Ethical clothing

Over on Instagram last week, I displayed an image of a beautiful dress that I was sent from a lovely lady who hand-makes clothes using ethically produced and individually sourced materials. It made me realise how many small companies are out there, working morally and creating unique pieces that could literally wipe the floor with some of the dross you find in your everyday store.

 

I’m not going to lie, of course I buy clothes from large high street companies but more recently, I have started to search on places like Etsy to see if what I’m looking for has been made by an individual trader before I head to my usual failsafes such as Topshop, Zara and Reiss.

 

So what exactly is “ethical?”

“If you describe something as ethical, you mean that it is morally right or morally acceptable.” Collins English Dictionary

However, with clothing, the meaning of ethical takes a few steps further than doing something morally right. It means actively working towards a reduction in poverty, living sustainably and not destroying the planet for the sake of your products.

 

The V&A Museum describe ethical fashion as being an “umbrella term” covering a plethora of issues such as working conditions, exploitation, trading fairly, producing materials sustainably, positively considering the environment and ensuring high levels of animal welfare is maintained.

 

But why is ethical fashion important?

Without going into an essay, I believe ethical fashion to be vital for several reasons.

 

  • Exploitative working conditions in some global factories that mass produce inexpensive clothing for our high streets.
  • The utilisation of child workers. The violence, unsafe conditions they are forced to live and work in, the lack of food, lack of pay, abuse and generally horrific conditions encompassing these poor children’s lives is simply horrendous. Inexpensive clothing for (largely) western society is not worth their pain.
  • Cotton growth and the amount of pesticides and insecticides used in its production. This is harmful for both the environment and the farmers who grow it.
  • Following this chemical theme – many fabrics are treated to ensure they are soft prior to being dyed. Some of the hazardous chemicals used have been found are – lead, chromium, phthalates and formaldehyde (Greenpeace).
  • Waste. All that waste! If you think about it, when products are made incredibly cheaply then they are very much disposable. Landfill is something everyone is aware of but do you know that the UK throws away over 1 million tonnes of clothing each year? (Waste Online)
  • I can’t talk about ethics without mentioning animal exploitation. It was very recent that people discovered that many examples of supposedly fake fur was in fact real cat and dog fur from China as it’s cheaper to buy than the artificial copy. But aside from this, there are so many animal farms providing fur for the fashion industry and frankly it turns my stomach. Why would you wear a dead creatures skin and fur? Animals are regularly dipped in boiling water and skinned alive by many of the unregulated providers of this material. Stella McCartney no longer uses fur or leather in her clothing and I wish more designers would follow suit…
  • The planet. Look at the enormity of an environmental footprint the fashion industry creates. From the employment of pesticides in cotton production to the toxic dyes that go into your beautiful brightly coloured tops, to the landfill impact from all the inevitable waste and unwanted, imperfect products. The Earth cannot cope with the pressure that the fashion industry unceasingly places on it.
    Instead of mass produced generic items, we should be looking towards the organic and sustainable fibres used by many of the smaller organisations we aren’t made so patently aware of. It’s amazing how many people are out there creating inexpensive clothing that, in my opinion, displays beauty through it’s uniqueness and in my harbouring rebellious mind, it’s pretty cool to wear something that no-one recognises as instinctively being from a particular store.

 

 

The Ethical Fashion Forum has a set of ten criteria within which people can claim to be within the remit of ethical fashion. They are as follows:
  1. Countering fast, cheap fashion and damaging patterns of fashion consumption
  2. Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights
  3. Supporting sustainable livelihoods
  4. Addressing toxic pesticide and chemical use
  5. Using and / or developing eco- friendly fabrics and components
  6. Minimising water use
  7. Recycling and addressing energy efficiency and waste
  8. Developing or promoting sustainability standards for fashion
  9. Resources, training and/ or awareness raising initiatives
  10. Animal rights

 

 

So let’s have a look at a few of the small organisations I have come across recently. It’s so wonderful because unlike large department stores, you can create a relationship with these individuals and therefore connect on a more expansive level than merely “hello, how are you?” and “thank you, have a lovely day.” You become a customer in the traditional sense which personally, I think is lovely and typically lost in todays modern world of convenience and apparent good value.

 

Scarlet Flowers UK – this is an organisation making beautifully hand made yoga/exercise clothing and were kind enough to send me some yoga leggings to try out. They are literally the softest leggings I have ever worn, comfortable and unique in design.  Aleksandra is so passionate about what she does and this comes through in her communication, her insistence on updating you on the progress of your order and finally, the beautiful products she makes that she’s clearly very proud of. Some of the material she loves to use most often are organic cotton, hemp and bamboo.

 

These are the leggings she sent me. They are hand-dyed and made from organic cotton and bamboo. The flower pattern is printed on but looks like it was dyed at the same time as the rest of the leggings as the shades blend in so wonderfully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a link to some of her other brightly coloured yoga leggings and tops.

 

This quite clearly isn’t me (!) but I love these leggings.

 

 

 

 

 

The Ethical Petal create retro inspired, unique, ethical and sustainable pieces using materials sourced by individual markets in Dhaka. They are based in the Peak District They use end of roll fabric to ensure minimal wastage which adds to the rare nature of each item.

Each piece is designed in the UK but made with care in Bangladesh. Ethical Petal always ensure the UK and Dhaka based teams are using their skills and knowledge of fabric sourcing, garment construction, quality control and their ability to design beautiful clothing which culminates in a brand that is based on an overall shared ethos for ethically made fashion.

 

I absolutely adore my tea dress which you may have seen over on my Instagram feed recently. 

 

Again, such passion exudes through every moment of communication with this company. Updates on sizes, delivery times and friendly general chat about their amazing range of clothing.

Here is another example of an Ethical Petal piece – a beautiful kimono wrap.

 

So there we have it. Ethical clothing – easy to find on places such as Etsy and certainly worth a look. I would love to hear of any ethical clothing companies you personally use as it’s great to have a bank of recommendations. I’ll be adding more across Instagram over the next couple of weeks but I thought keeping it to just a couple of examples at a time would be best.

 

A x

 

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