In between my blogs about travel, artists, and crafts, you’ve heard me use the words “Sustainable Fashion,” or “Ethical Fashion,” and feature companies and organizations that support these industries. Steering through many different companies’ bios and about pages or links I feature from other bloggers to help promote this industry, you might come across terms and ideas, but feel uncertain about their meaning. You might often think, “These ideas are great, but what is it all about?” To help you understand these concepts better, I’ve collected a few terms to discuss and clear the confusion.
Transparency: Companies aren’t talking about sheer or see-through fabric, but referring to a company’s supply chain instead. A supply chain is how materials are sourced, how products are manufactured, and how they are distributed throughout the world. Does the fashion company you just bought your jeans from know who picked the cotton, how the fabric was dyed, and who constructed the clothing? Sustainable and Ethical Fashion focuses on knowing exactly where materials come from, if the production methods harm the environment, and if workers are receiving fair treatment and wages. When a company brings up transparency, it’s all about knowing exactly where materials came from and who made their products.
Fast Fashion: This refers to mass-producing fashion styles and trends to satisfy consumer’s wants without value for workers and their craftsmanship. Not only does this decrease the safety of the work environment, but it also exploits workers and creates waste when customers throw out items to make room for new trends.
By Ethic: Many Sustainable and Ethical Fashion retailers use this term in order to help their customers select products based on what types of sourcing interests them. Is the item they want made in the USA? Organic? Recycled? Vegan? Made with respect to the environment and fair treatment of workers? What about traditional handicrafts? Is there a category for that? This brings me to my next term . . .
Trade Not Aid: One of the ethics people can select is this option, which is about allowing market access for artisans to sell their traditional handicrafts. Providing artisans with market access is not an excuse for a handout, it is about showing them how to reach more markets to sell their products, preserve their traditional craftwork and ancient techniques, and provide them with a more sustainable income. Some companies provide access to healthcare and education through training programs in business and design so artisans can improve their product quality, market their products to a larger audience, and build their own successful business. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. The consumer makes a meaningful purchase and the artisan benefits from having their craftsmanship preserved and a stable income.
Empowerment: After working with artisans in rural countries, I’ve learned how they struggle to provide a good life for their families and see the value of their work depreciate. By providing artisans with education in business, loans, and financial advising so that they can learn how to market and strengthen their businesses, this shows artisans how they can build their own financial and entrepreneurial independence.
Having a better understanding of these terms will hopefully show the steps the Sustainable and Ethical Fashion industry is taking to reach their goals as well as make you a more conscious consumer. Knowing where you clothes come from helps not only you as a consumer, but those who produce and manufacture your clothing. With knowledge comes empowerment, not only for the artisans, but for you as a customer.
What terms have you come across from Sustainable and Ethical Brands that have been confusing? What do you feel empowers you as a consumer?