Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about the problems of the fashion industry – especially fast fashion. For starters, did you know that the fashion industry is responsible for 8%–10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of wastewater? And this is just scratching the surface.
The more I learn about how the fashion industry works, the more I want to change my habits. But I have a lot of questions and I’m on a budget, so I could really use some guidance.
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I also understand that it is a blessing to be able to say “no more” to fast fashion. For many people, these brands are often the most accessible or affordable option.
My intention is not to embarrass other consumers; Instead, we should all focus on holding brands accountable and demanding they do better.
To get answers to my questions about being a more ethical fashion shopper, I interviewed Katrina Kaspelich, Marketing Director of Remake, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that fights for climate justice and fair pay in the clothing industry.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, it’s worth defining a couple of terms. First of all, what exactly is sustainable fashion?
And how do you define ethical fashion?
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Ethical fashion can mean different things to different people and is a little difficult to define. “Many fashion brands simply define ethical production as complying with local labor laws,” says Katrina. ” as if Do it again We know this is not enough because our clothing often operates in places where labor laws are weak and enforcement is even weaker.
She says it’s important to not just take brands at their word when they say they’re ethical, but to look at the whole picture. Instead of asking, “This product does no harm to the people who make it,” we reframe the question. ‘Is this product leaving out people who can make it better?’ To us, ethics means brands that are committed to treating their makers with fairness, respect and care.
Additionally, she considers sustainability when deciding whether a brand is ethical. “For us, brands can’t be truly sustainable if they’re not ethical, and vice versa. After all, what’s the point of organic cotton being harvested by slave labor? And what good is a living wage if the garment worker’s body is at risk from the toxins released in the manufacturing and production process?”
Recently, brands like H&M have been accused of greenwashing. What does greenwashing mean?
Let’s say you come across a fashion brand that gives off a “sustainable and ethical” vibe. How do you know if they are legit or just greenwashing?
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Katrina Green recommends digging deeper into their website to see if they can back up their image with real facts. She recommends asking questions such as, “Is the brand using language that is difficult to understand? Does it avoid using specific language around the topic of sustainability? Is the brand using language to market itself without detailing environmental and social issues? To support statistics and data?”
And she says you can tell a lot by analyzing their marketing and social media presence. “Is the brand using generic natural shots or images to demonstrate their sustainability, or are they using images of their actual creation and manufacturing practices? Are they showing you pictures of men and women making their products on their website?
Bottom line: If a company’s commitment to ethical fashion and sustainability seems vague, they’re probably greenwashing you. Legitimate ethical brands will have hard facts about where their products come from and what they’re made of on their website.
Many more ethical fashion brands unfortunately cost too much to be truly accessible to many people. What are some more affordable ways we can change our fashion habits?
On the other hand, we can assume that all brands with higher prices are providing us with better ethically sourced products. But are they really?
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Katrina says absolutely not. “Designer clothes have come down to the market to follow fast fashion, and the materials are increasingly low quality and if mixed with polyester, they are bad for the planet. Also, just because something costs more doesn’t mean it’s women in the supply chain. It pays more.”
A big red flag in her book is designer brands’ lack of transparency around their sustainability and labor practices. “Designer brands have a lack of transparency in their supply chain, even more so than some high street brands. So they’re not paying people better or reducing their carbon footprint.”
What advice do you have for people who want to build a more ethical wardrobe?
And finally, are there ways we can make a difference other than changing our shopping habits?
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Katrina says it’s important to hold brands accountable, and we can do it by raising awareness and simply not giving away our hard work without money. “Part of promoting change in the fashion industry means holding brands accountable — even if they’re your long-time favorites. Many of the brands that consumers know and love are violating human rights every day.
for example, Levis refused to sign the international agreement.A lifesaving agreement that prioritizes the safety of garment workers in brands’ supply chains. It’s hard to understand, right? However, it’s important to vote with our dollars and let them know that we won’t support these brands until they start acting ethically.