10 Reasons Why Shopping for Ethical Clothes Is Easier Than Ever Before!
Great news - the ethical market in the UK is growing! This is a big relief for us ethical shoppers as it is now simpler for us to buy our sackcloth dresses and rag rugs (yes, I am joking).
According to the Ethical Consumer market report for 2016 the purchase of ethical goods in the UK during the previous year came in at £38bn - a growth of 8.5%. This is fantastic given the current retail market. So now is a really good time to say 'The Only Way is Ethics!'
Photo - Authors Own
A Bit of Background....
Clothes shopping has changed dramatically in the last 30 years or so. Fast Fashion is the term used to describe the clothing industry of the most recent decades. Whereas the price of most of our items - houses, fuel, food - has increased in this time period, our clothing has become cheaper and cheaper. It is actually cheaper to buy clothes now than in the 1980s!
Most major clothing brands launch a number of collections per year and have moved production to developing countries. There the work is done by people who tend to work for low wages, long hours and in dangerous working conditions. Convoluted supply chains have hidden these concerning facts from customers and often from the brands themselves, with price and profit being the main considerations. There are lots more clothes about too. According to 'The Economist', global clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014, so it seems that there is an increasing demand for these cheap clothes, despite how they were made, how many exist already and the rapidly filling landfill sites.
It's Time for a Fashion Revolution!
Come join the Revolution - a Fashion Revolution! Four years ago on April 24th 2013, over 1130 garment workers died when their factory collapsed on them. They were trapped inside making cheap garments for well-known fashion brands. This tragedy acted as a wake-up call to many people involved in the clothing industry and Fashion Revolution was born. To join in simply ask your clothing brands 'Who Made My Clothes?' - you can even tweet a photo of yourself showing your brand labels. If brands aren't telling you who made your clothes then it's not likely to be a positive story!
Photo - Fashion Revolution
Are You an Ethical Consumer?
If you care about the principles as well as the price of your shopping then you are. A person's ethics are very individual but generally an ethical consumer is someone who makes product selections based on criteria in addition to price and function of what they are buying. This might be to do with product ingredients (vegan, cruelty free, organic), it might be environmental (low carbon production, biodegradable) or human rights related (fairtrade), or even a mix of several of these areas. Cruel (but very amusing) caricatures show us as long haired hippies in rainbow jumpers but this is not (always) the case - one of the most famous ethical shoppers these days is the lovely Emma Watson (star of Harry Potter and Beauty and Beast). She wore a dress to an awards ceremony that was made out of recycled bottles! No sackcloth in sight. Awesome!
Photo - Authors Own
So Why Is it such a GREAT Time to be an Ethical Consumer?
Here are 10 good reasons (in no particular order) why now is better than ever before to be an ethical consumer:
1. Big brands are going ethical
Many well-known clothing brands have recognised the increase in demand from ethical consumers and are responding with product offerings. Although some of their more standard offerings may be less transparent ethically, it is fantastic that we are now starting to see ethical products in high street shops from the likes of H&M, Marks and Spencer with their 'Plan A' , and John Lewis to name but a few.
2. Large Range of Ethical Brands to Choose From
There are a HUGE number of ethical brands springing up in the UK and elsewhere. These offer online products and services and many have their own outlet or sell through other retail outlets. The best way to find out about them is through internet searches, social media or online directories such as Greenfinder. These brands often have a unique ethical story - at Where Does It Come From? we create ethical clothes that come with a code so that the customer can trace their garment's creation, right back to the cotton farm.
3. Online Ethical marketplaces
As there are now so many ethical brands catering for pretty much every ethical stance, there has also been a growth in online ethical market places. These are websites and catalogues that sell products from a wide variety of brands and often have criteria that will enable you to select products that fit with your ethical stance. Notable online examples are Ethical Shop, Ethical Superstore, ethical.market and Fairmondo.
4. Fashion Revolution
Massive campaigns like Fashion Revolution raise awareness of the issue of ethical clothing and lack of transparency. This really does inspire consumers to ask more questions. Watch this fantastic, award winning video which was very successful in changing people's mindsets.
The True Cost Movie has also been instrumental in raising awareness of the effects that the clothing industry has on the workers, the environment and even on us as consumers.
5. There's More Focus on Ethical and Sustainable Design
Well known designers are embracing ethical design. The Stella McCartney brand is all about creating ethical clothing for the high fashionistas and the ethical brand Peopletree have produced beautiful clothes designed by big design names like Vivienne Westwood and Orla Kiely. The Ethical Fashion Forum is enabling new fashion designers to embrace sustainability, providing linkages between designs and producers.
6. Legislation - UK Modern Slavery Act 2015
Laws that require companies to be clear on whether or not there is slavery in their supply chain are a step in the right direction. This applies only to large companies (turnover over £36 million) and there is an opt out possibility. However if brands have to declare any unethical production practices then they need to be on top of their supply chain, which can only be a good thing.
7. Technology - Making Information more Accessible
The speed and availability of technology now enables us to find out much more about what is happening all over the world. Abuses can be shared through social media - there's no place to hide. Conversely this technology also enables us to trace our supply chains more effectively and to share photos, stories and product information much more widely. Barcodes and RFID tags already enable us to scan items and link to information about the product using our phones. There is currently work underway to build a database that can be accessed simply by pattern matching from a camera image - point your phone camera at a shirt and at the click of a button you'll be able to find out as much as the brand wants you to know (and perhaps even more...).
8. Celebrities as Ethical Consumers
As well as the lovely Emma Watson, there are many other celebrities who have put their face to ethical fashion - including Anne Hathaway, Victoria Beckham and Natalie Portman. Businessman/celebrity Richard Branson has worked with Vivienne Westwood to create a redesign of the Virgin Atlantic uniforms in recycled plastic!
9. Ethical products are Easier to Identify
There are plenty of accreditations and memberships which make it fairly simple to identify whether a product fits your ethical criteria. For example if you are after organic products then look for GOTS or Soil Association labels, if Fairtrade is your thing then look for the Fairtrade Mark or BAFTS membership. Even though some companies are accused of 'greenwashing' ie. making themselves look more ethical than they really are, in general attaining these accreditations is hard work and costly so most businesses, particularly smaller ones, will be doing it to show their ethical credentials.
10. You Don't Even Have to do the Leg Work!
Even better - there are organisations such as Ethical Consumer Magazine who will do the research for you! Simply move sliders on the page to determine your ethical products and they'll tell you how different brands rate.
So there are TEN great reasons why now is the time to change your shopping habits - after all, the only way is ethics!