What is ethical fashion?
Ethical fashion (sometimes known as slow fashion or sustainable fashion) is a way of producing and buying (or not buying) clothing that takes into account environmental and other social concerns. These concerns can range from the fair treatment of workers to the use of organic cotton.
For consumers, ethical fashion is also about buying fewer, better quality garments that last longer.
5 key aspects of ethical fashion brands
- Fair wages and working conditions for all those working in a supply chain.
- From those producing raw materials (such as farmers growing cotton) to the workers stitching together a garment, all workers should receive a living wage.
- Transparency and traceability about suppliers and production processes is a key indicator of an ethical fashion brand.
- Ethical fashion companies think about their impact on the environment and will use sustainable fabrics (such as organic cotton) and less polluting production processes such as the use of natural plant-based dyes.
- Ethical fashion brands often do not use animal products like leather, wool or silk.
- In many cases, they produce clothes that are built to last, offer a repairs service or clothes that you can lease.
One example of an ethical fashion brand is MUD Jeans, who feature on our fashion podcast. Find out what Eva Engelen from MUD had to say about the fashion industry and what MUD is doing to combat the issues.
Why is ethical fashion so important?
Ethical fashion is an alternative to fast fashion. With fast fashion the consumer has little or no visibility of how the clothes are made and what impact production has on workers and the environment.
These impacts are often devastating to those people making clothes, their communities and their local environment. Fast fashion also has a focus on consumers buying more and more clothes, with brands releasing more new ranges and trends, sometimes as often as daily or weekly, to encourage increased consumption.
Sustainable fashion has the potential of making a positive impact in the fight against climate change and the ecological crisis. Sustainable fashion is important in reducing the amount of water, chemicals, energy consumption and the excessive discarding of old clothes to landfill.
Is ethical fashion affordable?
The very aspects that make a fashion brand ethical – fair wages, transparency, sustainable fabrics, durability – mean that ethical fashion is more expensive than mainstream fashion. With ethical fashion you pay the real cost of your garment.
This high price and quality hopefully mean that you’ll buy fewer new clothes which is one of the main things needed to make our clothes shopping habits more sustainable.
But ethical fashion is not just about buying new clothes. More affordable ethical fashion includes buying second hand, clothes swaps, making your own from scratch, upcycling, repair and renting. All of which are more affordable and another key aspect of sustainable fashion.