Ethical fashion has become quite the buzzword over the past few years! You might hear 'ethical fashion' and similar terms thrown around both at Sancho's and in the wider sustainability sphere. But what exactly do they mean? What is ethical fashion anyway? And how do the other terms differ?
Consider the following your encyclopedia for all things ethical fashion!
What is ethical fashion?
Let's start by defining ethical fashion. Ethical fashion is difficult to define as it encapsulates loads of things. It is essentially an umbrella term to describe fashion design, production, retail, and purchasing that is ethical. To qualify as being 'ethical', a piece of clothing must be made either in fair working conditions where workers are not exploited, there is no child labour and workers are fairly paid. Or the clothing might be sustainably produced with eco-friendly and animal-friendly products, rather than nasty fabrics and nasty chemicals. All in all, ethical fashion means items that are made using accepted standards of behaviour, falling on the 'right' side of the dichotomy of right and wrong.
What is sustainable fashion?
Sustainable fashion is a term used to describe clothing which is made and then treated, sustainably. Sustainable fashion must, therefore, uphold the Three Legs of Sustainability: Economics, Ecology, and Social Equity.
Sustainable clothing will be made from fabrics derived from eco-friendly resources, such as organic cotton, Tencel, modal and recycled polyester. Sustainable fashion also refers to the processes in which these fabrics are made, as these must be sustainable too. For example, this might mean decreasing the use of agro-chemicals used to produce conventional fibre crops. When companies are talking about sustainable fashion, they might also be talking about whether you are looking after your clothing sustainably, and ensuring those clothes are of a higher quality to begin with. This in turn mean reducing the amount of clothing which ends up in landfill.
What is Fair Trade fashion?
Fair Trade fashion not only puts people and the environment central to clothing production, as do ethical and sustainable fashion, but it also has a particular focus on traditional skills, small producers and transparency. It recognises, promotes and protects the cultural identity and traditional skills of small producers as reflected in their craft designs, food products and other related services. And most importantly, Fair Trade fashion does not maximise profit at the expense of workers.
You will know whether a piece of clothing is Fair Trade because, just like food, it will tell you. If a piece of clothing meets World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO*) standards, there will likely be a tag on the piece of clothing specifying that the people who made this piece have been paid fairly. *The WFTO is a global network of organisations representing the Fair Trade supply chain.
What is eco-friendly fashion?
In short, eco-friendly fashion is fashion which is specifically great for the environment and this lovely little planet we live on. It refers to goods and services which inflict minimal or no harm to the environment.
A garment that is dyed using the innovative spin dye method that requires no water use is eco friendly as it limits the need for any let alone scarce resources.
What is slow fashion?
Slow fashion was a term that was coined over ten years ago in 2007 by Kate Fletcher, which is all about advocating for similar principles in clothing as slow food. These principles are good (quality clothing), clean (production that does not harm the environment) and fair (accessible prices for consumers, and fair pay and working conditions for producers).
What is recycled and upcycled fashion?
To produce clothing, huge amounts of raw materials are sourced from animals, plants and chemicals. This makes fast fashion hugely unsustainable. Recycled fashion is all about the practice of using discarded material to make new clothes, all in a bid to reduce waste. For example, the He Breaks jackets in black and burgundy are made from 100% recycled plastic bottles!
Upcycled fashion, on the other hand, is all about taking second-hand clothing and re-fashioning or repairing it so it is given a second life. Bored of your old clothes? Get a little creative and turn them into a brand new piece of clothing to make your wardrobe last longer.
What is responsible fashion?
Responsible fashion is all about upholding responsible business practices, and like ethical fashion, it can be quite a vague term used to describe clothing. However, the three main pillars of responsible fashion are Responsibility, Responsiveness and Accountability. It is all about holding both companies and ourselves as consumers accountable for our manufacturing and shopping practices.