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The world is far more connected and aware than it has ever been. Consumers want to know whether the products they buy are ethical and fair. Every day, the news warns us about the future of climate change and social inequality. Yet, we may not realize that how we shop can positively or negatively impact these causes. Supporting brands that produce ethical clothing can be a big step toward changing the world.
What is Ethical Clothing?
There is no set definition, but an ethical brand of clothing looks to improve its business in one or more areas, such as working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare.
An ethical piece of clothing can take on different meanings, but ensuring the safety of workers tops the priority list of fair manufacturers. Fashion site The Good Trade spotlights several ethical brands. One of the brands featured, Everlane, places transparency at the top of their agenda. Everlane’s website reports how the brand spends months finding the right factories, developing personal relationships with the owners, and maintaining quality control over production practices.
Often in fashion, brands hide behind a veil of secrecy when discussing the manufacturing process of their products. Everlane makes sure customers know every detail about the clothes they buy. From divulging the true costs to sharing stories behind each piece of clothing produced, Everlane is truly setting an example for ethical clothing.
Everlane seeks out only the best factories around the world to ensure that workers are treated well and paid fair wages and that working environments are safe. Because Everlane believes in full transparency, their website provides customers with a list of all of the factories that manufacture the company’s items.
Wearing secondhand clothing is another way to promote ethical fashion. Buying secondhand doesn’t make the clothing itself ethical, but the act of recycling versus buying something new is a green practice. When you buy secondhand clothing you are essentially extending a garment’s life and lowering its impact on the environment. Moral Fibres offers some great ideas for ways to shop secondhand, such as on eBay, in charity shops, or in vintage shops. One new modern trend is wardrobe-swapping events. These social events can help you find the clothes you want without having to shop, therefore creating an ethical cycle of fashion recycling.
Clothes aren’t considered ethical just because of how they’re made, but also because of how they are sold. Children’s clothing brand Tootsa emphasizes gender-neutral clothes. They are passionate about breaking down stereotypes at an early age and designing clothes that can be worn by boys and girls. Tootsa’s founder, Kate Pietrasik, said she “wanted to offer an alternative to the sea of pinks and blues, whilst also offering practical, easy-care, and quality clothing—a unisex range [that] doesn’t limit a kid and lets a child be a child.” I don’t need to tell you how much fashion enforces stereotypes on children, particularly young girls. Encouraging a different set of ethics that isn’t defined by color or style, is the perfect way to promote equality at an early age.
How to Identity Ethical Brands
If you are looking to buy ethical brands from a store, here are several tips to consider.
The number one tip? Do your research! Many clothing brands produce their products in unfavorable conditions and try to hide it. Brands that are proud of the way they manufacture their clothes are upfront about their process and will make it easy for you to learn about their practices.
Another tip is to buy handmade products. Not only will you then know the product’s origin, but you will be supporting someone’s craft and positive business practices.
In the end, it comes down to you, the buyer, and your personal set of ethics. Brands that are willing to make their products using ethical methods and fair working practices do, in fact, exist. If you are prepared to do a bit of research, you will be helping the future development of a world that looks a little brighter.