From A To Ethical, A Series: Post 6
In the second post of this series, we discussed the 7 different ways you can practice ethical fashion. In this post we’ll take a deep-dive into the last one, buying from ethical brands.
Not every brand is made equal. And when it comes to sustainable fashion, it’s even less so. So, what should you look for in a brand when you want to shop ethically?
In this guide, I will share with you 10 factors that go into making a brand sustainable. You can use them to decide which brand you want to support.
Side note: ethical and sustainable fashion don’t mean the same thing, but I use them interchangeably because I believe a brand isn’t ethical if they are not sustainable.
Before you look at anything else, find out where a brand is producing their clothes.
For me, shopping local is a big priority because it reduces the carbon emissions from shipping and it ensures an income for local employees, creating a better quality of life.
I also like local brands because they’re often small businesses. Small business owners are the backbone of a country, and supporting them strengthens the economy.
Carbon neutral initiatives
Alternatively, you can look for a brand that offsets its carbon emissions from shipping if it’s producing in a different country.
This does make the economic aspect a little more complicated though. But it’s still a good option for your carbon footprint.
Fashion is the third most polluting industry. So a big part of an ethical brand’s focus should be on reducing their waste.
This means using less water and electricity, responsibly getting rid of or recycling their waste, and upcycling or minimizing their offcuts.
Look for brands who stay true to the authenticity of fashion by only producing a limited number of one garment. Their design period should also be longer to ensure quality.
This means that they take a lot longer to bring out new garments. Whereas fast fashion brands bring out new lines every two weeks, ethical brands normally only bring out new lines once a season, which is four times a year.
Ethical treatment of garment factory workers
Ethical fashion brands usually have transparent information of the working conditions in their factories on their website or it will be published somewhere online in their documents if they’re a public company.
Ethical treatment of garment factory workers entails paying them a living wage, not just minimum wage. The conditions in the factory should be safe, sanitary and have access to clean drinking water.
Garment workers should also be allowed adequate breaks and only work reasonable hours.
Fair trade initiatives
Throughout the entire process of producing clothes, there are transactions happening. From the farmer who grows the raw materials to the shop assistant selling you the clothes, everyone needs to get paid.
Fairtrade means that each of these participants gets paid a fair amount for their labour and their time.
In fast fashion, it is the brand that makes the most profit by cutting costs in the production process, which means a lot of people get underpaid for their work and can’t get out of poverty.
Fairtrade makes sure that all participants get their share of the pie. But this also makes the garment more expensive, because it reflects the true cost of its production.
An ethical fashion brand should pay a lot of attention to the quality of their clothing. Because their garments are made with raw materials, they are taking resources from the earth.
In order for this to be sustainable, the garments need to last a lifetime and not end up in the landfill.
You can check for quality in clothing by pulling gently on the hems and seeing how far the stitching comes out, if it’s too loose the garment will start to fray very soon.
Also, check for how well any embellishments have been sown on. You can also tell by certain materials if their colour will wash out or if they’ll pick up lints and bobs (I think this is the right word).
Almost everything we buy has plastic in it, even our clothes. Not only can plastic not biodegrade, every time you wash your clothes it releases microplastic into the water system, ending up in the ocean.
So look for brands who use organic, sustainable natural materials for their garments. Some brands use upcycled materials to reduce textile waste and natural resource consumption.
This is great for combating pollution but some materials still release microplastics. It’s still a good option if you wash your clothes less or wash them in a bag that catches microplastics (this is controversial but it’s worth a shot).
If your clothes are sustainable, the box they come in should be too, right? Otherwise why go through the trouble. Sustainable packaging is important, because packaging is the number one polluter in almost all industries.
And now we’ve come to greenwashing. When brands spend more time marketing their products as sustainable than actually making them sustainable.
This happens often, and a lot of people fall for it. It’s not their fault, it’s just powerful marketing.
So if you see a brand boasting about their sustainable products and using trigger words like ‘green’, ‘organic’, ‘eco’, then you should go do a lot of research on them first before you believe them.
But you’ll learn to spot them easily because ethical brands use ethical marketing. They don’t use big sales to attract traffic or the retail therapy strategy. They focus on the quality of their brand and transparency.
Pay attention to marketing messages before you decide to support any brand.
Choosing a brand
And there you have it, 10 things to look for in an ethical fashion brand. Bear in mind that no brand is perfect, very few brands have the means to meet all these criteria.
You will have to decide what is most important to you according to your values when you choose a brand to support.
What I like to look for as my deciding factors are local production, ethical treatment of workers and fair trade initiatives, and quality clothing that will last me a lifetime.
Of course, having the other factors is important but it’s not always accessible or affordable for me to support those brands.
You can also read my tips for buying clothes you will actually wear before you start buying ethically, so you can know exactly what you need and get the most value for your money.
Let me know in the comments if you have shopped ethical before and what you look for in an ethical fashion brand.
Cheers for now,
Pin for later:
- A beginner’s guide to ethical fashion
- 9 Tips for buying clothes you will actually wear
- 7 Different ways to practice ethical fashion