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Ethical Clothing & Sustainable Living

September 24, 2019 4 min read

Ethical Clothing & Sustainable Living

Learn how to curate a wardrobe that’s expressive and in harmony with the planet.

Ethical clothing and sustainability in fashion seem to be the ‘it’ conversation. The buzz word. The trending topic. But with that, endless questions come to mind…what does it really mean? What is ethical clothing? Is it all hype and just another marketing tactic? Is massive change even realistic or are we just selling ourselves a dream? And the scariest of all, to the coming generations, will it even matter?

This vast subject comprises addressing the entire system of fashion and all of its layers. Let’s try to break it down…

The Language

Sustainability: The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.

Ethical fashion: A socially and environmentally conscious approach to the design, sourcing, and manufacturing of clothing. 

Social Responsibility: The philosophy that companies and individuals should act in a way that advances the well-being of society and the planet, such as philanthropic donations to organisations.

Fair-Trade: Emphasises sustainable farming methods, support for local communities’ economic development and safe and equitable conditions - including fair wages, and other certainties that local producers are not being exploited.

How to Buy Ethical Clothes

Look for quality, not quantity. While fast fashion gives you the chance to change your look every other day; it’s so much rewarding to pay for a garment from a brand that looks after its employees and planet. Responsible and ethical clothing manufacturers cost more for labels to work with and that is passed on to the consumer, so be prepared to pay a little more. 

A good place to start is just research brands. Any eco-friendly clothing label will be completely transparent about their manufacturing process (some even have a scan-able QR code to use in-store to discover more about their story and facts like where the fibres are sourced).

When you search something on the internet, do you notice the later advertisements that are pushed to you will relate to your previous search? Use that to your advantage. Click on everything related to keywords that relate, like recycled, upcycled, zero-waste, deadstock, green, eco-friendly, cruelty-free, sustainable clothing, vegan, fair trade, circular… Never stop learning, and only then you’ll find the brands and organisations that speak to you.

Who are the Sustainable Fashion Designers?

Whether you shop downtown, Madison Avenue, or from a screen, there’s access to sustainable fashion. You may even be wearing ethical clothing now without realising it.

In the world of high fashion, Stella McCartney is often seen as the leading charge as she has been one of the first to highlight this way of conscious thinking. Pioneering the way, the luxury label focuses on veganism and deforestation.

There are many other lines either incorporating unique recycled materials or running sustainable campaigns. 

Patagonia started Worn Wear, which allows you to shop second-hand for its products online, and offering store credit for trading used pieces. Madewell, Rag and Bone, and Wrangler collect old denim from any brand. H&M and Levi’s accept clothing and shoes from any brand. The North Face’s Clothes the Loop programme partnered with soles4souls to distribute any brand of clothing to disaster relief efforts. Nike’s Re-use a Shoe programme transfers worn-out shoes into athletic and playground surfaces. Bring your shoes to any brand store.

We’ll be surprised by just asking where we shop if they have any recycling programme, they often do. Other options including buying used, thrifting, renting, and of course, the most sustainable piece is the one we already own.

What to Look for 

Other than harmful chemicals and your own red flags, below are some examples of stamps of approvals in the textile world. 

Global Organic Textile Standard: Items carrying the GOTS label grade ‘organic’ must contain at least 95% certified organic fibers. Prohibited items include toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents, GMOs and their enzymes, and azo dyes that release carcinogenic compounds.

Bluesign System: With this certification, facilities use only non-toxic chemicals, monitor their air and water emissions, and ensure that every piece of dyed fabric is safe for consumers, workers, and the environment.

Forest Stewardship Council: The certification signifies that products come from responsibly managed forests that maintain the bio-diversity and regeneration capacity.

Oeko-Tex Standard 100: This means a product has been tested for harmful substances and is free from carcinogens, azo dyes, and other chemicals, and accordance with the European REACH standards (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, Restriction of chemicals). 

Where can I Learn More?

The impact humans are putting on the environment are devastating, and irreversible. However, thanks to social media and the world-wide-web, we have numerous resources to become more educated on our choices and how we can spread the message.

Documentaries: The True Cost, The Machinist, The Next Black, River Blue, Sweatshop-Deadly Fashion. Unravel, Udita, Walmart-The High Cost of Low Price, Cowspiracy-The Sustainability Secret, Planet Earth II, Before the Flood, More Than Honey, The Age of Mankind, Surviving Progress, No Impact Man… 

Books: Naked Fashion, To Die For-Is Fashion Wearing Out the World, Over-Dressed, Wear No Evil, Stitched Up-The Anti-Capitalist Book Of Fashion, Slow Fashion, Naked Fashion, Fashion & Sustainability-Design for Change, ReFashioned-Cutting Edge Clothing from Upcycled Materials… 

Sites and Apps: Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index, Fashion Transparency Index, Good on You, Global Fashion Exchange, GreenPeace, FairTrade International. 

Instagram Accounts: @fash_rev, @ecoage, @thegoodtrade, @the_press_tour, @ethicalbrandz, @theconsciouscut, @ethicalfashionforum, @wear_thefuture, @fab_scrap, @make_fashion_circular, @thr3fold, @remakeourworld, @fair.trunk, @thesustainablefashionforum, @theupcycleproject,, @smallshopco, @loveyourmutha, @beyondbrands_, the_conscious_collective, @theconsciouscloset.

Hash Tags: #whomademyclothes, #buylesschoosewell, #fairfashion, #30wears, #fashionrev, #imadeyourclothes, #lovedclotheslast, #circularfashion, #saynotosingleuse, #fashiontakesaction.

Make no mistake, there is an absolutely life-threatening problem… and fashion is a major contributor to it. However, people are noticing the solemn mood and willing to start the change. We don’t need 1000 people doing sustainability perfectly. We need everyone doing sustainability ok. Join us in the change to look after our planet and contribute to a more stable, more fair society by choosing to fill your wardrobe with ethical clothing.

Piaget Abbasi
Piaget Abbasi

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