The Business of Ethical Fashion: An Inside Look
Ethical fashion has, I am ashamed to say, always been a mystery to me.
I know it’s supposed to be the better buying alternative – for the environment and for the countless people who have put in the work to create it. But the truth is, I’m the kind of person that made it through university on $1.39 Junior McChickens. (It’s not exactly the five star meal that I would’ve wished for, nor my grandma’s adventurous home cooking, but it gets the job done). AS a result, I have also tended to see my own fashion decisions in the same way: does my small amount of purchasing power even matter?
So to my fellow ethical fashion rookies, I hear you.
What is the deal with ethical fashion? Who are these people and what are they claiming? Are they so different than “regular” brands? And most importantly, should we be getting on this ethical wagon?
In an attempt to really peel back the curtain on these questions I had surrounding ethical fashion, with the help of Brave Soles, I’ve been speaking with five different ethical brands/retailers to get their take on ethical fashion.
And here is what they had to say...
PART 1: What Does "Ethical Fashion" Mean?
From my experience, the term ethical fashion is rather ambiguous. Most people know it has something to do with paying fair wages and having environmentally conscious methods of sourcing or production. But is there more to it than that? As an ethical brand/marketplace, how would you define ethical fashion?
Adila Cokar - The Good Tee
I would define ethical fashion as considering the planet and the people. Creating responsibly made products and humanizing the apparel industry. A big part of that is educating consumers by sharing the Maker’s story through videos, podcasts, interviews, as well as maintaining a transparent supply chain.
Farrukh Lalani - Daria Day
I would define ethical fashion as caring about the people who make your product and having the realization that there are people involved in whatever it is you’re buying. […] It’s about ensuring the livelihoods of all the people that work behind the brand and making sure the entire value chain is sustainable and transparent.
Sarah Judd - Buy Good. Feel Good.
Ethical fashion is long term fashion; it’s the whole idea that less is more. This means spending a bit more on products that you know are higher quality, where nobody is being exploited, it’s good for the environment, and on a personal level, it’s taking care of your things so they last longer.
Dana Kandalaft - Tight Knit Syria
More than just having an aesthetic value, I believe fashion should be a tool used to impact our society, or at least reflect the values of society. When I used to shop at these big fast fashion companies, it allowed me to express myself aesthetically, but I realized it didn’t allow me to express my values. In terms of Tightknit Syria, we see fashion as a channel for creating positive change in our communities. The aesthetic part then reflects the story-telling part of the organization by displaying the cultural significance of the needlework rooted in tradition.
Christal Earle - Brave Soles
Ethical fashion is honestly built on ethics, and values, and on a system of thinking about things from a fair point of view for all parties involved. We’ve traditionally defined ethical as: the people who make it, the process it’s made, and how the earth is treated.
But I would add another concentric circle to that space, to also make it about the people that are going to own it. It’s important to ask if it’s ethical in that it’s accessible to people who have been normally excluded for reasons such as sizing, disabilities, or affordability.
As it turns out, maybe the reason “ethical fashion” is so hard to define, is simply because it’s… not defined. Everyone has their own take on it, and everyone approaches it in a different manner.
Below, you will find my own, newly hashed out definition of ethical fashion. But before you go ahead and read through it, I’d like to invite you to think about yours. What does ethical fashion mean to you now?
I used to think ethical fashion was a commitment made only by business owners. It’s not. It’s a community mindset that is only effective with the joint efforts of both our makers and our users.
As such, (to me anyway) ethical fashion is a collective commitment to producing and using fashion ethically.
For our manufacturers, this means workers are treated fairly and the environment is taken into consideration. For us as consumers, this means educating ourselves in order to choose high quality pieces from trustworthy, ethically-operated brands. It means we opt out of overconsumption and buy just what we need.
And finally, it means taking good care of what we already have so they can serve us for many years to come.
So glad you made it to the end :)
Stay tuned for the next segment of this interview series - Part 2: Challenges of Staying Ethical