Today, Monday 22nd until Sunday 28th is Fashion Revolution Week. Fashion Revolution is an organization formed by Orsola di Castro??
What is ethical fashion?
To really define ethical fashion is quite hard. I always saw (and still do see) ethical fashion as fashion that focused on social aspects of the fashion process, ethical and fair trade labor, companies that made sure that workers were paid fairly and worked in safe and humane conditions. This is also often the use I see from a lot of brands promoting themselves as ethical.
In its essence though, ethical fashion is a wide definition of designing, producing and distributing fashion with ethics in mind. This means ethical in regard to all. To the planet, the people within the supply chain, as well as animals. Thus it encompasses both eco-friendly/sustainability, cruelty-free and fair labor.
If we look at an example, Everlane is often championed as an ethical brand. The reason for this is that they are somewhat transparent and use ethical factories. So nothing really about the environment or animal welfare. This is what makes the term quite confusing.
Why is it needed?
According to Fashion Revolution women in the Guangdong region in China (where a lot of fashion is made) have to work up towards 150 hours of overtime every month. In addition, only about 10 percent of them have access to social insurance. In Bangladesh, the workers are only earning about one-fourth of the living wage, about 44£ a month! At the same time, the amount of fashion that is produced per year has more than doubled since the year 2000. In 2014, we bought 60 percent more garments than in 2000, while only keeping each garment for half the amount of time.
No matter if it’s the planet or the people you are more passionate about, these statistics clearly show that the speed of which the fashion industry is moving at is ever increasing and the planet and the people in the industry are paying the price. Fashion is a huge industry and it has the chance to make a great impact if it were to make sustainable changes.
Why is it more expensive?
Today most of us have access to fast fashion and have probably bought a t-shirt for less than 10€. So it makes sense that a lot of people would be shocked to see an ethically produced t-shirt cost four times as much. Ever since fashion was outsourced to cheaper countries, there has been a race for cheaper. When one country’s labor becomes too expensive (ergo, they get better paid), companies simply move their production to another, poorer, cheaper country. Until that country gets better wages and they move onto the next.
Fast fashion has given us a screwed view of what things actually cost because when you shop for fast fashion there is usually someone else paying. When you buy a cheap t-shirt, there really is no room for paying the workers fairly because after material costs and markups there is next to nothing left for the workers. It’s simple math.
This doesn’t mean that all items that are slightly more expensive pay fair wages. It might just be a higher markup to ear more money. But it’s safe to say that if you cannot believe how cheap it is, you can be pretty sure that someone along the line wasn’t paid.
Who made my clothes?
This is the question that Fashion Revolution wants us to pose to our favorite brands. Even though most brands write in which country the item has been produced, very few share who or even in which factory it was produced. A lot of times they do not even know. The supply chains are today a huge net of factories in many different countries and continents and the traceability is lacking. By demanding brands to answer the question of who made my clothes you are demanding a fairer production and a more transparent production.
So who will you be asking?