Ethical, But Make It Fashion
We’re now living in an era of which we’re engaged with the consequences of a lifestyle. Conversations on climate change and global warming have been in circulation for more than a decade and is evident with the deviant nature of weather across the earth in recent years.
Along with this comes the repercussions of non-biodegradable and chemical waste materials on the ecosystem, both on land and in the ocean. We’re somehow ‘running out of drinkable water’, emitting a mortifying amount of CO2 despite our knowledge of the consequences, and to held liable (or will be) for the extinction of numerous species, with the looming threat that this may be extended to our own.
A discourse that cannot be avoided within the conversation of climate change is that of fashion. How do we make fashion more sustainable? And an extension of that is,
How can we make fashion more ethical?
As fashion’s undoing isn’t confined to it’s environmental impact. The issue of sweatshops with overworked and underpaid employees in economically ‘undeveloped’ countries mustn’t be overlooked – though it often is by the overriding topic of fashion’s ecological effects.
Before delving into the ways in which can become more ethical in our fashion choices, let’s first make sure we comprehend the numerous ways in which fashion can be unethical.
Let’s start of with the little known fact that up to 20,000 liters of water are needed to produce just 1kg of cotton. A pair of jeans uses about 7,600 litres of water to produce, which is more that the average amount of water a person will drink in a year. Water consumption in clothing production is just a catalyst in the scarcity of the natural resource that is crucial to both the earth and it’s inhabitants.
As well as the water that is consumed in the production of textiles, there’s also the abundant amounts that discarded as waste and polluted with chemicals and dyes. The textile industry in China is said to discharge over 2.5 billion tons of wastewater year by year. In addition to this the fashion industry is accountable for 10% of global carbon emissions. From manufacture and production, to distribution, the fashion industries carbon footprint is extensive, and that’s without observing the physical waste produced when old clothes and textiles end up on landfills across the globe.
Sweatshop shaming had it’s moment a few years back, with exposés chronicling some of the most-loved fast-fashion brands inhumane working conditions; from underage employees, extensive labour hours and inexcusable low salaries.
Though not the sole offenders, the chief culprits of ‘unethical’ fashion are, of course, fast-fashion brands, such as Zara, H&M, Topshop, Forever 21, Primark, Boohoo, Missguided etc. And so, if one would like disengage with the tribulations of the industry, one must dissociate with fast-fashion as a whole.
This may feel like a difficult feat if engaged with the ever-changing trends, hoards of influencers, and general timbre of a consumerist society, of which suggests that being ‘stylish’ is 1, of importance to one’s existence and 2, only attainable if dressing in a prescribed manner – but that’s a different conversation altogether, though integral to the discourse of fast fashion. In order to stop consuming fast fashion, one must think about fashion from a different perspective. This doesn’t mean that something trendy cannot be an object of desire, but the way to obtain it could be reconsidered, and with a bit of knowledge of how the fashion industry works as a whole, it’s really easy to do this. Changing your relationship to clothes, fashion and how one consumes isn’t going to happen overnight but with the steps below can be achieved eventually.
Pay More, Buy Less
So here’s the thing, if you buy clothes that makes you part with an amount of money that forces to recognise you’re spending money, you’re going to buy less. No one really enjoys parting with money, even a spindrift, and most of us aren’t sitting on or earning enough money to genuinely not care about parting with it, therefore this is one of the most effective ways to consume fashion more ethically. It’s easy to buy a lot of (for lack of a better word) tat during seasonal sales, or in stores cheaper stores, simply because you can, but a little reflection will carry you to the realisation that a large percentage of the clothes bought in these moments are only worn a handful go times.
And extension of this theory is then to try and buy items that you’ll don for years to come. If you only buy things that you really need, or really want, quality essentials there’s no need for a vast quantity.Acknowledge trend pieces for what they are, question if their desirability has an afterlife once the trend dies down, think about obtaining classic pieces that will last longer than a few seasons.
Whether your modi operandi is to rummage through racks at a charity shop (thrift store), swipe through a curated selection at a vintage store, or scroll through pages of redundant items in search for something remarkable on reselling site, shopping secondhand is one of the best ways to avoid contributing to the ethical issues of clothing manufacture. Of course if we all shopped exclusively secondhand shops fashion brands would become obsolete, which is not the desire here. But including secondhand shops into your roster is an easy way to shop whilst evading fast fashion and its vices.
Look to Ethical Brands
Perhaps patent, but another manner in which to make your clothes shopping habits more ethical is to shop ethical brands. These are brands that make a conscious effort to ensure that the process of which their clothes are produced – from textiles sources to manufacture – are morally correct. Often they aren’t the most purse friendly stores, but in order to be an ethical shopper one must accept that they may have to pay more in order to ensure that the person of whom crafted their clothes was paid an adequate wage. And like the ‘pay more. buy less’ concept, it’s beneficial to both the environment and your wallet in the long term to buy less tat and pay more for good quality pieces – and sustainable brands often produce well-crafted garments that will last years of wear.
A small selection ethical brands: