Ethical fashion podcast - episode 1
MFW#18 Conversation Series - Where Do My Clothes Come From?
I spent some time at the 2018 Melbourne Fashion Week recently (yes, lucky me!) and while there, attended a forum discussion titled Where Do My Clothes Come From?. Led by a panel of experts, it focused on ethics and sustainability in fashion covering topics such as supply chains, production, brand philosophy and the consumer journey.
I heard from country managers, creatives and sustainable consultants from companies such as Outland Denim, Elk and Ethical Clothing Australia. It gave me much insight into ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry and prompted me to get writing on the subject. Here’s hoping I can shed a little light on what it all means for you, as a consumer.
What does ethical and sustainable fashion really mean?
Ethical and sustainable fashion means every point of the production cycle - from raw materials to the storefront – is fair and equitable with zero tolerance for exploitation. All individuals involved are fairly paid, treated and work in safe setting. It also means there is a negligible impact on the environment.
And what does unethical fashion really mean?
Simply put, it’s the opposite of ethical fashion! The main problem has to do with supply chains - complex systems that are often poorly managed. This directly leads to unethical and unsustainable practices.
Can companies really shift to ethical and sustainable production?
While it’s very difficult for companies to become completely sustainable and ethical overnight, perhaps it might be more realistic to refer to brands and organisations as being on a journey towards true sustainability. But we must also hold them accountable to completing this journey, using our consumer dollars do so.
One recent example of the fashion industry doing something concrete to combat unethical practices was Helsinki Fashion Week. The milestone event featured a 100% sustainable program where all 30 international brands engaged in ethical productions of their collections, utilising a zero-waste approach. They even went as far as holding the shows in venues built using recycled natural materials!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if Fashion Weeks worldwide embraced these ideals, normalising sustainable and ethical practices within the industry?
What can I do to ensure I consume ethically?
Let’s start with what we most of us have done historically and that is to never really think too much about the journey our favourite pair of jeans has taken before it ends up in our wardrobe.
It’s hard to pinpoint why we do this, but it’s probably because we’ve never really had any reason to think about it. But recent media attention about sweatshops using little kids to make sneakers for two cents a day has definitely gotten our attention!
We are suddenly armed with information about the processes used to get our favourite garments on to store racks and we’ve started asking questions. We’re ever more curious about the people behind the scenes, as well as the impact the production of our clothing has on the environment.
And this is exactly what you need to do to ensure you consume ethical fashion. Keep up your appetite for transparency; be conscious and research the brands you buy; be thoughtful about where you spend your money. The information is out there - you just need to ask the question.
At the end of it all, you vote for change with every dollar you spend on clothing. Will it be for good or bad? The choice is yours.