What Is Ethical Fashion – And How Should We Understand It?
It can sometimes be difficult to navigate between all the terms used to define sustainable fashion and narrow down the real problems. That is why terms such as slow fashion, ethical fashion, eco-friendly fashion, and even fast fashion try to point to different problems within the fashion industry.
But what exactly does these terms mean – how do they differentiate from each other?
In this guide, we try to answer the question “what is ethical fashion?” – we will do this in the most beginner-friendly way, without missing the depth and importance of the term.
However, the term ethical fashion, or the so-called buzzword, has a different meaning to different people, and even academic scholars disagree on the true meaning of the term.
This guide then will provide you with an overview of the term and try to explain the parts of ethical fashion that most people can agree on.
What is meant by Ethical Fashion?
So what is ethical fashion all about? What exactly is meant by this broad term?
Ethical Fashion is an umbrella term, which is often used to describe parts of the supply chain related to ethical matters. This could be everything from fashion design, production, retail, and purchasing.
Ethical fashion is by most people understood as a practice where no humans (or animals) are harmed.
Ethical fashion covers a range of issues such as working conditions, exploitation of workers, an illegal act related to production such as child labor and slavery, fair trade, wages, animal welfare, and much more.
The ethical part of the term then refers to all practices and decisions on matters where human beings or animals are involved.
Others are however suggesting ethical fashion is free for interpretation. In that sense every fashion brand can claim to be ethical as long as they are doing just a bit more than the mainstream fashion industry.
But ethical fashion is by most people understood as a practice where no humans (or animals) are harmed.
To be more specific, ethical fashion is about making a supply chain, where every part of the chain is treating all workers who produce the clothes right. It also includes paying the workers a fair living wage as well as making sure all workers are working under fair working conditions.
Of course, transparency is an important part of ethical fashion, since a company has to be able to show its factories and working conditions for it to be truly ethical.
What is Ethical Clothes?
Ethical fashion focus on all the workers who made the clothes you see hanging around in stores. Ethical clothes are then made with an extra focus on these workers’ conditions in the factories.
The fashion industry, especially the highstreet fashion industry and fast fashion industry is well known for making the workers who made their clothes work under inhuman conditions while receiving a salary that isn’t even enough to pay a living.
Multiple sustainable fashion documentaries and ethical fashion books have been made on this topic, showing the inhuman conditions these workers have to accept and the true cost of fast fashion on these people’s lives.
Ethical clothing wants to change this way of doing fashion. They want to provide the workers who make the clothes with a fair living salary and good and empowering working conditions.
Maybe you have heard the expression “fast fashion isn’t cheap, someone somewhere is paying for it”.
They want the whole supply chain and production process to only have a positive impact on everyone’s life.
Ethical clothes then is a piece of clothes who are made by people, who received a fair payment for making your clothes and worked under ethically fair working conditions.
They both contain some of our favorite ethical clothing brands who make stunning clothes in a fair way.
Why is Ethical Fashion Important?
Even though ethical fashion may not solve all our problems regarding fast fashion and environmental crises it gives you an option to make a choice.
A choice that will benefit people all around the world who at the moment are working under inhuman conditions, just so everyone can be on-board with the latest fashion trend for cheap.
Ethical fashion is important because it not only highlights a major problem within the fashion industry but also tries to do something about it at the same time.
Maybe you have heard the expression “fast fashion isn’t cheap, someone somewhere is paying for it”. Fast fashion is not only causing great harm to the environment but also the people who are involved in the production of it.
By choosing to support ethical fashion you choose to support a more sustainable way of doing fashion which in the end will lead to a better fashion industry for everyone on the globe and the globe in itself as well.
What makes a fashion company ethical?
More and more brands are promoting themselves as ethical, but how do you know if a brand is truly ethical and living up to the ethical promises they make on their website?
In other words; what makes a fashion company ethical?
Ethical fashion brands come in all shapes and sizes, but there are ethical areas in which ethical fashion should fulfill several of the “boxes”.
Down below you will find some of these ethical areas, and if a fashion brand isn’t addressing any of these, it probably isn’t very ethical responsible.
We already know that the answer to the question “what is ethical fashion” contains areas such as fair salary for workers, safe working conditions, and cruelty-free animal practice. Such areas should be addressed on the fashion company’s website.
But is it enough for a brand just to address these areas? Of course not.
The brand not only need to say they do something – they also need to show it with real evidence. Everyone can say they have an ethical practice, but actually providing proof of this is a whole other thing. Unfortunately a thing many fashion brands aren’t capable of.
This leads us to another important part of what makes a brand ethical: Transparency.
If a brand is truly sustainable you would expect they would have nothing to hide. Ethical fashion brands should provide you with an overview of their factories, the working conditions on these factories, the salary they pay their workers, documentation of any “empowerment” programs, and so on.
If you want to make a check if a brand is ethical you can use this list as a guideline. Of course, there are a lot of different aspects that make a brand ethical, but this can help you sort the ethical brands from the ones who are just pretending.
- Is the brand providing an overview of the salary they pay their workers?
- Is the band providing an overview of all the factories it uses?
- Does the brand say anything about the working conditions at the factories?
- Does it have a fair animal practice?
- Is the brand truly transparent? Do they just talk about how ethical they are, or are they actually providing you with any proof?
How do we promote ethical fashion?
Okay, so we know what ethical fashion is, we know why it is important, and we know what makes a fashion brand ethical. But how do we promote ethical fashion?
If you want to support and promote ethical fashion, there are a couple of things you can do.
First of all, keep supporting brands with ethical practice and look for labels such as fair trade. There are a lot of amazing ethical brands out there and by supporting them instead of fast fashion brands you make sure you support a brand that paid their workers a fair salary and produces under safe working conditions.
Another thing you can do is talk about ethical fashion with people you know. Start the conversation – a lot of people don’t even know the true costs of fast fashion so start an interesting conversation about the topic – maybe you can even learn more together.
Last but not least – educate yourself. Find out more about the subject. What is ethical fashion might seem like an easy question to answer, but there are a lot more to it than this guide can provide you with. So be curious and explore the subject.