Ethical fashion library

What’s all this talk about sustainability and ethics? Our culture is pretty much driven by materialistic values these days, which is seen in the way we dress more than anything. Though we rarely stop to think about it, the way we clothe ourselves straightforwardly exploits the poor and rips our planet of its resources. Here’s your ultimate guide to what ethical fashion is and why it’s important.

Black and white image of sheep with ethical fashion quote

Cheap, expensive clothes

Everyone loves a bargain…

But truth is, cheap prices come with hidden costs. First of all, garment workers are often put in conditions that are unbearable and inhuman. Many of our clothes were made with the oppression, tears, and even blood of the poorest people in the world.
Secondly, fashion has a huge negative impact on the planet. One t-shirt uses the amount of water that one person needs to live off for 900 days. In addition, the fibers that go into our clothes are coated with hazardous chemicals. You can probably imagine the harm done to the people who treat the clothes and to the soil they’re treated on. Some research suggests that even us, the wearers, might be potentially harmed by the chemicals of the end products.  
It’s time to stop and think past the price tags and pretty patterns. While filling our wardrobes, our first question should be who and in what conditions our clothes were made.

Fashion today

Time to clean out our closets and get rid of some skeletons.

Fashion as a whole has shifted from celebrating incredible craftsmanship and cultural traditions to blindly chasing after all things cheap and fast.
From the cotton pickers to the superstar designers, about 60 to 75 million people are employed in the global fashion industry today. That’s one in six people in the world. To give you some perspective, only 20 million people were working in the industry just 14 years ago. [1] 
Consumption of clothing has also skyrocketed in the last ten years, and during the same time, we’ve started throwing clothes away at a shocking rate. Industry sales have nearly doubled from $1 trillion in 2002 to $1.8 trillion in 2015 – and that figure is projected to rise to $2.1 trillion by 2025. [2] More than 15 million tons of clothes end up in landfills every year in the United States alone. [6]
Rail with women's ethical fashion garments

Fair Trade

Fair trade means exactly what it sounds like. Businesses need to be based on the fair trade of products, rather than the exploitation of developing nations.

Ethical Fashion

An approach to the whole supply chain of clothing, which maximises benefits to people and communities. Fashion done right can lift millions out of poverty.

Sustainable Fashion

We need to work with Mother Nature, not against. This means using natural fibres and minimising the environmental impact throughout the entire supply chain.

Environmental Issues

2

The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry on earth, second to oil.
2700

Nearly half of clothes today are made from GMO cotton. One shirt uses approximately 2,700 litres of water. That is 20 bathtubs full.
80 billion

More than 80 billion pieces of clothing are made every single year – 400% more than 20 years ago.
15 million

More than 15 million tons of clothes are thrown away every year in the US alone.

Ethical Issues

Say a brand pays $6 for production, the shirt is sold for $14, out of which the garment worker gets $0.14 [7]
In the 1950s, Italy was home to four million tailors. Today, this figure has plummeted to 700,000. [8]
10,000 textile farmers are killed each year by pesticides. [9]
The fashion industry could take a staggering 125 million people out of poverty by adding only 1% of its profits to workers’ wages. [10]
The Global Slavery Index (2016) estimates that 45.8 million people are living in modern slavery today, many of whom provide low-cost labour for Western brands.
71% of senior executives at retail companies actually admit that there is a likelihood of modern slavery within their supply chains. 
80% of garment workers are women and 98% aren’t paid a living wage.

If you don’t think changing fashion can change the world, think again.

 

It starts from each of us as individuals, so let’s clean our closets and align our wardrobes with our values. Be the change you want to see. Remember, less is more. Slow is better. Quality always trumps quantity.

Further Resources

In case you haven’t had enough, here’s a handpicked selection of some the best resources out there.

Docs & Books

The True Cost: documentary by Andrew (Available on Netflix)
Fashion Factories Uncover: a YouTube documentary (beware: it’s a heavier one)
The shirt on your back:  interactive online documentary tracing the human cost of Bangladeshi manufacturing
Planet money makes a t-shirt: an interactive webpage exploring the production of a t-shirt.

& Other Stuff

Labour Behind the Label: An organization that campaigns for garment workers’ rights worldwide
Slavery Footprint: find out how many slaves work for you
Detox Catwalk: an initiative by Greenpeace pushing brands to eliminate hazardous chemicals from the  manufacturing of their products
Slow by Safia Minney
Slave to Fashion by Safia Minney
To Die For by Lucy Siegel
Cheap; The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell
How Luxury Lost its Lustre by Dana Thomas
Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline

 

Who Made My Clothes: A free online course that introduces to ethical fashion
Clean Clothes Campaign: An organization improving working conditions in the global garment industry
Fashion Revolution: A global movement pushing for more transparency in fashion
Sources
 [1] Global Garment Industry Factsheet (Clean Clothes Campain, 2014)  [2] ‘Dirty fashion’ (Changing Markets, 2017) [3]Slow Fashion by Safia Minney(2016) [4]The True Cost (Documentary film, 2015) [5] ‘Introduction to fashion’s key environmental issues’ (Ethical Fashion Forum, 2016) [6] ‘Textile Recycling Facts and Figures’ (The Balance, 2017) [7] ‘Can fast fashion be ethical?’ (Canvas8 2016) [8] ‘Introduction to fashion’s key social issues’ (Ethical Fashion Forum, 2016) [9] ‘How can we get young people to say no to fast fashion?’ (Guardian, 2014) [10] ”The rise of the conscious consumer’ (Guardian, 2015) It’s Time For a Fashion Revolution (Fashion Revolution, 2015)