Fashion, for an industry that hires millions of people across the world and makes £21 billion in the UK alone each year, it all too often gets shunted into the sidelines when it comes to global issues.
There’s no denying that fashion is a big business, yet why is it that the focus seems blinkered by the face value of fashion? The industry filters into different sectors, from the centre stage that is fashion weeks, press events and of course the great British high street. However, we often forget those hiding behind the curtains, working tirelessly to ensure that our love for fashion doesn’t cause harm.
You may be thinking how on earth does fashion cause harm? But have you stopped and seriously considered what impact your clothes have? The term ‘ethical fashion’ gets flung around occasionally, seemingly like a throwaway comment, yet it’s crucial that as a new generation consumers we are aware of the issues that ethical fashion covers.
The term in its broad sense refers to design, production, retail, and purchasing. It looks at key issues such as worker exploitation, working conditions, sustainability and the environment. The current state of ethical fashion is one of flux. It’s inevitable that you have heard of the atrocities that are sweatshops, with workers slaving in inhumane conditions for minimal pay. We believe that we’re getting a good deal when we snap up what we deem to be a bargain, yet those who make the item barely earn enough to eat and put clothes on their children’s backs.
So how can we help tackle this inequality?
Be aware of the climate
While there will always be the skeptics amongst us it’s pretty difficult to ignore climate change. It could even be counted as one of the most prominent issues in the modern society. Simple things like washing your clothes at 30 degrees rather than 60 cuts the energy you use in half, as well as saving you money. Researching the companies you buy from is also another way of being climate smart. Whether it’s switching to organic cotton or checking the way your clothes are transported, these are simple ways to tackle climate change.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
This slogan was drummed into us from an early age at school but it can also be applied to the way we dispose of our clothes. Rather than throwing away your old clothes in amongst your household waste, where it will eventually end up in a landfill, seek to take your clothes to charity shops. H&M take your old clothes and recycle them, making sure that nothing ends up going to landfill sites. In total they have collected 7,600 tonnes of garments, which equates to 38 million t-shirts.
There are two main benefits that can be made by making simple changes. One is rewarding responsible partners. By making a conscious choice to choose ethical fashion over fast and cheap clothing, you are generating the need for ethically minded businesses. Transparency over working conditions and pay are made visible and allows for a greater check and balance.
Secondly by choosing ethical fashion you help to strengthen communities in less affluent areas of the world. By choosing to buy from companies that produce their clothes in a sustainable and moral way, you are indirectly contributing to an increase in pay and quality of life. The fashion industry cannot survive without those who work to produce the clothing. By choosing ethical fashion you are supporting the industry as a whole and recognize the importance of equality.