Shop ethically. Shop responsibly. Shop slow fashion. All these are things I’ve been seeing around for some time. But what exactly do they mean?
Sustainable fashion AKA eco fashion, is a part of the growing philosophy and trend of sustainability, the goal of which is to create a system which can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and social responsibility.
This is an umbrella term used to describe fashion design, production, retail, and purchasing. It covers a range of issues such as working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare.
It can be seen as the antithesis of fast-fashion and that habit of buying a new, cheap top for every night out, which might never be worn again or may well fall apart after a couple of washes anyway.
Conclusion? What you wear matters!
The more times you think about it, the more clear it becomes that shopping responsibly is not black and white and it deffo isn’t something that can be changed over night. It is a whole lot of gray. And with all of that gray, it makes it really hard to achieve ethical shopping.
So what’s a girl to do?
- Go Eco-Friendly. Buy items made of natural fabrics that don’t harm the environment. Opt for textiles that will naturally decompose instead of sitting in landfills for ages. Such as: silk/ cashmere, organic cotton, linen etc.
- Buy Fair Trade. Support companies who respect human rights and believe in a living wage for their workers. Over the years many scandals have came up – last year unpaid workers were slipping pleas for help into Zara clothes. However, not all overseas manufacturing is bad. Do a little research and see which ones are enforcing fair trade regulations, especially in developing countries.
- Look for Vegan or Cruelty Free. Buy cruelty free items and support the rights of animals. You can find out how you make a difference for animals by choosing cruelty-free clothing and accessories on the PETA website.
- Pick Chemical Free/Organic Items. The chemicals and dyes in the majority of our clothing is harmful not just to the environment, but to the workers creating the garments as well as the consumer who is wearing the clothing. You can avoid harmful side effects by shopping products only made of organic material and natural dyes.
- Shop Local. By supporting the small businesses in your community, you are keeping your money in the local economy.
- Thrift Shopping/ Recycling. If shopping on a budget and avoiding massive amounts of clothing ending up in landfills are your priorities, shopping resale is the one of the best ways to go.
- Upcycle and Sew. This is probably the most fun and creative thing to do! You can use fabric to re-sew and re-create old garments into something completely new and unique.
- Wear What You Buy. A Lot. Supports quality items over disposable fast fashion. Before purchasing, ask yourself if you will get a sufficient number of wears out of the item. Can you mix and match it with current wardrobe items? Is it functional? Will it last?
A lot of these overlap each other and many others contradict each other.
Shopping local shops may support your community and its makers, and some may come from fair trade manufactures but not always.
Supporting cruelty free products and buying vegan sometimes means buying products hard on the environment, made out of synthetic materials that end up in landfills and don’t decompose.
Lots and lots of gray!
Fortunately, there are more and more choices and ethical clothes could be fashion forward, on trend and compete with the scene. It’s up to you to decide what values are most important to you and make your choices based on them.