When it comes to fashion, what do you consider? Is it the colour of the garment, or the style? The way it fits your body, or the price tag? Often fashion concerns trends and affordability for the consumer. It’s rare for someone to stop and think about how a garment was made, who made it, and how it impacts the planet.
Enter: Ethical Fashion.
With the growing realisation that the way humans currently inhabit the planet has a huge negative impact on our environment and society, ethical fashion has turned from a fad into a necessity. Fashion can no longer stick to trends and glamorous sales; sustainability and ethics drive the fashion industry forward, and sit at the heart of CAUS NZ too.
Even though ethical fashion seems to be the new black, what actually is it and how does it affect the common consumer?
In the world of fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable fashion, and slow fashion are the triple threat. They are the trio that ensure people and the planet are respected and protected in all processes of garment creation and wear.
This is an umbrella term for all ‘good’ fashion terminology. Ethical fashion refers to the treatment of workers in all steps of the clothing creation process, fair trade, animal welfare, sustainable production and design, and the planet. If something is created ethically, people will be treated fairly in the workplace and paid properly for their skills and talents as seamstresses and makers. Take, for example, our CAUS NZ hat production. The panama hats made in Ecuador provide fair work for 3500 people in five provinces across Ecuador, in workplaces that are safe and comfortable.
Animal products will also be avoided when it comes to ethical fashion, or only used if they are a bi-product. Garments made with ethical fashion values are often made from recycled materials that would have otherwise gone to waste, or materials that were extracted from the planet sustainably. The ethics of both the materials and human labour are constantly questioned when it comes to ethical fashion.
In general, ethical fashion describes clothes made without harm people, planet, and animals.
Sustainable fashion falls under the ‘ethical fashion’ umbrella, but the terms are often used interchangeably. Sustainable fashion asks the question: could this process be repeated over and over again without harming people and the planet? Think of natural fibres, like cotton and hemp, or the fibres from the Toquilla palm which are used to make our hats. These materials can break down and feed back into the earth after use. They also do not involve the extraction of finite materials that are overused and abused, like oil to create plastics.
Sustainability understands what happens today, will impact tomorrow.
How you consume clothes and care for them throughout their lifetime, is another crucial part of ethical fashion. Slow fashion is first and foremost the practice of consuming fashion slowly, with consideration for what you need in your wardrobe. Shoppers embracing slow fashion may assess if they will wear an item 30 or more times in order for it to be worth purchasing. They’ll also think about an item for a few weeks or even months before buying it. Slow fashion shoppers opt for classic wardrobe pieces that never go out of fashion. They consume slowly, and go against the usual fast fashion habits of the mainstream world.
Do you wash your clothes the way their care label instructs you to? Do you dry them in the sunshine and spot wash instead of full wash when it’s just a little stain? Slow fashion also includes how you look after your clothes. Treating each garment like an investment rather than a disposable resource is the best way for your clothes to last as long as possible. Long lasting garments means less demand for new products, therefore less impact on the planet.
It’s clear ethical fashion is the only way forward. Over half of fashion industry workers are paid less than minimum wage in countries like India and the Philippines, and the apparel and footwear industry is responsible for approximately 8% of global greenhouse gases. Ethical fashion ensures fashion industry