What is Ethical Fashion? Why Are Brands Opting For Ethical Initiatives?

ethical fashion

What is Ethical Fashion? Why Are Brands Opting For Ethical Initiatives?

Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of life.(everyday life)

~Bill Cunningham

Fashion is an idea, art, religion, business, hustle, adventure or just a matter of dressing up. Fashion comes from a blend of many different things. It has so many inspirations coming from nature, our thoughts, ideas and values. We all know our imaginations that come from these inspirations revolve around nature. Even a mythical creature, let’s say Pegasus comes from the horse, a flying horse.

ethical fashion brands

If nature is the main inspiration of our ideas, values and culture to express our sense of fashion and all the trends that come and go, then Fashion is important. If Fashion is an undetachable part of our lives, then surely to be more conscious, aware we can now look into Ethical Fashion.

I am here with how your fashion can be ethical and set an example for many. The word ethical here doesn’t only mean with high moral values and principles. There’s more to it.

What is Ethical fashion?

Many of us run after having ‘ethics’ in our life. Many of us value these ethics; it helps us navigate our work consciously around society and reminds us of the need and difference between what would be fruitful for society and what wouldn’t be.

Ethical fashion comes similarly. It is an umbrella term that focuses on working in a way that works in favour of the producers, the consumers, the fashion industry, maximising their benefits while minimizing the effects on the environment.

“Ethical fashion is the recognition that there are human beings behind the clothes that we wear.”

– Elizabeth Joy

The ethical paradigm of fashion allows fashion to grow not just from the kaftans to the ball gowns for the Red Carpet but to a more eco-friendly, transparent, equal and equanimous system.

Pillars of ethical fashion

The pillars of ethical fashion are the producers and the labourers, the consumers and the environment.

ethical fashion brands initiatives

Consumers

It is essential to provide the consumers with knowledge about the product and what goes into making it. It isn’t just about the raw materials that go in, the chemicals mixed in but the whole process within the factories and the process.

“As consumers, we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy.”

Emma Watson

Consumers can have many questions that they seek for answers on a product they desire to purchase. For example, a consumer desires to buy a cardigan for the winter chills. The type of fabric that cardigan will be of needs to satisfy the consumer. If that one consumer supposedly is against animal abuse and wants a cardigan made up of plant fibres, they have the right to know about it. Coming on to the price factor, it may be very costly to what the consumer has thought of it to be. The consumer has the right to ask what makes that certain piece so expensive.

Any fabrication and discrepancy of information from the brand shouldn’t be tolerated by the consumers and the brands should aim at providing the truth, unfragmented facts to the consumers for the information they require.

Producers

“Fair wages, safety, and respect for garment workers cannot be an optional add-on.”

– @storiesbehindthings

The companies or brands that are so proud and having exponential growth every coming year have a very strong pillar of their success i.e., their workers. With massive success, a brand should never overshadow the needs of its workers and labourers.

A fair pricing, fair workplace with desired amenities for its workers and qualitative goods and services should be the main aim of the producing sector. Unfortunately, there have many heartbreaking incidents where brands have outsourced labours from developing countries to reduce their production cost, neglecting their rights, safety, and insurance. These labourers work day and night to accomplish the goals set by large corporates to which they receive low wages and no significant insurance.

The face of big multinational companies shouldn’t just be the influencers, the models but their workers. The success of these brands shouldn’t be based on the revenue they generate but on how they respect, care,e and value their workers.

Environment

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

Robert Swan

Making a product, selling out goods and services at the cost of the environment is not a great brand accomplishment. It is one of the biggest weaknesses of the brand that it should tackle. This might not be a problem for the brand is selling out its products, generating revenue or maximizing its profit. Will it really not be?

It will be. Consumers now are very much aware of what types of products can positively or negatively impact the environment. So not being accountable for the environment is a negative point for the brands in today’s world.

Unfiltered wastewater being mixed with sources or waters, dumping out waste inefficiently without any recycling process or cutting out farming lands or forests to set up huge factories is not an environment-friendly business many companies might be doing. Sustainability, sustainable practices should be a very important factor for the companies in the execution of any of its production.

The constituents of Ethical Fashion

  • Transparency of brand 
  • Qualitative product
  • Eco-friendly product
  • Production process
  • Safety of the labourers
  • Manufacturing environment
  • Health issues in parallels
  • The Supply Chain

Ethical fashion brands and ethical fashion initiatives

It is like a change that has occurred to so many brands and businesses to take sustainable and ethical actions. The entities that have been open for a long time or the ones that are springing up; all have to consider this change.

The above statement raises the question that is it necessary for a brand to start from square 1 to be ethical enough? Or to what extent can a brand or a business be ethical? is there any parameter to check if the brands are ethical enough?

Every brand, the business makes changes in itself to a limit they do not go into a heavy loss for a long period of time and without any guarantee of a positive result after such changes. The logistics of such a business analyze how certain changes might affect the business, their profit margin and an estimation of the number of consumers it attracts.

Uncertainties and risks come at a very high cost, but this doesn’t mean that brands aren’t taking measures to be more ethical. The consumers now are focused on the impact the brand is making for sustainable and ethical fashion.

Many brands have their own ethics, protocols that address these issues. Micro or macro but these things happen. 

Adidas, one of the largest sportswear manufacturers in the world, produced over 15 million pairs of shoes in 2020 containing Parley Ocean Plastic, an eco-innovative plastic replacement of virgin plastic. It also aims to replace virgin polyester with recycled ones by 2024. Apart from this, it has been a part of the Fair Labor Association and has been rightful to provide fair wages, fair compensation and safe working condition.

Levi’s, an American clothing company is especially known for its Denim jeans has been bringing out ranges of denim clothing that is produced sustainably, from using 75% of the cotton now comes from more sustainable sources to reducing the usage of water in making up these garments that last up for a long period of time, saving up to 4.2 billion litres of water since 2011 with their new initiative of Water<Less®.

There are so many brands that have coming out as sustainable brands or adopting sustainable ways to continuing their production. We all need to be aware of the brands we shop on, understand ethical fashion and take actions for a better planet.

How ethical is fast fashion

Fast fashion is a design, manufacturing, and marketing method focused on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing that replicate the high fashion designs from celebrities and catwalks to store by producing in mass with low cost. For a long time now fast fashion has been loved by its consumers for being cheap, easily affordable and being up to date on the trends set up in the fashion industry. But it is also true that there have been many incidents where a bitter hard reality of such fast fashion brands have been unveiled to us.

Fast fashion is a really good friend to trend lovers but is fast fashion brands ethical?

If meeting up the trend of the fashion industry at a lower price costs us the lives of many outsourced labourers in developing countries, then is it worth it? The decision is yours.

I do not mean to say these brands are bad but they are not ethical enough. They are neither giving out to their workers enough nor to the environment.

The Rana Plaza disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with the deaths of about 1,135 people and thousands of injured people brought a big question to fast fashion brands and humanity. This was a very heartbreaking incident with the collapse of the building with the workers in it. The safety of these workers was not ensured. Walmart and GAP had made their own version of the explanation of the situation as self-regulating.

Five years later also nothing has changed. Consumers believe that now many of these brands have been producing fairly and considering ethical fashion and the lives of the workers, their safety and fair wages but a report in 2017 shows the same scenario. “Findings from a knitwear factory in Bangladesh in 2017 found that workers were subject to dust and smoke inhalation, lack of ventilation, poor lighting, as well as exposure to electrical wires and chemicals”, mentioned in the article by Verdict.

This incident and many more have left us shaken. However, these incidents have also brought out the importance of ethical fashion brands and ethical fashion initiatives.

Along with this and so many talks going up about sustainability and changing their modes of production and adding up to the ‘sustainable’ element in the brands, some of the fashion brands have been shifting to a more sustainable approach.

How will this even be possible? Can fast fashion brands even move to be ethical fashion brands?

Although it is surprising, many of the fast fashion brands have taken the initiative of moving towards sustainable fashion and ethical fashion.

H&M as we all know has fast fashion roots and is changing from there and making sustainable and ethical approaches. Not only that but H&M topped the Fashion Transparency Index in 2020, scoring 71-80% in the first place. Its new H&M Conscious Collection, made from organic fabrics or recycled polyester has taken the show now. The Swedish brand has also been spending millions in thinking out, planning ethical ways of fashion and joining up with celebrities and influencers for its eco-conscious campaigns. In some of its flagship stores, it has also launched repair ateliers where you can repair your garments too.

Mango is a Spanish clothing brand that has taken the initiative to increase the use of sustainable fibres in its garments. It has been promoting the use of Lyocell, which is an example of a sustainable cellulose fibre; it is made using wood pulp and requires less energy than cotton. However, it will be hard to measure how much impact this commitment from Mango without any public disclosure of the data.

Taking up ethical initiatives, considering ethical and sustainable modes of productions to appease the consumer is not enough. There should be a statistical disclosure of such information too. I have diversified the situations of the fast fashion brands and given examples for them so that you can decide if fast fashion brands can be a part of ethical fashion or not.

What clothing brands are ethical

It is very important that we check about the brand that we are interested to try. Once you are influenced by the brand, its good and services, you are most likely to check it out and look up what things are you willing to purchase from them.

what is an ethical fashion

Below is a simple question for you that can help you find out if that brand is the one.

  1. Are they transparent about their activities? If they aren’t transparent and cannot provide you the information you require about the brand to some extent then the rest of the checklist won’t even make sense.
  2. Are they treating their workers and paying them based on their work? Do they have an insurance policy for their workers? Workers are the most important base of any brand. It is the right of the workers to be treated well and paid in accordance to their work. Many brands outsource labours to reduce the labour cost in places where labours (most of which are brown and black men and women) are underpaid and most often have to work overtime with certainly no extra income coming in. These labours work for every single penny to which the brands earn hundreds or even thousands of dollars monthly.
  3. Are they using sustainably grown or extracted raw materials? It is very important that the raw materials are used in the making of the product. Most of the synthetic fabrics that have come on the market do not decompose easily. The fabrics made from such fibres should be recycled and reused such as polyester/nylon from the industrial waste rather than producing more. A lot of the dyes used in the fabric have toxins that can harm our skin, health and the environment too.
  4. What are their production methods like? Goods manufacturing system that considers the environment, society and a process that is non-polluting, conserves flora and fauna, consider the rights and needs of its workers and is economically viable makes the goods sustainably produced.

Final Note~Need of Understanding Ethical Fashion

With the ongoing pandemic have we not understood the need for unity and awareness.

We have!

And as we are trying to battle out the pandemic, we also need to address some of the issues within the fashion industry too. It is important. Ethical fashion promises to address issues in the fashion industry and create a viable cycle with rights of labours, consumers benefits, and impact of environment is also considered. 

Many brands, companies and cooperatives have been taking initiatives to do their part on following ethical practices and contributing to the environment. It is on us where we raise our voices and what we choose. 

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