Ethical fashion in itself is a bit of a conundrum and many question whether there can ever be such a thing as ethical fashion. Afterall fashion and the concept of being fashionable implies that it is constantly changing. It is difficult to see how this could be sustainable and ethical as it is a continous drain on natural resources and produces waste. As far as I am concerned in order for fashion to become more sustainable, we need to move away from the need to constantly update our wardrobes with new cheaply made clothes and towards buying quality clothing that we treasure and look after. Perhaps ethical style is a better term but eventually, wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to use the word ethical anymore because everything was ethical.
Some more of my ethical fashon conundrums include:
Synthetic or natural fabrics?
I have always considered natural fabrics to be far better for the environment than synthetic fabrics. But perhaps I have been wrong. Whilst the process for making synthetic fabrics is energy hungry and uses non renewable resources and they do not biodegrade, they do last longer, can be washed at lower temperatures and often don’t even need ironing. Conventional cotton is grown with the help of pesticides which are damaging to the environment and there are also some animal welfare issues associated with the production of wool and silk. Unlike natural fibres, polyester can be recycled to its original state. Issey Miyakes 132 5 collection include some beautiful polyester pieces that are based on origami. H & M also made good use of recycled Polyester in their recent Conscious Collection. Whilst I have always claimed to hate synthetic fabrics, I have a collection of vintage pieces many of which are made from synthetic fabrics.
Leather or vegan shoes
For those that have animal welfare high on their ethical agenda, vegan shoes seem like the best option. Both the rearing of cattle and tanning of leather have an environmental impact. But some vegan shoes are made from plastics that will not biodegrade and they can contain health damaging chemicals. Some say that leather is a bi product of the meat industry and so it doesn’t cause any additional suffering to the animals. It is not neccesarily quite this simple.
There are however lots of ethical shoe alternatives now, ranging from those made from vegetable tanned leather to shoes made from completely natural alternatives to leather and even recycled materials. But of course finding the right styles, made from the right materials continues to be a challenge.
Whether to only buy from ethical retailers
In the past I have also considered the best option to be buying from companies that are completely ethical and only sell ethical products. This makes it much easier to ensure that you don’t get greenwashed and support those companies that are really investing in ethical sourcing. But lately I have been thinking that it might be better if ethical fashion was sold amongst conventional fashion as it is likely to be seen by a much larger audience. A good example of this is the ASOS Africa collection and the H & M Conscience Collection. If we buy these collections, then perhaps the retailers will be persuaded to sell more ethical lines.
I really have no idea where to start with the issue of whether to buy locally or support Fairtrade and co operatives abroad.
I guess the truth is that as with many of the worlds problems, there is no simple answer. It would be great to go into a shop and instantly know which products had been produced most ethically with the least impact on the environment and to know that you could always find an affordable ethical option. In reality, nothing is that black and white. There are so many different impacts of the fashion industry and who decides which holds the highest priority. I just try my best to buy clothes that will last and where possible choose second hand or support ethical brands in the hope that it will make a difference.
I would love to know your thoughts. Do you try to buy ethically? If so how do you choose what to buy?
With warmest wishes