A day at the mall with friends doing retail therapy… the ideal way to relax and hangout.
Flipping through racks of clothing, looking at price tags and labels. The search continues until you find the perfect outfit- the one that’s downright beautiful for a steal deal.
But how many of you get past the ‘size’ and ‘material’ marked on the label? Okay, so some of us do venture to the part where ‘made in’ is written. But have you ever gone so far as to wonder how many hours a laborer had to work? Or how much they were paid? Or, more importantly, the conditions inside the factory where the article was produced?
When a consumer begins to ponder over these questions, they begin to encroach on the ethical side of fashion. To be quite honest, not many shoppers think- or care- about it. It’s a relatively new concept. Only recently has this topic begun to get the attention it deserves.
Ethical fashion considers the following: access to a living wage, working conditions and hours, human rights, and health and safety.
A deeper look into fashion
Fashion is diversifying. It can be slow or fast, sustainable, or ethical. This may well be due to the increased awareness about the various niches. But let’s start from the beginning.
Slow fashion is just what it sounds like. This is when a product is created slowly with care. A great deal of focus is on the quality and longevity of the garment. But it’s not limited to just clothing. It can extend to accessories as well.
But we enjoy thriving in a fast-paced society.
Fast fashion is the total opposite. Rather than taking the time and effort to make items durable, companies now aim at expediting the process. They want to get as many garments to the ‘hungry’ shoppers as possible.
To meet such excessive demands, it’s only natural that something must be forgone. Regrettably, businesses find a solution to the dilemma by sacrificing either the quality of the garment, the manufacturing process, the impact on the environment, the wages given to workers, or the condition in which they work.
And because labor is cheaper in developing countries, it’s common for brands to shift factories overseas. Often conditions are impoverished, with little or no regard for their health and hygiene. Often laborers work long shifts for pay that amounts to mere pennies. There is a significant amount of strain on employees, as they are pressured to meet large orders.
Sustainable and ethical fashion are both reactions to this. Though the two are often used interchangeably, they are entirely different.
Put, sustainable refers to the environment, and ethical refers to the people. Sustainable fashion, also known as eco-fashion, focuses on how various fibers are produced and how these methods negatively impact the environment. On the other hand, ethical fashion delves into the social issues and working conditions of the laborers.
Since the focus of this article is primarily on the ethical side of fashion, we’ll leave sustainable fashion for another day.
Why should you opt for ethical fashion?
Outsourcing is a common practice in the fashion industry. And so the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality is often prevalent. As consumers, we have expectations about the quality of our lives. And we demand a set standard that we’re not willing to compromise on in any way. So how it’s okay to overlook the safety and wellbeing of those who are supplying us with clothes that we so desperately want?
You may be astonished to learn that there are 52 fashion micro-seasons in a year. What sort of pressures are these workers under to produce such a massive amount of garments?
Businesses are taking the initiative to ensure individuals are paid sufficiently for their skills as well as providing a safe work environment. Ethical fashion considers the following:
- Access to a living wage
- Working conditions and hours
- Human rights
- Health and safety
It encompasses all aspects of how humans- and animals- are treated throughout each phase of the supply chain, from design & development, raw materials, processing, manufacturing, transportation, and retail. It may even involve issues surrounding the modeling industry.
The only concern here is that there is no universal definition of ethical fashion. That’s because people have different personal values, so what feels ethical to one may not be the same for someone else. But if all the consumers come on board, it will become the norm.
As more and more people are interested in finding out the truth behind who made the clothes, what they are made of, and how their production affects people and the environment, we can make this planet a safer place to live and work in.
What can we do?
There are many ways to make a positive change. It all starts with creating awareness. As you bring various ethical aspects to a brand’s attention, they will have to find ways to please their customers.
Moreover, more substantial pressures from the general public and the media can coerce vendors to overcome their shortcomings, at home and abroad. The following are just a few aspects that can make a significant impact.
Minimize the environmental impact
While this does include aspects of sustainable fashion, the use of dyes and pesticides utilized by garment factories influences humans as well. Harmful chemicals need to be monitored and controlled. This will simultaneously help to reduce the damage to the surrounding ecosystems.
Ethical companies should provide fair wages, appropriate working conditions, and safe facilities. But they should also encompass general health regulations, gender equality, and the prohibition of child labor.
Respecting human rights
People have fundamental rights, and companies shouldn’t take them for granted, regardless of what the local system of another country is. Enforcing stringent reforms within the company is a brand’s responsibility, even if the country where the manufacturing is done has shady practices.
This includes fair wages, appropriate working conditions, and safe facilities. But it should also encompass general health regulations, gender equality, and the prohibition of child labor.
Providing transparent information
Knowledge is key. Consumers want access to information about workplace ethics, products used to manufacture a material, and much more. Providing answers to their queries is essential for maintaining consumer relationships and boosting loyalty.
Lying or hiding relevant details is unethical to consumers. People will not tolerate any betrayal. Since the marketplace is extremely competitive, they can – and will – replace a brand effortlessly with another one.
For some time, the fashion industry has been under the rap for exploitative, unsustainable, and unethical practices. Recent trends are bringing a breath of fresh air into this sector. And it’s been a long time coming. Brands are now taking a stand.
Every aspect of the fashion industry is looking into eco-friendly and cruelty-free alternatives. Many have taken heed in finding other options for manufacturing and selling products. Companies are implementing practices that don’t destroy the environment, endanger workers, or cause suffering to animals. We hope that in the years to come, the term ‘ethical fashion’ will cease to exist, and all fashion will maintain these standards.
And as a consumer, you should consider these factors as well. So the next time you go shopping, think about the actual cost of what you’re wearing- and what others had to pay for it as well.
About the Author
Audrey Throne is the mother of a 3-year old and a professional blogger by choice. Throne is passionate about lifestyle, business, automotive, technology and management and blogs frequently on these topics.
Find her on Twitter: @audrey_throne.
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