What do you think of when you hear about ethical fashion? …Labour rights? Environmental issues? Fairtrade? the list goes on. It’s a confusing topic mainly because as a consumer we are so detached from the supply chain that produces the garments we consume.
Those jeans you love might be made of cotton picked in Africa, spun in India then made in China with a zip from Taiwan, rivets from Bangladesh and labels from Europe. 1 billion people worldwide, a sixth of the world’s population, are involved in clothing production and at every stage in the supply chain of a garment there are examples of environmental, social and economic imbalance. This means that at every stage people and the environment they live in are suffering. The facts are startling…the Aral sea drained to 15% it’s original size due to irrigation of cotton plantations, 20,000 accidental deaths from pesticide poisoning a year, Export Processing Zones where twelve to eighteen-hour shifts and seven-day weeks are the norm and trade unions are illegal. Even more startling is the lack of awareness of these issues and the sense of apathy towards these problems.
Before we dive in to further detail on these issues, let us first offer you our top tips for moving towards a more sustainable engagement with fashion which will lead to the emergence of a fairer and safer world for everyone involved in the fashion supply chain and garment life cycle. Remember – the power is in your pocket!
TOP TEN ETHICAL FASHION TIPS:
- Consume less. Frugality is the new black.
- Buy vintage and second hand clothes to reduce landfill and C02 emissions (and bag a classic) or throw a clothes swap party in on May 2nd as part of a National Swap Party.
- Take a sewing or knitting class yourself or buy some haberdashery and get creative. Empower yourself by creating a one off garment that is unique and that you’ll keep and love far longer than anything you could buy in a shop.
- Educate yourself. Read through the Reasons to Re-dress on our website and become informed on all aspects of the garment supply chain, from labour rights to poisonous pesticides.
- Wash at 30! We know you’ve heard it before here’s the facts; 60% of the energy associated with a piece of clothing is used in washing and drying it. Over its lifetime, a T-shirt can account for 4kg of CO2 emissions.
- Buy quality over quantity. One timeless garment that outlives you will tell a thousand stories. A hundred low quality garments that end up in landfill will pollute beyond your lifetime.
- Buy organic cotton and fairtrade products. Your choices will make a real difference to producers in other countries.
- If they aren’t available ask in store for fair trade and organic products so retailers know what you want. You could even go as far as writing to a manufacturer to voice your concerns about how their products are made – this is a hugely effective way of instigating change within a company as public opinion is extremely important to clothing companies.
- Log on to retailers websites and check out their ethical and environmental policies.
- Support local industry. Check out markets and shops for Irish designers you like and support the industry at home.