Stepping into the world of ethical, slow fashion can be a daunting task. There are so many brands claiming to be ethical, sustainable, organic – but how many of them actually are?
How can you tell if a brand truly is ethical?
Thankfully there are a number of things to look out for when shopping around for sustainable and ethical brands.
Check the brand’s certifications & accreditations
The first and possibly the easiest of them all is to check if the brand has any certifications such as Fair Trade or the ECA (Ethical Clothing Australia) accreditation. It is worth noting that while these are a great indicator, it doesn’t always mean that a brand isn’t worth investigating further – see further ideas later on in this article.
When looking to buy that new top or dress for work, keep an eye out for these two logos – chances are you’ve seen them around!
GLOBAL ORGANIC TEXTILE STANDARD (GOTS)
GOTS is the worldwide standard for organic textile processing. The standard is based on environmental, toxicity and social factors, taking into account every aspect of the textile manufacturing process. The GOTS certification ensures that everything from the growing and processing of the fibre to how the end product is package meets the guidelines. The certification also ensures all workers are there voluntarily and being paid a fair, livable wage.
Read more about the GOTS certification on their website.
The fairtrade certification ensures that the farmers supplying the material to the certified brand are paid fairly and are able to work in safe conditions. Fairtrade works to empower the farmers and build their business, often acting as a safety net to ensure farmers never end up losing money in a sale. This is unfortunately not common practice due to fast fashion practices.
Check the materials
Natural, organic materials are the way to go as they are grown without nasty chemicals that pollute the soil, water and our skin. Materials such as organic cotton and hemp are great choices as they are not only better for the environment – they feel amazingly more comfortable!
Before you run off and get bombarded by big-name companies when you Google for organic cotton & hemp clothing – be aware that a number of brands are happy to give the “100% organic cotton” label themselves, without any real third-party checks. This can be further complicated though, as smaller brands are often hard pressed to pay for third-party certification. Use this as a guide, but if you want to be certain – continue to dig deeper into the brand.
Another point to consider – is that while the piece of clothing is made from organic cotton – where does it go from the farm? Without knowing where the clothing is actually made, you could be unknowingly supporting work practices keeping down workers in another country.
Following on from the previous point is the question – how transparent is the brand in their supply chain and processes?
It’s difficult to make an informed decision when the brand itself hides its internal processes from the general public. Fashion Revolution releases the Fashion Transparency Index yearly, ranking 200 of the biggest fashion brands in the world based on the amount of information available on their supply chain and processes.
The fashion industry was built on secrecy and elitism; it was opaque. Transparency is disruptive – in that sense, it’s a breath of fresh air and a useful weapon of change.
-Orsola De Castro, Co-Founder & Creative Director of Fashion Revolution.
When researching a brand, make sure to check out any information they may have regarding their suppliers, where their products are made and any of their own social and environmental policies.
Is the brand embracing slow fashion?
So you’ve found a brand you like and the majority, if not all, of their clothing is some form of natural and organic material. However you notice that every month, or every couple of weeks, there’s a new style and a range of new products out. Have you ever stopped to think about how a company could be pushing out that much in that short amount of time? Double this impact if it’s cheap. Chances are someone is paying for it.
Majority of slow fashion brands will only release a few collections a year – sometimes two, sometimes four to account for all seasons. During the off-season, any remaining stock is sold – however brands we work with generally make most styles to order in an attempt to minimise waste. No one benefits from clothing gathering dust in a warehouse somewhere.
Finding a brand that best aligns with your views, and looks after the enivornment and those working for them can be confusing and difficult. Many brands have realised the marketing power of eco-friendly and sustainable clothing and make an attempt to use that for their own good. By staying wary of clever marketing tactics and doing your own research, you can find those that are working to make a difference. Working to change the fashion landscape from slavery & landfill to empowerment and long-lasting clothing.
Every dollar you spend is a vote for what you believe in – how will you make yours count?