Credit: Brittany Hinrichs, Content Manager, Mod + Ethico Boutique
The ethical side of the fashion realm can be quite intense and confusing for those looking to switch to a more mindful lifestyle. It can be overwhelming trying to learn and make sense of this side of the industry. You might think that your world–and typical shopping habits–have been turned upside down. Depending on who you ask, ethical fashion has a variety of definitions.
Simply put, ethical fashion is a fashion that values people, fair wages, safe working conditions and the environment–or the Achilles heel of fast fashion, as I like to say. It is progressive fashion that considers and takes accountability for its social and environmental impact throughout all of its processes.
Designers, boutique owners, bloggers and conscious consumers all work together to raise questions about industry standards and norms. They do it in the hopes that the idea of ethical fashion will no longer just be a movement, but rather, a way of life.
Here’s a breakdown of the ethical fashion industry, its social concepts, and benefits:
Credit: Suki + Solaine
1. Ethical Fashion – a movement that believes in the sustainable and ethical production, design and sourcing of fashion goods and materials. It is both socially and environmentally conscious.
Benefits of Ethical Fashion
- Prices are set according to the quality, value, and construction of the garment.
- It promotes sustainable practices in the garment industry to reduce waste, overconsumption, and future damage to the environment.
- It considers the lives of artisans/garment workers and their families by providing fair compensation and safe work environments.
Pictured: Reverse Ball Choker
Credit: Brittany Hinrichs, Content Manager, Mod + Ethico
2. Slow Fashion – a cycle of fashion that supports slower shopping habits, mindful sourcing, and quality production. Clothes are produced on a made-to-order basis to reduce overproduction and pollution. Slow Fashion focuses on building a capsule collection with strong basics and investment pieces, rather than frequent, low-quality trend-based purchases.
Benefits of Slow Fashion
- Slow production promotes slower consumption and production of waste.
- Considers environmental and social impact of production and distribution.
- Slow fashion retailers are often mission-based.
- Allows consumers to build a capsule wardrobe with investment pieces and,
- Often handmade and ethically produced.
3. Fairtrade – an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system (Fair Trade Federation).
Benefits of Fairtrade
- Ensures underdeveloped countries and workers aren’t exploited by manufacturers, retailers, and corporations.
- Environmental and social guidelines are taken into consideration with trade agreements and partnerships.
- Promotes ethical and transparent partnerships between manufacturers, retailers, factories, and workers.
- Empowers local and indigenous communities/artisans.
4. Sustainability – A characteristic of a process or state that can be maintained at a consistent level indefinitely. A sustainable process meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (MSLK).
Benefits of Sustainability
- Products are made from highly renewable, oftentimes natural, sources–bamboo, wood pulp, dirt, beech trees, etc.
- Sustainable processes reduce the need to exacerbate human resources and production times due to the focus on synergistic, zero waste policies
- Sustainable textiles and materials reduce landfill, CO2, water, and chemical pollution
Brands and retailers are starting to use post-consumer materials for shoes and apparel (eg. recycled plastic, bottles, rubber, and discarded hardware).
Credit: Brittany Hinrichs, Content Manager, Mod + Ethico
5. Upcycling – taking something considered waste and repurposing it (Upcycle That).
The repurposing of a material into a product of higher quality. An example would be a purse made out of woven candy wrappers (MSLK).
Benefits of Upcylcing
- Promotes environmental and social awareness
- Reduces amount of clothing and household items contributing to landfill pollution and/or lost in the travels of oversea charity sales
Product value, including its potential value, is determined and restored by the owner.
Pictured: Sheer Floral Bomber Jacket
Credit: Alain Milotti, Photograher, Mod + Ethico
6. Cut n’ Sew – the process of manufacturing a product from scratch; The sewing process starts and ends in one place — meaning the design is cut out from raw fabric and completely finished (Leaf.TV).
Benefits of Cut N’ Sew
- Allows for more customization
- Fabrics are cut and altered in their raw state, instead of undergoing mass alterations once purchased by retailers
- Garments are designed, cut, sewn, and finished in their entirety
- More care for fabric selection and quantities produced
- Promotes locally sourced, handmade, and made-to-order processes
Cuts out middlemen and general questions of ethical production.
Pictured: Knee High Sock Pack
Credit: Mod + Ethico
7. Indigenous Techniques – Traditional methods of hand-making garments practiced by indigenous cultures and artisans, which have been practiced for generations. Indigenous clothes are typically made using one of three carefully selected handmade methods: hand-knit with needles, hand-held knitting looms and hand-woven looms (Indigenous Clothing)
Benefits of Indigenous Techniques
- Garments are produced by the indigenous groups and artisans that specialize in that specific construction and design.
- Original construction techniques are typically of higher value and quality and are priced accordingly.
- These techniques put the spotlight back on traditional craftsmanship and undervalued communities.
- Clothing is more personal, meaningful, and is an exemplary example of natural artforms.
Ethical and slow fashion brands work with indigenous groups through fair trade programs to ensure proper pay and recognition for the skilled artisans — eg. Krochet Kids, Indigenous, Bead & Reel, and The Root Collective
Written and researched by contributor Jessina Nicole, of Love Leather and Lace