there are so many differences in what we can all do to live more mindfully and ultimately, ethically.
Fashion is complex, and when you consider ethical principles, it’s even more hard to wade through, even for those of us deep in the movement! There is no right or wrong answer, and although I wish I could tell you exactly what to buy, it’s all up to you to decide where your moral compass is directed.
The positive factor is, the future of fashion is bright and there are lots of possibilities for the future of ethical fashion as we begin to understand what they mean to us, the consumers.
In turn, the aim is that one day the term ethical fashion will not exist, it will just be fashion.
Ethical fashion will be normal rather than niche, and all clothes will be made fairly, animal welfare and the planet will always be considered. As a consumer you might not always have control over what goes on behind the scenes of the clothes industry, you will be able to track down the truth for who made your clothes, and what they are made with, and how their production impacts not just consumers but also the planet.
Here at Starseeds, we are proud to be an ethical and sustainable brand for him and her. We provide conscious unisex apparel and yogawear, all of our clothing is ethically made and we only use sustainable materials such as recycled coffee fabric and bamboo. Starseeds is a ‘Slow Fashion’ brand at the forefront of the ethical clothing movement. We are dedicated to making more conscious choices in all aspects of life, whilst inspiring others to follow suit.
It’s our aim to demonstrate how a balanced and organic approach to life shouldn’t stop at what we put in our bodies, as we strongly believe in the power of wasting less and recycling more in order to find eco-friendly solutions to fashion. Ethical and responsible production being our core values, Starseeds makes use of natural, carefully-selected fabrics to make beautiful items of clothing which will keep everyone feeling good from the inside-out. To find out more about what we do, get in touch.