What is ethical fashion? Broadly speaking, ‘ethical’ fashion is about being conscious of the footprint created in the making of a garment. Ethical fashion brands raise their hands to say they give a fair deal to the factory workers who make for them through fair pay and fair labour conditions. But for a growing number of ethical fashion brands, the environmental impact of production is deemed as important as the social impact. This means meticulous attention across the entire supply chain – from where the materials come from, to spinning a sustainable yarn and the longevity of the design. The list is long!
This approach is the antithesis of the fast fashion model driven by profit, speed of turnaround and cost efficiencies, with issues such as thorough environmental sustainability sitting low on the agenda. This is a case of fast fashion vs. slow fashion.
Zara, for example, offers 24 new collections per year, H &M offers up to 16 and changes the offering weekly and their cheap materials are heavy in non-recyclable, oil hungry acrylics. The entrenched fast fashion model of make, consume, dispose, repeat, is increasingly unpalatable for so many of us. Ethical fashion seeks to confront what is wrong with the current fashion model and looks for a cleaner, fairer way of enjoying style and luxury without it being at someone expense or costing the Earth.
And this matters. The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world. It accounts for around 10% of global carbon emissions, and uses a quarter of the chemicals produced worldwide each year. This level of consumption is not infinitely sustainable.