The Anti-Fast Fashion Movement: Ethical and Sustainable Fashion

The fast fashion industry has detrimental ethical and environmental consequences. Here’s why we should turn to ethically focused and sustainable fashion.

Ethical and sustainable fashion on a clothing rack

In our previous blog post, we covered the negative side of our culture’s fast fashion habit. Between environmental pollution and inhumane working conditions, the demands of the fast fashion industry have created some detrimental consequences.

When an industry that is focused on image is recognized as the world’s second largest polluter, something needs to be done. Studies, undercover reporters and physical evidence have all brought the issue to the world’s attention, sparking demand from executives and industry leaders to change the narrative. As a result, in recent years, more ethical and sustainable fashion brands have began emerging on the market.

While it is more common to see brands adopting ethical, “conscious” lines and departments, the level at which these companies are going green varies.

Some companies are making their impact by adjusting manufacturing practices while others completely change the types of fabrics and materials used in their clothing to be more eco-friendly.

Big Companies, Big Impact

Greenpeace’s Detox Catwalk campaign, aimed at identifying which apparel giants are fulfilling their promises on going green, looked at ways big name companies are modifying their practices and use of toxic chemicals.  Over 3 years of research, Greenpeace broke their results down into three classifications:

  • Avant-garde: companies that are leading the way in their toxic-free production
  • Evolution mode: companies that are committed to adjusting their practices but need to be more vigilant in meeting specified sustainable goals
  • Faux pas: companies that are moving in the wrong direction of their toxix-free goals, not taking responsibility for their contributions

 

Companies identifying sustainable fashion practices by Greenpeace

Detox Catwalk companies that are on their way to being toxic-free

Detox Catwalk companies that are not keeping their sustainable fashion promises
Photo Source: Greenpeace

 

It’s promising to see such well-recognized global brands making conscious efforts to improve their environmental impact. It’s also important for consumer-level brands to be making changes that are accessible to the masses. It’s not helpful if only exclusive, high-fashion companies are the ones making a positive environmental impact. Swedish fast fashion retailer, H&M, even has its own “conscious” line, featuring apparel and cosmetic items that are sustainably produced.

Well-known outdoor apparel brand, Patagonia, is leading the industry in its corporate responsibility, dedicating several pages of their website detailing the ways they are changing their contribution to supply chains, fair trade policies and environmental impact.

The bigger the brand, the more widespread these positive changes can be. When it comes to marketing and advertising, larger companies like the ones listed have what it takes to get the message across that they are dedicated to sustainable and ethical practices.

Boutiques and Independnt Brands

Sustainable fashion boutique Clark Street Mercantile

With corporations eyeing global profits and demand, some see it as easier said than done to make ethical and sustainable changes. While it’s great to see the above mentioned brands taking steps to achieve better practices, sometimes it’s the smaller boutique and independent brands that are truly paving the way towards a sustainable fashion industry.

These smaller, independent brands may struggle with reaching the same global market and consumer fan base due to smaller production and marketing budgets, but nonetheless it’s important to recognize their efforts. Here are 4 US based ethical and sustainable fashion brands to be aware of:

  • HOPE Made in the World

“Calling themselves a “Brand for All Seasons,” HOPEMade In The World strives to create ethical essentials for both men and women. A collaboration of artisans and designers from around the world, HOPE is a brand for the global community. HOPE rejects cyclical and fast-fashion trends that damage our environment, releasing collections only once or twice a year. No spring catalogs, no fall blowouts. Just classic, quality pieces that never go out of style.” –The Good Trade.com

  • Alternative Apparel

“It’s rare to find fashion brands that are both ethical and sustainable, but Alternative Apparel ranks well for both these categories. Alternative respects and values the rights of workers in all countries and believe in the right to fair and safe workplace conditions. Their factories operate in accordance with the Fair Labor Association Workplace Code of Conduct and they make over 70% of their garments with sustainable materials and processes. Alternative is a certified Green Business in LA. We love their LA modern and casual basics for both men and women.” –The Good Trade.com

  • Everlane

Everlane is all about transparency. They spend months finding the best factories around the world—the very same ones that produce our favorite designer labels, and then they build strong personal relationships with factory owners to ensure their factory’s integrity and to maintain ethical production practices at every step of the process. They believe customers have the right to know what their products cost to make and where they were made. They reveal their true costs and share the factory and production stories behind each piece of clothing. Their minimal, modern aesthetic makes them a personal favorite!” –The Good Trade.com 

  • AGAATI

AGAATI keeps people and planet in mind while they’re designing and producing their uniquely stunning dresses and statement pieces. Their sustainable and ethically made collections are the meeting point of couture and ready to wear. They aim to include one or more of their sustainable and ethical principles in each of the long-lasting items they make: artisan made, fair trade, recycled, humanly made, organic, eco-friendly, upcycled and zero waste. AGAATI also donates 5% of their profits to non-governmental organizations that deal with the impact of fast fashion.” –The Good Trade.com

 

The Good Trade.com is a resourceful website that covers everything sustainable and ethical fashion related. They put together a list of 35 Fair Trade and Ethical Clothing Brands that is a must read for those interested in the topic.

For additional brands to check out that feature affordable sustainable fashion, you can visit eco-friendly lifestyle blog, EcoCult.

 

 

Celebrity Influence

Emma Watson wears sustainable fashion pieces on her Beauty and the Beast press tour
Image Source: The Guardian

Celebrities have been a source of societal influence for as long as the celebrity persona has existed, and when it comes to sustainable fashion, this is no exception. It is more and more common to see celebrities become activists for causes they care about. British actress Emma Watson used her recent press tour for the Beauty and the Beast film as a way to show her commitment to sustainable fashion.

Watson set up an Instagram account that chronicles her fashion pieces which were all eco-friendly looks. It was smart for her to set up this catalog on Instagram, as the social networking tool is especially popular among younger demographics. With Watson’s primary fan base stemming from her roles in the Harry Potter film series as well as the Beauty and the Beast film, it’s safe to assume the account’s followers will be young as well. Young people are flooded with cheap, fast fashion advertisements daily so it could be a step in the right direction for young people to become knowledgeable about ethical and sustainable fashion through Watson’s efforts.

 

Is It Worth the Hype?

Ask more questions poster in sustainable fashion store

Are ethical and sustainable fashion trends worth the hype? Short answer: yes. The fast fashion’s environmental impact and labor reputation isn’t a secret. In the digital age, it is easier than ever to instantaneously share information to a global stage. An undercover journalist can report on poor working conditions or pollution levels to hundreds of thousands of followers online and in real time, sharing these issues to people who may never have known about them. The global impact becomes more relevant when we can see the faces of people whose lives are affected or see the environmental degradation happening in real time.

Patagonia workers practicing sustainable fashion methods
Photo Source: Patagonia’s corporate responsibility aims to be exceptionally transparent.

It’s unfortunate that tragedies like the Rana Plaza disaster have to happen to really send a wake-up call to those in the industry. More and more, companies are looking for ways to make their positive impact. Using toxic-free dyes, organic fabrics and less evasive manufacturing practices are just a few of the ways companies like H&M and Adidas are changing their ways to be more environmentally friendly. Utilizing fair trade, skilled artisans and abiding by stricter labor laws are ways these companies are trying to be more ethical in their production.

It’s hopeful that when large, well-known brands start taking the initiative to be more sustainable and ethical, their influence will encourage other companies and even consumers to take part. Which ethical and sustainable fashion brands do you support?