Many people assume that with 5 years of ethical fashion blogging under my belt, I would know everything there is to know about this space. That is a fallacy. Life is a continuous learning process and anyone who thinks they know everything about a subject matter is arrogant.
My understanding of this industry continues to develop through reading books but also because of other individuals, and in particular, fellow ethical bloggers. They challenge and inspire me to grow and learn as each has a different approach, a unique perspective and a passionate voice that adds another dimension to what I think I know.
We know that transforming the world can't be done alone; that partnering with like-minded people help movements, well, move forward. Collaboration is invaluable to the cause, to all causes. So knowing that the Eco Warrior Princess blog was turning 5, I sent a survey a few months ago to a number of the world's prolific ethical bloggers. My hope was to share their thoughts with you. What I got was so much more: invaluable insights to what they really care about, how they define sustainable and ethical fashion and advice on ethical shopping.
It took me a while to compile the results (it had nothing to do with the bloggers, just getting the time to write with the demands of my digital start-up). So without further ado, here are the results:
How do you define 'ethical fashion'?
It came as no surprise that all 15 of the bloggers linked this term with how people and workers are treated in the industry. The terms 'socially responsible' 'working conditions' 'fair/living wages' 'fair trade' were used in 10 of the 15 responses with many others using the phrases 'human rights' and 'maximises benefits for/to people.' Only seven of them related 'animals' or 'cruelty-free' when defining ethical fashion. Five of the bloggers tied ethical fashion to impact on environment.
In their words:
"Ethical fashion is fashion that was made with social justice in mind. It is the fashion items that have been made using fair trade schemes, small business (hand made, local, etc), products that give back to communities/charities, and social enterprise schemes. Ethical can also include the exclusion of animal products and animal testing depending on the purchasers values." - Katie Roberts, Sustainability in Style
"Ethical fashion is not the fast, cheap, disposable fashion that's so popular among many of America's retail chains. I consider fashion ethical when workers are treated right; their rights are protected, their working conditions are safe and healthy, and wages are what they deserve, which is well above minimum. Animal rights are also acknowledged and protected; fur and leather are NOT materials I'd find in what I consider to be ethical fashion." - Christina Holloway, video blogger, Nubrosky
What is 'sustainable fashion' to you?
All respondents related the term 'sustainable fashion' to the environment with many using the phrase 'minimising impact on the environment.' Nearly half of the bloggers pointed out that there was crossover with this term and the term 'ethical fashion.' A couple of bloggers also tied in the concept of 'triple bottom line.' Only one blogger linked sustainable fashion with 'closed loop productions.'
In their words:
"I've always considered sustainable fashion to be a little bit of an oxymoron, just because fashion is about creating new wants that previously weren't in the market. We want everything around for future generations, but when an industry is known for pushing trends on consumers, how do we slow it down in order to save it for the rest of humanity?? That is where sustainable fashion comes in handy. Do we love fashion? YES. Does it drive our economy? YES. Does it fuel our culture? YES. Sustainable fashion to me is any garment that is creating a living wage, not destroying the environment, and is made to LAST." - Natalie Kay Smith, founder of boutique and blog Sustainably Chic
"I define "sustainable fashion" as fashion that will last, that will sustain itself. The resources and ways of production are not depleting either natural or social resources, ideally they are actually contributing to the health of the planet and its people. Sustainable fashion also refers to the consumer - I want to buy items that can sustain me, too. I want the price point to be appropriate, I want the style to be relatively versatile and timeless (or else, very very special!) and I want the quality of the item to be top notch. Something that is well made and fairly paid for and that will stand the test of time in terms of both structure and style." - Faye Lessler, Sustaining Life
What are your top 3 ethical considerations when purchasing fashion?
The bloggers were given a list of 11 factors to choose from such as certified organic fabrics, fair-trade certification, ethical production, buying second-hand, made locally, corporate social responsibility program. They were also given the opportunity to nominate their own if it wasn't in the list.
The two key factors that the bloggers considered when making a purchase are 'ethical production' and 'eco-friendly materials.' Nearly all of the bloggers, 13 in fact, listed 'ethical production' in their top 3 considerations. 11 of them nominated 'eco-friendly materials' but only two specified 'certified organics' as being a priority. Just two of the 15 bloggers surveyed prioritised 'vegan' fashion.
Who are your top 3 ethical/sustainable brands?
While the responses varied, the most popular brands are (in order of popularity): Amour Vert, People Tree and Everlane. Three bloggers admitted to prioritising the purchase of second hand before explaining the brands they admired.
What's your number one piece of advice for people looking to shop ethically?
The most popular piece of advice: 'do research,' with more than half of the respondents encouraging people to educate themselves before making purchases. The second most popular response prompted shoppers to ask themselves whether they needed the item to begin with.
In their words:
"Have a general idea of what you're looking for before you start shopping. Both in terms of what will work well for your lifestyle and with your current wardrobe and in terms of the top eco/ethical characteristics you're looking for (organic materials, fair trade, secondhand, etc.). That will help you refine your search which is less overwhelming, avoid distractions and impulse purchases, and focus on a piece that you'll get a lot of use from and feel good about owning." - Verena Erin Polowy, vlogger, My Green Closet.
"Ask yourself if you REALLY need to buy anything right now? If yes, then ask does it need to be something brand new?" - Kendall Benton-Collins, Kindness By Design
Thank you to all the wonderful bloggers for taking the time to complete my survey and providing the responses that lay the foundation of this piece. I learned plenty about each of you and will be citing some more of your comments in future articles. I am grateful to all of you for enriching my blogging experience and ethical journey with your stories, opinions and comments. You guys rock!
Anyway to learn more about the bloggers featured in this piece, make sure to follow them on social media and subscribe to their newsletters/YouTube channels.
Did you enjoy this post? What's your biggest take away from having read it? Do you follow any of the bloggers/vloggers featured? We'd love to hear from you so make sure to leave a comment.