Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Ethical Fashion: What + Why + How?

Recently, a fellow blogger - and one of my favourite reads, actually - Annika of Pineneedle Collective jumped on the ethical fashion bandwagon. Her participation jogged my memory and my desire to also be more fashionable with a conscience - which you can read more about here. I want more people to be proactive about this and get more socially conscious about your role in this world. Your role in the life of the victims of fashion. No, these aren't the people who put on the wrong colour combination. I'm talking about the workers, who may or may not have been treated fairly by major brands, victims of fast fashion. Not only that, but also the environment which many brands have destroyed or damaged in order to deliver to you their latest products, which is so in at one time or another. However, I know you might want to know more about this so-called "ethical fashion" before diving into it. Here I am to deliver to you the what, why and how of ethical fashion.

According to the Ethical Fashion Forum, ethical fashion is "an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximises benefits to people and communities while minimising impact on the environment." According to MSLK Reactions, it is "an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which is both socially and environmentally conscious. Sustainable fashion – using more environmentally-friendly materials and methods in clothing production – is part of this larger trend."

To sum up, ethical fashion is basically an ethical approach - this means socially and environmentally friendly approach - to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing. It should benefit the people who are involved in the making as well as the buyers - such as fair salary, non-toxic - and minimise the effect on the environment. This means that the products may cost a lot more than usual, probably more than you can afford on a regular basis - if you buy clothes every season or even every week. But it definitely has better quality and supports a better lifestyle for the workers. For those less fortunate or living on a tight budget, don't worry. There are some tips down below for how you can still support ethical fashion. You can find more criteria of ethical fashion as well as some other related organisations here. It is without question that Fairtrade brands qualify for being ethical. My favourite Fairtrade clothing brand that I've mentioned countless times before is Armedangels, if you want to give it a look.

Some of you might wonder why you need to do this and find so many obstacles not to do it - the brands are harder to find, the products cost a lot more, the selection is limited, etc - but here's a simple reason why: humanity and environment. You may be shocked to hear that lives have been affected. The most recent incident is the collapsed factory in Bangladesh, taking over 1000 victims. Though other clothing production processes don't always end up as extremely as this one did, how would you know? You might as well be carrying their death on your shoulders, if you want to go to the extremes. Maybe sometimes it's not always human lives, sometimes it's the damage of an environment - like this river that GAP did, which upsets me still. We are so used to having highly affordable pieces in store that we forget that they sometimes lack the ethical aspects in their production and employment. We tend to grab new pieces every time it changes season when, instead, we could've just saved money to invest in something worth our while whilst also supporting the fair trade and environmentally friendly manufacture.

Personally, I want to take part in changing the world for the better. Cheesy, I know, but that's actually how I feel. It's never easy but I want to give it my best. It definitely beats not doing anything at all. I'm pretty new to this so I don't know the thingamajigs just yet but Elizabeth and October may have something better to say to inspire you all to take part in this. Lauren Laverne's and Lucy Siegel's articles also have some interesting insights on this matter. It honestly petrifies me how ignorant people can be when it comes to fashion.

I've actually shared some tips on how you can start being more fashionable with a conscience here. But I'd like to add some updates on the matter. First off, I did mention that shopping bloggers' closets is one very savvy option. Aside from the bloggers I already mentioned, I find Carrie's, Rebecca's and Tieka's new closets very adorable. If you haven't checked it out, I've also updated my closet shop here (for international readers) or here (for german readers). Aside from the aforementioned options, I find shopping in stores such as TK Maxx (which brings you cheaper products from big labels) very ethical. They sometimes also bring us items from previous seasons, encouraging the labels to sell them instead of discarding them. Birdee magazine also has some tips to share, which I find very helpful. Though it was probably written strictly for Australians, you can also apply it to your own areas (and online).

Aside from the aforementioned labels, some major brands actually do have respectable production process and employment ethics, such as H&M, C&A and American Apparel. If you want to find out about the policies of your favourite brands, go to their websites and look it up. If it's not stated there, try emailing them to ask about their ethics and production process. If they really do have fair ethics for the workers and the environment, then they have nothing to worry about, nothing to hide. As Lauren mentioned in her article, if there's a huge enough amount of customers complaining about their work ethics, the fashion industry would've changed their policies. Yes, we do have that power and we can change the world. So what are you so afraid of?

I applaud Elizabeth, October and Annika for being more fashionable with a conscience. Bloggers should really start thinking about these issues, especially fashion bloggers with huge readerships. They could make a huge difference, inspire their readers and eventually the whole world to make a positive change. And, yes, some of you might not have the money or facility to buy the ethically made clothes but there are other ways you can make ethical fashion choices. So don't be discouraged. And, yes, it's not as easy as it sounds but little by little, we can do it. Thank you for reading this far and I hope you'll really start thinking about this.

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