I think as human beings, we all want to do the right thing - especially when it comes to something as simple as choosing what we put on our bodies. Somewhere in there, the ‘right thing’ became a trending concept and the world became oversaturated with all the different ways that you can achieve this.. Which is great! But it does all tend to get a little confusing. So, even though I’m not the master and am definitely still learning every day.. I thought I would write down the core values I use when navigating through the ethical fashion world. Because let’s be honest in the green packaging, fancy labels and marketing, the ‘right thing’ can actually become a little hard to find. So, here are my top things I look for when purchasing (even when it’s not covered in green and screaming ORGANIC!).
1. Do your research
Have a google of ethical brands or even brands that you already support and search for their sustainability principles - most sites have a link to them if they have one. Other ways to stay up to date with this are using Apps (i personally like Good On You which has a data base of rated brands) or following websites like Ethical Clothing Australia, Fashion Revolution or Baptist World Aid Fashion Report 2018 which has released a comprehensive report on major brands and their status on ethical fashion from the past year.
2. Closing the loop
The true meaning of sustainability is to create something that has the ability to sustain itself. That means engaging with companies that think about their impact on the world every step of the way - from creation to the end life cycle of a product. Recycling and up-cycling waste is one of the key ways to do this. As the pressure builds for closed-loop production, alternative manufacturing methods are popping up everywhere such as swimwear regenerating ocean waste into lycra, designs that incorporate melted down metals reinvented as buttons and zips or simply just reworking existing fabrics into new patterns and styles. Fashion revolution did a great short piece on this here.
3. Sustainability = social + environmental + economic
True sustainability is achieved when all three elements of social, environment and the economy are considered - but social is definitely the hidden factor. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people are still dying from the fashion industry through undervalued wages and pollution resulting in poor living conditions and health risks. Looking for brands that engage with social causes provide an opportunity for your dollar to go further and for you to support causes that you believe in through something as simple as where you shop. This looks like local projects with artisan work, donating a percentage of profits to charities or contributions to social programs. It is of my personal belief that business’ have the responsibility to consider the lives that are impacted through throughout their chain, and cycling profits for the overall betterment of humanity is an empowering circle to be a part of.
4, Natural fabrics
Not only are natural fabrics less toxic than synthetic for our bodies, but also for the natural environment. Polyester is made from alcohol and terpthalic acid.. I don’t know exactly what that is but it sounds over-processed, hard to decompose and just plain gross. Natural fabrics are more durable so they are able to be worn for longer and you don’t have to buy them over and over again, and when it’s time for them to move on they are more easily able to be recycled and converted to a new purpose. It’s a win win. Natural fabrics look like hemp, cotton, linen, khadi, wool etc..
5. Ditch the plastic
If we’re opting out of plastic clothes, we don’t want our clothes wrapped in it either. With online shopping came an excessive increase in plastic production in the fashion industry as it’s faster, cheaper and easier to utilise plastic for transporting and packaging. Look for companies that utilise recyclable packaging such as cardboard or multi-purpose so it can have an after lif such as a pencil case of tote bag, (find out better black packaging name from Sarah). Or, shop locally and take your own bag in! I always ask for swing tags to be removed in store if it’s possible for them to be reused on another garment. Because let’s be honest - we don’t need them.
6. Look for certifications
With all of the trending of sustainable fashion and inadvertently green washing, certifications have arisen to sort through the companies for us and let us know who is actually taking the hard yards to do the right thing by our planet. Key certifications to look our for are: Certified Organic, GOTS (Global Organic Textile standard), B Corp, cruelty free and even vegan. Companies that rep these labels mean business and are prepared to put their money where their mouth is for ethical fashion.
7. It starts with you
With all of these things considered and more, what it really comes down to is how you shop. It’s a common occurrence that once a brand considers all of these factors the prices of their items of course are raised to suit - and a very common argument is that the average consumer can’t afford to purchase from this price range. And the truth is - If they’re buying something every week, of course they can’t! However, if we shop less and invest in items that will be key pieces of our wardrobe and better still be able to have a second life, there is no need to continuously be buying more. A little trick I like to have with myself also is whenever something new comes into my wardrobe - I swap it out for something else and either donate or sell it on.
If we’re honest with ourselves, the world we live in is no longer a place where we can shut off and pretend that consumerism isn’t a very big part of our culture (though I’m sure a lot of us would love to!). However I think there is a way that we can embrace this culture both responsibly and realistically. I hope this makes it all a little less intimidating and I would love to hear how you navigate through conscious consumerism..