It’s easy to be swept along by the latest trends and fashion and to get caught up in the tide of consumerism that seems to have taken ‘keeping up with the Jones” to a whole new level over the last decade or so.
I used to be guilty of simply buying whatever item of clothing or shoes I liked the look of and never for a second even thinking of the origin. It’s so easily done.
However, I can honestly say that I no longer make a single purchase without considering where the product has come from and whether somebody, human or animal, might have suffered in the process.
When it comes to clothes, the obvious ethical implications involve large brands using cheap labour by way of sweatshops in India or other developing countries. And then there is the actual fabric from which our clothing and footwear is made.
For example, leather and suede, long considered a symbol of luxury, are in fact the result of considerable pain and suffering and over 290 million cows are slaughtered every year just to keep us in shoes and bags. The global leather trade doesn’t just impact the animals, though. It is responsible for increasing levels of child labour as well as having a considerable impact on the environment* as a result of animal production and chemicals used in the process of leather production.
According to the Ethical Fashion Forum, there are different ways to produce ethical fashion and these fall into three categories – social, environmental and commercial – specifically focusing on the following:
- Countering fast, cheap fashion and damaging patterns of fashion consumption
- Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights, and supporting sustainable livelihoods
- Addressing toxic pesticide and chemical use, using and/or developing eco- friendly fabrics and components
- Minimising water use
- Recycling and addressing energy efficiency and waste
- Developing or promoting sustainability standards for fashion
- Providing resources, training and/or awareness-raising initiatives
- Protecting animal rights
These days it’s so easy to source and buy quality products that are both ethical and stylish. A number of high street retailers now offer eco ranges as well as non-leather shoes. And some brands offer vegan ranges, for example, Free People, or specialise purely in vegan clothing and footwear, like Beyond Skin.
Below are some of our favourite ethical fashion brands…
Stella McCartney – The ultimate in high-end, ethical luxury priding itself as a vegetarian company committed to operating a responsible and modern business, committing to maintaining a supply chain that respects the planet as well as the people and animals on it.
Zara Join Life Collection – Items that carry the ‘Join Life’ tag are made with organic cotton, (which use 90% less water to produce than conventional cotton), recycled wool and Tencel – a wood fibre sourced from sustainably managed forests.
H&M Conscious Exclusive – Their collections are made from organic and recycled materials.
People Tree – One of the pioneers for ethical and sustainable fashion.
Matt & Nat – Eco-friendly and very stylish accessories, bags and wallets – all 100% vegan.
ASOS Eco Edit – Pioneering sustainable fashion, beauty and jewellery.
*According to the UN, animal agriculture is responsible for a staggering 18% of greenhouse gas emissions (which is more than all transport emissions combined). As climate change is the most important environmental issue we’ve ever faced, the emissions from animal agriculture need to be addressed.
Plus, clearing room for animals to graze and for land to grow animal feed also involves mass deforestation, often in vulnerable regions. A whopping 33% of arable land is dedicated to producing feed crop. Rearing livestock currently accounts for an alarming 30% of the land surface of our planet. 70% of previous Amazon forest is now used for pastures or growing feed crop. Deforestation causes loss of habitat for millions of species, ruins the quality of the soil beneath and drives climate change, as trees absorb greenhouse gases.
References: “Is it time to give up leather?” by Lucy Siegle