What is “sustainable” or “ethical” fashion? How does it affect you, your community, and the world?

More and more people are driven by a desire to make the world a better place. As the world evolves, we too, need to evolve our decisions to think ethically. Ethical wardrobe and ethical purchase decisions can start small like purchasing fair trade and ethical goods and evolve into an entire life choice. Make a commitment to yourself to purchase something ethically made and continue on the path of making good choices for the good of all of us.

What is “Ethical Fashion”, and why does it matter? In simplified terms: it’s good for the planet and good for people worldwide. Ethical Fashion is an umbrella term to describe ethical fashion design, production, retail, and purchasing. It covers a range of issues such as working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare.

There are many definitions out there, but this is the basis of the movement. Focusing on the planet is very important, but we also need to have an equal focus on people to benefit the world. These two things are intricately connected, and in order to effectively address the needs of one we cannot without the other.

Fashion plays a large role in the global economy. Fashion employs roughly 60 million people worldwide, and 75% of them are women. Making ethical purchases helps organizations that train and empower women to lead and assist families and communities to survive and flourish. Affecting communities all over the world, it has the ability to change the perception and the way we use resources. This large industry is also one of the world's largest polluting industries, so making progress in this industry will have ripple effects worldwide. 

Looking through this lens expands our understanding and where we look for solutions. Sustainable Fashion is all about stopping the cycle - designing goods made with new materials that can be easily and fully recycled or biodegraded which minimize other global impacts, while also maximizing the use of surplus, dead-stock, up-cycled and otherwise wasted materials.

Unlike plastic, which degrades in quality every time it gets recycled into something "new, “metals generally can be reworked again and again without losing their quality. This helps combat unethical mining, pollution from processing newly extracted metals and gemstones, pollution, and unsustainable rates of consumption of new resources.

Here’s a few of the things you can consider this year to help combat excess and start thinking ethically in your wardrobe decisions:

  • How can we reduce our own consumption? Start with what we have, buy higher-quality statement pieces, shop vintage, shop fair trade, local, and eco-friendly businesses.

  • What kind of technology innovation is happening in manufacturing?

  • How do we build an ethical wardrobe on a budget?

  • What companies pay living wages and eliminate slave labor throughout their supply chain?

  • How do we shop in a way that contributes to less pollution and water consumption?

Sometimes it seems a lot to take in to be conscientious of the wardrobe you purchase. It is easiest to stop in a shop and buy. But if you take time to ask yourself these questions and research businesses, it will make a world of difference for you and others around you.