Ethical Fashion: How To Get Started
I have always been into fashion in some way or another (for those of you who don't know). Yes I love how a certain outfit can make me feel, I love having a new outfit, and I love designing and sewing my own clothes when I can. I have tried to fight it and deny it at times because I don't want to identify so much with external things, what I own, wear and want. But it's there and I think I have to accept that I can love fashion and still not always dress my best, not like shopping at all, not support some of the practices in the industry and try not to identify myself with all of it like I have in the past.
Of course, being aware of some of the practices in the fashion industry, I have been trying to look for a better way over the past few years and ethical and eco-friendly fashion has provided a solution to that. Even if it's not always possible to go for an ethical and/or eco-friendly option (because of the choices available or the price etc.), just being more conscious about what I buy and how I buy has been key.
Here are a few tips if you too love fashion, but want to take a more sustainable, responsible and conscious path.
1. Use what you already have
This is the golden rule. It’s the basis of slow, ethical fashion. Get creative with things you own, try to mix and match what’s in your closet to create new outfits. Take a new challenge like the #30wears. And don’t buy unless you know an item will be worn again and again.
Give, thrift, swap, buy second hand and vintage
It’s the best way to not add more unnecessary waste in the world. If it has already been worn enough but is still in good shape there is no reason it shouldn’t have a second life with someone else. But be careful with used clothes bins as a lot of people use them to throw all their old clothes away and most of them are shipped to poor countries where they just pile them up, because they have too many. So prefer to bring your used and unwanted clothes to a second hand or charity shop, sell them or give them to someone who needs them.
Buying second hand or vintage is also a great way to keep things alive, give them a second life or wardrobe, you can do diy’s or use the fabric to make something new etc.
3. Buy handmade or make yourself
Do you know how to sew? If yes great! If not no worries, if you’re motivated enough you can learn (I learned alone just by trying and failing and trying again, but you can also take a few courses) and there are always easy diy’s you can try.
Buying handmade, on Etsy for example but also in a local boutique, is a great way to support small businesses and creative people.
4. Buy from ethical brands
We love the effort, even if it’s not perfection! Transparency is always very important. Choose brands who clearly act ethically (who offer healthy, safe and fair working conditions). Prefer brands who also focus on other important eco responsibilities: who are climate-friendly, save energy, protect the nature, recycle etc.
5. Choose the right fabrics
Of course, when you think of a more ethical wardrobe, the fabrics you choose have a huge impact. Try to limit synthetic fabrics unless they are recycled/upcycled. Cotton could seem like a great choice, but regular cotton requires an enormous amount of water to grow and requires the use of a lot of chemicals. But choosing organic cotton is always better option. When it comes to leather, we know it's a very delicate topic and won't try to tell you to go all vegan today. However, there is no question that leather is not an eco-friendly material at all, but the same is true for a lot of "vegan leathers" made of PVC, which is really plastic and not eco-friendly either. Don't worry there are some vegan and non-vegan options that are better and more eco-friendly, like second hand or vintage leather etc.
Overall, there aren't many fabrics that don't impact the environment at all, but there are definitely some options that cause less harm to the workers and environment and that we should try to support more and more and look for.
6. Choose items that were made closer to you
Another thing we might want to pay attention to is where our clothes are made. It is always better when they are made closer to us because they don't have to be shipped around the world, but that is not always enough, as there are many sweatshops in Europe and the US for example. So the key is to always look for transparency. A good ethical brand, for us, should try to make as many products as possible in good conditions and not in countries where we know workers are systematically exploited. If they openly say their products are made in Europe or the US for example, they should also let you know that the workers are not exploited and that they have good work ethics and values. Don't hesitate to contact a brand to ask them about how their products are made. If their answer is sketchy, avoid buying at all costs.
I really hope these tips will help you be aware and get started on your journey towards more conscious and ethical fashion.
Picture Emma Lewis