ethical fashion 101 | what is ethical fashion and how it's fighting against fast fashion
what is ethical fashion?
To understand what Ethical Fashion is we first need to know what Fast Fashion is in the first place, Fast Fashion is a terrible business practice that not only created a production model where very cheap low-quality garments were made very fast following trends with no regard to the environment and the people, but it has also given more importance to fashion movements that wanted a sustainable fashion industry, one of them is Ethical Fashion, which has actually existed since the 1950s, before Fast Fashion was ever born.
Since then, fashion movements like Ethical, Sustainable and Slow Fashion arose to the surface in one way or another, which is kind of a good thing if we ignore the terrible consequences Fast Fashion has on our world, producing 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of global wastewaters, which you might already know by now but it still doesn’t lose its importance and never will.
Ethical Fashion refers to a fashion movement that searches for garments made with respect to the workers that make them, the vendors and small businesses that play a role in the production process, fair trade, and the ethical treatment of all the agents related to the fashion industry, including the environment. Strongly opposing Fast Fashion and the terrible conditions fashion factory workers have to deal with.
This fashion movement actually started in the 1950s when people began realizing the harsh conditions of textile factory workers and it is not a direct result of the birth of Fast Fashion in the 1990s, nonetheless, this situation has exacerbated the importance of Ethical Fashion. After the widespread of Fast Fashion textile workers have only seen their working conditions get worse and worse, with more inhumane retributions, reaching sometimes modern slavery levels.
So in simple terms, Ethical Fashion focuses on the ethical treatment of humans, and animals to achieve a sustainable fashion industry, with support for small businesses and the development of countries that are right now in unfavorable conditions. If you want to know more about this wonderful fashion movement feel free to check out our articles on The Ethical Dilemma of Fashion or Why Is Ethical Fashion Important?
ethical fashion vs sustainable fashion | how do they differ?
We have seen what Ethical Fashion is, but what do Sustainable Fashion and Slow Fashion mean? Aren’t they the same at the end of the day? Well, do not worry because we will be answering these questions now. Having said this, here are the differences between Slow Ethical and Sustainable Fashion:
- Sustainable Fashion is a movement that focuses on the sustainability of the garments it produces, making sure they are ecological and made from organic and biodegradable materials that have the minimal environmental impact possible. It basically wants to achieve a sustainable fashion industry by reducing the great environmental footprint it has. Read our Sustainable Fashion 101 to learn more about the subject.
- Slow Fashion is a movement that directly opposes Fast Fashion, from there it gets its name. It promotes garments made with slow manufacturing cycles with respect to the workers that produce them and the environment, strongly avoiding overproduction, disposal, and unnecessary consumerism which Fast Fashion promotes. It also encourages small businesses to promote competitiveness and innovation. If you want to know more about the subject feel free to read our Slow Fashion 101.
- Ethical fashion, on the other one, focuses on the rights of the workers and agents involved in the production process, in this way achieving sustainability in the fashion industry. It searches for garments made with ethical, decent wage labor with humane working conditions for all of its workers, while also promoting small businesses and vendors involved in the production process.
As you can see, they can differ a little bit, but all of these movements want to achieve the same thing, a sustainable fashion industry strongly opposing Fast Fashion and all the terrible consequences it has. Normally, businesses that sell ethical, slow, or sustainable fashion have garments that comply with all of these movements at the same time, so you shouldn’t feel in a position of choosing between one or another.
the pros and cons of the ethical fashion industry
Now that you know more about these fashion movements, it is time to learn the pros and cons of them, because yes, even if it doesn’t seem to, the ethical fashion initiative does have some flaws, it is not just all advantages. Having said this, here are the biggest ethical fashion issues and positive points:
Ethical Fashion Pros:
- It strongly opposes the exploitation of workers, Ethical Fashion was born to produce garments that are ethical, as its name implies, which means that the workers that create them have to be treated humanely, with a decent livable wage and good working conditions. Opposing Fast Fashion and the terrible working conditions it has for its workers, which sometimes reach modern slavery conditions just to produce cheap low-quality garments its customers can constantly devour.
- Fights for sustainable fashion industry, Ethical Fashion also wants to achieve a sustainable and environmentally friendly fashion industry that cares for our planet and environment, and therefore future generations that will come. It does this by promoting garments that are made with sustainable, non-polluting materials and production processes, such as organic ring-spun cotton or hemp. This is where Sustainable Fashion comes into play, a homolog of Ethical Fashion in the fight for sustainable fashion industry.
- It promotes small businesses and creators, this fashion movement also looks for small businesses that care about the environment and their workers, as well as small fashion designers that are in line with its ethical standards. When you buy ethical garments from a small business not only you are supporting the environment and the people who made that garment, but you are also supporting and feeding the small business and the family behind it who risked a lot just to satisfy your necessities. This is also true for small fashion designers, whose art is often shamelessly stolen by Fast Fashion corporations.
Ethical Fashion Cons:
- High Price, is one of the biggest disadvantages of Ethical Fashion because it treats all of its workers humanely and respects fair trade, its garments are more expensive to make than those of Fast Fashion, which outsources its costs to the environment and our society. This higher price is usually just called the fair price of the garment, that is because it is the real price that the garment should cost without exploiting its workers and destroying our environment, which is also a very big economic cost for our society and therefore our pockets either way (taking strictly in consideration the money we pay for the garment).
- Greenwashing, or should we say ethicalwashing? This is the practice where big corporations try to hide their environmentally and socially destructive practices as „green” and „ethical”, like Zara saying that they are making enormous changes to help reduce their footprint on the planet when there is no proof of them doing that, or even SHEIN, the ultra-fast fashion brand declaring themselves as ethical as sustainable when they are the complete antipode of that. The solution to this problem is always informing yourself as a customer and reading about Ethical Fashion instead of letting big corporations treat you like you have no brain. If you want to know more about Greenwashing, feel free to check this article from Business News Daily out!
- This is a relatively young and small industry, Ethical Fashion is a small industry with a small audience and demand, sadly, which means not a lot of businesses are trying to produce ethical fashion garments with respect for the environment and the workers. Not only that, but this lack of demand and economic activity also means that the few businesses that actually offer ethical fashion garments are not productive enough to produce items at a much more affordable price than they would if these garments would be more demanded. In simple terms, the industry still has to wait to become more profitable and affordable for its customers (Kind of like electric cars 20 years ago).
Now, even if this list seems to have more cons than pros, the weight of the pros is much bigger than that of the cons, plus we just wanted to present you with 3 cons and 3 pros of Ethical Fashion, but there are many many more pros we could name if you were interested. The conclusion is that even if Ethical Fashion is not perfect, it is infinitely better than Fast Fashion in all aspects, as we will see in a moment.
is fast fashion ethical at all?
This is an easy and straightforward question to answer, and it is a clear NO. Fast Fashion is the reason fashion movements like Ethical Fashion and Sustainable Fashion took off because many people began realizing the destructive nature of Fast Fashion for our planet and society. This terrible business practice has a lot of downfalls, the biggest problem with fast fashion is its pollution, producing 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions with its activities, but also the exploitation of its workers. But there are many other reasons why Fast Fashion will never be ethical, here are the biggest problems with fast fashion:
- Overproduction, Fast Fashion creates a lot of clothes very quickly and many of them end up in landfills without even being worn (85% of its garments end up in landfills every year) just to feed the overwhelming consumerism and the buy-n-throw culture it promotes.
- Air Pollution, producing around 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, this is one of the most destructive industries the world has ever seen, which is something crazy to even think about.
- Water pollution, polluting our rivers and seas with the lack of care for the environment Fast Fashion has creating these low-quality garments. It produces 20% of the global wastewaters, which is a dangerously high amount for our planet.
- Soil pollution, especially when these garments end up in landfills, decomposing into harmful chemicals and leaving plastics behind that do not decompose if the garments are made from polyester. So Fast Fashion garments do not stop polluting our world even when they are no longer on the market.
- Consumerism, as it promotes a culture of buy-n-throw clothes that its customers can constantly devour without even needing those garments. This goes hand-in-hand with overproduction, and it just aggravates the situation even more as many more clothes are being produced contaminating our planet even more.
- Worker exploitation, with very low wages, inhuman working conditions, and slavery-like jobs, is partly the reason why these clothes are so cheap. Ethical Fashion directly targets this aspect of Fast Fashion, as it mainly promotes garments that are made from humane work, with decent working conditions and livable wages for its workers, and fair trade. Fast Fashion’s low added value industry that exploits workers in less fortunate countries is compromising the development of those nations, which is condemning them to poverty and vulnerability.
- Stealing intellectual property, this business practice needs constant new trends and is willing to do anything to get them, like stealing designs from independent artists and giving them no credit, this has happened many times before. One of the best (or better said worst) examples of this is SHEIN, which has stolen many times designs from small artists giving them no credit at all just to keep pumping up new designs every day to feed their customers.
Now you see why Fast Fashion by definition cannot ever be ethical, that is because it is a term that is used to describe the complete opposite of Ethical Fashion and all that it stands for. You can say some Fast Fashion garments are „better than others”, but in reality, they are all truly terrible for our planet, society, and future generations, so the solution is to just ditch them and find more sustainable and ethical solutions because as we will see in a moment there are some available even online.
where can I buy ethical fashion from? (online)
Fortunately, there are a lot of options for you to choose from when it comes to Ethical Fashion and Sustainable Fashion, unfortunately, there are not as many as we would like and they are not as famous as other not-so-ethical counterparts. The good thing is that all of these brands have their products available on the internet, so it doesn’t matter where you are from, you can purchase their products without problems. Having said that, here are the 6 Best Ethical Fashion Companies or Brands you can buy from the internet:
FinisterreThis brand was started in 2003 in a flat above a Surf Shop, with the intent of creating garments with respect for the people, the environment and the planet, and society as a whole. Its name means „End of the land”, showing the brand’s interest in the sea and waters, and its respect for marine life, fighting the terrible water pollution of the Fast Fashion industry. As of today, this brand is a Certified B Corp, and they have a beautiful user-friendly web page that you can check out from here.
PatagoniaThis is one of the most well-known sustainable fashion brands out there, and it was started in 1973 by Yvon Chouinard, an accomplished rock climber when he began to manufacture and sell his own climbing gear. Although the brand has been in some ugly controversies and legal problems that we will not discuss here, it is still considered an „activist company” that is producing garments with respect for its workers and it aims to be a carbon-neutral company by 2025. In 2012 they became a Certified B Corporation and right now they have a website you can visit from this link.
Pact ClothingThis online Ethical Fashion store is known for producing high-quality garments that are both affordable and low-impact on the environment. This brand really loves cotton, organic cotton to be precise, and it uses it in every product they have, sometimes adding some synthetic materials to make their garments more comfortable. Some of their products, not all, are certified Fair Trade, which is a great start. Overall, they help developing countries actually develop, and they give their workers living wages and humane working conditions that they need. You can check out their wonderful and minimalistic website right here.
EverlaneA brand that is known for its transparency policy, has its customers know exactly where its garments come from and how they are made, which, because they are on this list, is with respect for the human lives that are working to produce its products. Everlane was founded in 2010 by Michael Preysman and Jesse Farmer as an Ethical Fashion direct-to-customer business where the products are directly sold to customers without any intermediaries, which lets them cut a lot of costs, be much more productive, and much more transparent about their products and their margins. You can check out their website from this link.
ABLEThis is an Ethical Fashion brand with a lot of history behind it, its founder, Barrett Ward while living in Ethiopia saw first-hand how extreme poverty forced women to resort to prostitution just to feed their families. Since then, ABLE was born as a brand that aims to end generational poverty, really focusing on empowering women and helping them have a living wage that will keep them off the dangerous streets. All of their garments regardless of where they are produced, in Ethiopia, Mexico, Peru, are made by women with humane working conditions and livable wages that can feed their families and end their generational poverty, creating higher added-value products. If you want to check out their website you can do it from here.
PLEAThis is our own Slow, Sustainable, and Ethical Fashion online store, and it is the one you are reading this article from right now! We have to give this an honorable mention, of course, and present you with our perks and what we aim for. We are a very young brand started by 4 young teenage entrepreneurs who aim to stop Fast Fashion by doing the best we can to spread awareness and make customers conscious about their fashion choices (That is why you are reading this article right now), and also by providing you with very affordable Slow Fashion, Sustainable Fashion, Ethical Fashion clothes sold using the revolutionary on-demand business model that produces the garments at the time of the purchase avoiding overproduction and stocking costs. We also provide customizable t-shirts and other apparel, and beautiful designs that you will surely love. We highly recommend you to check out our About Us page and even our Shop, or if you would like to read more articles about Ethical Fashion and other related subjects, you can check out our blog.
As you have already seen, there are quite a few options to choose from when it comes to Ethical Fashion, and fortunately, this fashion movement that promotes sustainability in the fashion industry is growing, and we could see more and more Ethical Fashion brands as customers become more conscious about the repercussions their choices have on our planet and society.
We hope you have learned a lot from this article today, if so, our main mission is done for today! You see, the best action you can take to end Fast Fashion and achieve sustainability in the fashion industry is to inform yourself, the second best thing is to inform others, to spread awareness. This is because only knowledge is powerful enough to end Fast Fashion, if consumers don’t even know the destructive consequences of their fashion choices on the world they will never move a finger to change it.
We are thrilled to teach people all around the world 🙂 Also, did you really know what Fast Fashion really is and its terrible consequences for the environment, the planet, the workers, society, and the economy? Do you know exactly what the Slow Fashion or Sustainable Fashion movement is? You should really take a look at these articles about this forgotten and unknown but very urgent and important subject, click here to read „Can Fashion Ever Be Sustainable?”, Sustainable Fashion, Slow Fashion or Fast Fashion 101 | How It’s Destroying Our Planet because knowledge is one of the most powerful strengths you can have, while ignorance is your worst weakness.
We also have a big surprise for you! Because we want to give you the right to know us better, we have prepared a carefully dedicated About Us page where we will tell you who we are, what our mission is, what we do, a closer look at our team, and many more things! Do not miss this opportunity and click here to check it out. Also, we invite you to take a look at our Pinterest, where we will pin everyday sustainable fashion-related content, clothing designs, and other things that you will surely love!