Last updated: 10th July 2019
This week we are so excited to introduce Bethany Noble, Chief Marketing Officer at Good On You, a widely-used app and ethical fashion guide that rates over 1000 fashion brands for their impact on people, the planet and animals.
But before we hand over to Bethany for her guest post on the importance of ethical fashion, we thought we'd take a closer look at what ethical fashion actually is.
What is ethical fashion?
In recent years, consumers have been turning their backs on fast fashion in droves. And, in our humble opinion, rightfully so! The detrimental impact fast fashion has on the environment has been exposed and people have started to question the way their clothes were made.
This has given rise to the question: what is ethical fashion? Okay, the term itself is pretty self-explanatory. But what makes the question more complex, is that the definition of ethical fashion will most probably vary from one person to the next. For instance, a vegan is going to have strong values when it comes to animal welfare in clothing.
A general definition, however, is that ethical fashion is clothing that had been made in a way that aims to reduce the damaging effects the fashion industry can have on the planet, as well as the people and animals that inhabit it.
Now that we understand what ethical fashion is, the next thing we need to understand is why it's important. For this, it's time we hand over to the expert, Bethany Noble from Good On You.
Why is ethical fashion important?
People often ask me why I’m passionate about ethical fashion. I guess the simplest answer is this: when companies become more ethical, sustainable and conscious, they can have the power to change the livelihoods of everyone involved in their supply chains, particularly those who are caught in a vicious cycle of poverty and exploitation.
I don’t think that it’s ok that 80% of garment workers are women aged 18-35, who toil for many hours in factories and sweatshops, making barely enough money to meet their basic needs. Or that 85 million children are employed in hazardous work. Or that in Southern India, girls as young as 14 years old from lower castes are taken from their village schools and forced to work long, dangerous hours in textile mills for less than the minimum wage.
There are companies like Outerknown by Kelly Slater, Kowtow, Carlie Ballard and Reformation whose core values are to reduce their environmental footprint and avoid doing harm to people in their supply chains. They are creating a virtuous supply chain that employs people at a wage they can actually live off, they use material made from ocean waste and they avoid products that cause harm to animals.
These are the kinds of clothing I want on my body. The kind of clothing I want representing me each day.
We’re referred to more often as consumers than as citizens. And, while this is pretty troubling as our value to society should be more than what we consume, it also represents a massive opportunity. We have power as ‘consumers'! The more we use our money to vote for a better world, the sooner companies perpetuating these vicious cycles will wake up and change their business model.
But we need to show them that people actually care.
So how can you make a difference every time you shop? It’s not as hard as you might think, and it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Here are a few simple things I think about when I shop.
How to make a difference every time you shop
1. Buy from accredited ethical fashion brands
This is an easy win. Find out if a brand is Fairtrade accredited, uses organic materials or have demonstrated that they employ their workers in safe and fair conditions. I love Boody for their awesome organic bamboo and their entire supply chain is certified and ethical.
2. Ask ‘Do I actually need this?’
If you’re not likely to wear it 30 times, leave it. By wearing an item 30 times you offset the impact of making the garment. And you will be buying less stuff. One of the best ways to start ethical is from the bottom up. You wear your underwear a lot more than you do that silk shirt.
3. Research the brand
I’m part of the team who created the Good On You app – housing ethical ratings for more than 1000 clothing brands. We’ve researched how these brands impact on people, the planet, and animals and have found the information for everyone from Cotton On to Zara to Louis Vuitton. So all you need to do is type in the name of the brand and the information will come up for you.
4. Discover new ethical brands
This is something you can also do through our app. There are so many awesome brands out there, especially in Australia, that care about the environment and workers’ rights or give a percentage of their profits to causes they care about.
5. Buy quality over quantity
Less stuff, but clothing that will last. The more we consume from companies producing fast, cheap clothing costing less than your Sunday brunch, the more demand we are placing on these companies to produce fast, cheap clothing in these terrible conditions.
At the end of the day, cheap clothing should never be more valuable than a human life.
Bethany Noble is one of the team members at Good On You, the ethical fashion app launched late last year. The Good On You app helps you find out which well-known brands are doing okay by people, the planet and animals and which ones are causing harm and should be avoided. It’s also a great way to discover new brands that match your values.