Most of the clothing produced today falls under the fast fashion category, especially when it comes to well-known international brands. While these items are usually quite affordable and easily accessible to a large audience across the globe, their benefits stop there. Apart from usually poor quality and cheap materials, fast fashion brands tend to have a negative impact on the environment, as well as on workers and local communities.
The largest issue with fast fashion is its treatment of workers. It relies heavily on cheap labor in poor countries with low labor standards and wages, which often results in poor working conditions, salaries below minimum wage, and even exploitation. Another significant issue with fast fashion is its environmental impact. Not only is this industry one of the largest waste producers in the world, but it also uses extremely large amounts of resources like energy, water, and chemicals. These factors can have quite damaging effects on local communities and the environment as a whole. That is exactly where ethical and sustainable fashion comes in.
What is ethical and sustainable fashion?
Ethical fashion aims to fight the negative social impacts of fast fashion. These brands prioritize morality and respect, making efforts to ensure that every person included in the production chain is treated fairly, compensated equitably, and protected legally. In many cases, ethical brands use natural materials and eco-friendly production processes as well, which is why the term ethical fashion is often used interchangeably with the term sustainable fashion.
Strictly speaking, sustainability involves preventing the depletion of natural resources and maintaining an ecological balance. In the fashion industry, this includes using natural materials, reducing waste, minimizing pollution, etc. However, sustainability is often extended to social issues as well. This means that many sustainable brands will also promote the well-being of communities and individuals affected by their operations. You can find sustainable brands producing anything from athleisure fashion to swimwear and underwear.
The advantages of adopting an ethical approach
There are many advantages to shopping more ethically and sustainably. If you’re looking for children’s clothing, for instance, purchasing organic baby knitwear will ensure safety and comfort for your child while benefiting the environment as well. Other environmental advantages you will contribute to when shopping sustainably include lower toxic emissions, lower waste production, and lowering your overall carbon footprint.
By choosing more sustainable companies, you can help protect the animals as well. Many of these brands are vegan and cruelty-free, which means that they don’t cause harm to animals in order to produce clothing and accessories. Instead of using natural leather, fur, down feathers, and similar materials, these companies opt for more ethical and eco-friendly alternatives instead.
Of course, ethical purchases will have the largest impact on people and communities. By purchasing from ethical brands, you can be certain that every person in the production chain is treated respectfully and paid fairly. As the clothing is most likely produced in countries with stricter labor laws and protections, you can have some peace of mind knowing no exploitation went into making your garments.
The challenges of purchasing sustainable clothing
Navigating today’s fashion space isn’t easy. The industry is quite complex as it is, and it becomes even more challenging to understand once you start considering ethics and sustainability. Is ‘vegan’ leather better because no animals were harmed in the process of producing it or will you contribute to pollution by purchasing this plastic product? Should you decide to boycott a company just because they don’t know who made their buttons? Unfortunately, there are no right or wrong answers to these questions.
When selecting a clothing brand, it’s best to do research on its sustainability and ethical credentials. Most good companies will be transparent about their processes and proudly display this information on their websites. Follow your moral guidelines and make the decisions you personally think are sound – this is the best way to act in the current state of the fashion industry.
While the situation is complicated at the moment, the good news is that the fashion industry is making positive changes every day as consumers gain awareness of important social and environmental issues. Although progress is slow, we can remain hopeful that impactful changes will be made toward a more ethical and sustainable future in fashion.