If you’ve been hanging around on a certain side of the internet for a while, you’ve probably heard a few terms being tossed around interchangeably – ‘fast fashion’, ‘slow fashion’, ‘ethical fashion’, ‘sustainable fashion’. I’ve even mentioned the terms a few times on my instagram (although that’s normally in the context of me complaining how hard it is to find ethical fashion that suits me goshdarnit).
When you’re trying hard to save the world, the clothes on your back might not be the first thing that you think of, but the environmental and ethical impact that the clothing industry has is astounding. Over 150 billion pieces of clothing are produced annually, which translates into 20 new items per year for every person on Earth. On average, each garment is worn only 7 times before being discarded.
How does the world keep up with such a massive demand? By reducing clothing quality, and cutting the wages and working conditions of the people who make them. Across the world, 98% of factory workers aren’t earning a living wage, manufacturing in factories that primarily rely on coal-powered electricity to keep running. This mean that clothing can be made quickly and inexpensively, but without the structural integrity to last beyond a few washes. Unable to be used, last season’s items normally find their way to the landfill and the cycle begins again. This is what is usually called fast fashion.
So what is ethical clothing then?
Ethical clothing is exactly what it sounds like! Clothing that aligns with the ethics or morals of the people who purchase it, particularly when it comes to the treatment of the workers and the impact of production on the environment. Some people might also refer to sustainable fashion, where clothing and accessories are produced and marketed using the most environmentally sustainable methods possible.
While it’s becoming easier to find, it may still take a bit of work to find ethical clothing in a style and price-point that you’re happy with. It can also be a bit of a minefield trying to work out exactly which brands are really ethical or sustainable. You might think that that crazy price tag must mean that the product has been made with love and care, but that stunning polyester top could still have been made for pennies while your hard-earned dough goes to line a CEO’s pocket. Google is going to be your friend here!
Shopping ethically may seem more of a hassle than popping in to that tempting sale, but by changing the choices you make, you’ll be supporting companies that believe in what you do – a fair, sustainable world, where people look out for each other. On top of that, your new (or second hand) items are probably going to be made to a higher standard, and out of better materials, than their chain-store alternatives, meaning that they’ll be by your side for years to come.