Ethical fashion has become a hot issue.With an ever-increasing consumer demand and globalisation of the industry comes exploitative labor, environmental damage, the use of hazardous chemicals, waste and animal cruelty. Many of us have begun to kick back against the upsurge of mass-produced, disposable fashion, questioning the ‘ethic chic’ of the clothes we wear.
Fair Trade is an organised movement in place to promote decent standards for workers, environmentalism and social policy concerning the production process, and it focuses specifically on exporting goods from developing to developed countries. This means that workers are treated fairly and paid a decent wage, and that these small enterprises are given the opportunity to flourish, often preserving artisan crafts and skills handed down over generations. Any Fair Trade certified item bought off the rack or online can be purchased with a clear conscience. You can be assured of a quality item produced whilst improving lives and protecting the planet.
So what to look for next? Sustainable means organic – clothing made from natural fibres grown without any pesticides. Cotton provides much of the world’s fabric, but growing it uses 22.5% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of the world’s pesticides, chemicals that can be harmful to both the environment and to the farmers who grow it. One label with an ethical ethos is People Tree, which actively supports 4000 farmers and artisans, and 50 Fair Trade producer groups in the developing world. Collections are designed to be produced by hand as much as possible, so garments have small carbon footprints and the company promotes natural and organic cotton farming.
Seasalt Cornwall was the first fashion brand to have clothing certified to Soil Association standards, also producing their own organic cotton clothing. They are one of the many fashion companies signed up to the Ethical Trading Initiative. Katherine Feiel also applies her eco ethics to designing stunning bridal wear. An advocate of the ‘slow fashion’ movement, she buys fairly traded products from developing nations, using both new and vintage fabric to produce one-of-a-kind, gorgeous custom-made gowns.
A ‘vintage’ piece can be either a new or second hand garment created with a specific era in mind, often ‘upcycled’ or customised to give it a new lease of life. Wearing a vintage item will always make a bold style statement and the trend remains eternally en vogue.You’ll not only look fabulous but you’ll also be recycling and clocking up zero clothes miles in the process! UK-based www.maiyafashion.co.uk uses recycled or ‘upcycled’ garments invintage fabrics. Its stunning collections use a wide range of sustainable materials such as natural silk, hemp/silk, organic herringbone weave cotton, fair trade hand-loomed cotton/wool, fair trade/organic cotton twill, organic cotton printed with low-impact, organic dyes and vintage/end of roll ‘upcycled’ fabric.
You can take your green philosophy one step further when caring for your clothes by using an eco-iron, which are now available. These steam irons from Philips are made of 30% recycled materials and use 25% less energy than a conventional iron with great results, so are the perfect choice for every eco-friendly fashion follower.