What does ethical fashion mean? How can I participate in sustainable fashion? We have the answers to your questions...
Every ten minutes in Australia, six tonnes of clothing is chucked out. In Singapore, 168,000 tonnes of textile and leather waste was generated in 2019, according to the National Environment Agency. Out of that number, only 4% was recycled; the rest was incinerated. In the fast fashion world, the majority of garments are made of, or blended with, petrochemical-based fabrics like polyester or Lycra. Each of these pieces will take hundreds of years to decompose, all the while releasing methane and harmful greenhouse gases into the environment.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though! There’s a whole world dedicated to creating a more environmentally and socially responsible fashion industry. Just like online dating, navigating ethical and sustainable fashion can be hard, which is why we’re here to make it easy. Here goes nothin’.
What is sustainable fashion?
Although ethical fashion and sustainable fashion are umbrella terms, they differ slightly. To put it simply, sustainable fashion is a more considered approach to the environmental and socio-economic impact of fashion. Companies that operate under this umbrella do so in an environmentally and socially responsible way. They aim to be extremely transparent in both their supply chain and processes.
A more sustainable fashion industry is the ultimate focus. Sustainability in fashion considers the lifespan of a garment in the design stage (its durability, longevity, and its ability to defy trends). It ensures there’s a fair and sustainable mode of production for all workers throughout every aspect of the supply chain. It reduces the negative impact the creation of clothing has on the environment.
What is ethical fashion?
*cracks knuckles and begins to type furiously*
Ethical fashion aims to reduce the negative impact on people, animals, and the environment. Companies that produce fashion in an ethical way hold ethics at the very core of their processes. The dyes are usually environmentally-friendly and the materials are chosen for their low impact on the environment. The garment workers are not only paid fairly, but they work in a fair and safe environment.
Ethical fashion is a complex beast. But in the spirit of keeping it short and sweet, an ethical and sustainable fashion industry is the only kind of fashion industry that has a place on this planet with finite resources and vulnerable people who aren’t getting a fair go.
What is fast fashion?
Just like chalk and cheese, night and day, or Arya and Sansa, fast fashion and ethical and sustainable fashion are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Melinda Tually, the coordinator of Fashion Revolution, says you know something’s fast fashion if it’s sold in high volume with a low-profit margin.
Fast fashion is defined by (and popular for) its never-ending trends, criminally low prices, and the convenience and accessibility that comes as a result. Fast fashion garments are cheap and usually made from environmentally-unfriendly materials. They’re not designed for durability or longevity.
The fast fashion mode of production is also extremely exploitative. One in six people work in the global fashion industry, and most are earning less than $3 a day. Growers, producers, movers, makers, packers, and sellers are exploited, underpaid, and put in terrible working conditions. Garment factory workers don’t have access to clean drinking water, regular breaks, comfortable environments, or basic human rights. They’re often abused and exploited. Oh, and if you want to get really mad, read about the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy.
Consider your purchase
“Okay, Captain Obvious.”
Bear with us. What we’re talking about isn’t whether to buy that dress in neon green or hot pink, but whether you need that garment at all. The most sustainable wardrobe you can ever have is the one you already own. Yep, even if it’s filled to the brim with fast fashion purchases. Going into every purchasing decision with this in mind will help the people who made that item, the planet’s resources, and your wallet. Win-win!
If you do need something new – because, let’s face it, it’s inevitable – and you want to be more sustainable in your consumer habits, consider buying a made-to-order garment. That means it’s “designed specifically to fulfil a particular set of requirements.” Thank you, Google. Essentially, if a garment is made-to-order, it’s only brought to life if there’s an individual demand for that specific piece.
Think about it from a cost-per-wear basis
Cost-per-wear is exactly how it sounds: it’s the amount of money that garment actually costs you each time you wear it. Cost-per-wear describes the price you pay for a garment, divided by the number of times you wear it. For example, if you buy a garment for $100, and wear it 4 times, that garment costs you $25 each time you wear it. Simple.
This is an extremely helpful tool we can use when we’re considering the price of a garment we’re interested in. It makes much more sense to drop a couple hundred dollars on a trench coat when you absolutely know you’ll get the cost-per-wear down to less than the price of a coffee than to buy a garment you’ll throw away after one use. Oh, and if you don’t love it in the store, you won’t wear it. Avoid these garments like they’re your exes.
Where can I shop for sustainable fashion?
Here at Honeycombers, we’ve got a long list of sustainable and ethical fashion and lifestyle brands for you to choose from, as well as zero-waste beauty products and eco-friendly essentials.
Oh, and shameless plug time. The women’s and men’s ethical brand directory on Ethical Made Easy is home to some of the best ethical and sustainable brands in the world. Also, check out cheeky discounts and resources to help you make more informed purchasing choices.
At the end of the day, fast fashion is a problem because it fails the environment from which resources are taken. It fails the people who create the garments. And it fails you, the consumer. Ethical and sustainable fashion are the solutions. We encourage you to take a more mindful approach. So, the next time you want to buy that fast fashion garment, think about whether you need it, what the cost-per-wear will be, how the garment was brought to life, and whether your hard-earned money can be spent in a way that supports a more environmentally and socially just future.