Buying ethical clothing and talking about ethical fashion has become the “in” thing of our generation. But what does it mean? What makes clothes ethical? Few ask the question let alone look into the process and meaning of this modern-day term so many feel so passionate about. The truth is, ethical clothing is not something that starts and ends with the designing and sewing of them. It’s important that the actions before and after the actual creation process are also ethical. What does that mean excatly?
“Ethical clothing” can refer to many different aspects of production. It can mean that the materials used for manufacturing those clothes have been grown in an organic fashion. It could also mean that the people who are creating those clothes are working in adequate conditions.
But it could also refer to the actual workers who are growing the cotton crops used for making the clothes, and their work conditions.
What can you do to ensure that your clothes are ethical?
What are the important factors to consider and look out for when shopping for ethical clothing?
Let’s find out.
1. Awareness is important
If you run a small manufacturing business and you decide that you’ll walk on the ethical path, you must let people know what you’re doing. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to start running your mouth, telling everyone what a great person you are. But if you don’t spread the word about your ethical policies, practices and values, your customers won’t know that your clothes are ethical.
Fortunately, we live in a time where information is easily accessible and easy to distribute.
With the help of the internet and quality marketing, you can reach out to your customers or potential customers quickly.
Share your stance with them and let them know what cause you are supporting.
You can also use this opportunity to show consumers how your clothes are made and prove that the entire process is ethical.
Just like the end product.
Researchers have shown that most young people are very conscious when buying products. They would much rather buy something that was made in an ethical manner, then to save money by buying unethical products. This makes them the best target audience for companies and small businesses that focus on ethical manufacturing and raising awareness. Keep this in mind when you start marketing your brand.
2. Ethical and Sustainable
These two concepts go hand in hand, so if you incorporate one of them into your production, you will most likely incorporate the second one as well.
Put simply, ethical production ensures that living beings aren’t suffering in any way during the process. Sustainable production ensures that the process spends the least possible amount of materials in order to create a product.
Ethical companies make sure to provide their workers with the best possible conditions in their respective work areas.
Pleasant room temperature, comfortable chairs for them to sit on while sewing and proper safety precautions are just a part of the big picture.
Some manufacturers refuse to use animal fur altogether. Others insist on obtaining fur by following strict regulations that ensure the ethical treatment of animals. For example, they get fur only from animals that have died from natural causes.
Donating products or money to people in need is another ethical policy most responsible and conscious companies’ practice. Smaller companies donate less than large ones simply because they can’t afford as much. But even that much is a lot for those who have nothing, so it’s more than welcome.
Sustainability, on the other hand, benefits your company in more ways than one. On top of that, it also reduces pollution and keeps our environment cleaner.
Manufacturers that focus on sustainable production can improve both their efficiency and reduce their costs by going green.
One great example of sustainability at work is, believe it or not, Costco. They have added more windows to their facilities and dimmed the lighting inside, which saved them a lot of money. Money that would have otherwise been spent on electricity bills. They also regularly revise their transportation routes in order to reduce the carbon footprint and improve energy efficiency.
Recycling materials also achieves a similar effect. It reduces pollution and the amount of leftover waste. The costs of using recycled materials aren’t high either, making it a business model worth pursuing.
3. Responsible Fashion is Ethical Fashion
Fast fashion is the opposite of responsible fashion. Mass-produced clothes sold in large quantities and ultimately thrown out in large amounts all over the world. Pieces that are worn only a few times before they are thrown out are not eco-friendly at all. Making them and destroying them both harm the environment. Knowing the facts but still manufacturing them despite the fact is not ethical.
In order to fight this, some companies, amongst which is the large high street retailer H&M, allow their customers to bring in their old clothes and leave them to receive a discount for buying new pieces. The disposed clothes are then repurposed or recycled, which reduces waste and costs of manufacturing.
A similar concept is gaining popularity lately and is encouraged by big and small eco-friendly fashion brands. The concept in question could be described as evolved second-hand fashion. Instead of throwing away clothes, fashion manufacturers exchange their outfits and dresses that have no further use with each other. Then they alter those special pieces and give their own unique touch to them. This turns them into a completely different product, adequate for different customers.
Such practice is ideal for small, ambitious fashion businesses. To make these creations, you only need a good dressmaking sewing machine and creativity. With only that and a couple of discarded pieces of clothing, your business can make their own fashion line that’s ethical and sustainable.
This practice in itself is also reviving the garment repairs and alterations industry allowing many women who have sewing skills to find employment or start on their own working from home.
I hope you liked the article. I also hope that it got you thinking more about ethical and sustainable clothes production. Will you walk the path of ethical clothing? Let me know in the comments, I would love to know your thoughts.
Helen Spencer is the Founder of the HelloSewing blog and a lifelong DIYer, seamstress and blogger. She spends a lot of time dreaming up and working on various projects for her family’s home. She loves mixing traditional crafting techniques with a more modern aesthetic. When she is not researching and reviewing sewing machines and tools, she’s either sewing or making beautiful things out of scratch.
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