To define ethical fashion is difficult. If you type the words “ethical fashion definition” in Google, you will get 834,000 search results. That’s the outcome of todays search anyway. I expect it to increase in the next 10 years as ethical fashion becomes the norm.
And for a term that has only been actively used over the last 10 years, this is still an impressive feat.
While people get all wound up about how the term ethical fashion is used, for me it’s a non-issue.
The real issue is NOT about how one defines ethical fashion, but how one practices ethical fashion.
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However, in order to practice ethical fashion, one must first determine its meaning.
So what is the definition of ethical fashion?
We asked ten of the world’s most prolific ethical bloggers and here is what they had to say:
Verena Erin Polowy, vlogger, My Green Closet: “Clothing that is made mindful of people, animals, and the earth. Companies where ethical policies are part of their framework and they are actively trying to reduce harm and improve conditions. Fashion that supports workers along the production line by paying living wages, providing safe and healthy work environments, and caring about (and taking steps to improve) their quality of life.”
Johanne Stenstrup, Bedremode: “Ethical for me is in relation to the working conditions, and the way things are produces and people (and animals) are treated in that process. So ethically would be produces with respect for people and in a way that allows them to have a good life.”
Brooke Vlasich, Passport Couture: “[It] not only provides fair wages for its employees but also works towards providing healthcare and training in business, marketing, social media, and any other interests employees may have to further their careers. The other main goal I see in ethical fashion is preservation and appreciation of traditional handicrafts such as weaving, hand-block printing, jewelry-making etc.”
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Kendall Benton-Collins, Kindness By Design: “I define ethical fashion in quite holistic terms. It has to be fashion where the entire supply chain is transparent as well as socially and environmentally ethical. This includes looking at fashion which is certified fairtrade and/or organic, uses recycled and/or upcycled, and is cruelty-free.”
Myra Caballero, Winterthorne: “I define [it] as being designed, sourced, manufactured, & distributed in a manner that a) doesn’t harm individuals, communities, animals, or the environment and b.) is culturally & environmentally sustainable. On the community level, ethical fashion promotes economic & educational growth, while preserving local artisan skills. On the environmental level, ethical fashion promotes careful stewardship of natural resources.”
Agatha Lee, Green Issues by Agy: “[It] is fashion that is both fairtrade and has minimal impact to the environment along its supply chain.”
Faye Lessler, Sustaining Life: “To me, the word “ethical” means that these fashions were made with morals, people and planet wellness in mind. “Ethically made” means mindfully made. It means that the product was produced by people who enjoyed their job because it gave them an opportunity and did not abuse their basic human rights. It means that the planet was considered and the best efforts within constraints are being made to reduce negative impact and to create more of a positive impact in some way. I also want “ethically made” to mean that the people at the top of the supply chain and the consumers are also cared for and considered as valuable people – not just money making machines.”
Elizabeth Stilwell, The Note Passer: “Ethical Fashion means from source to store, the product maximizes benefits for people and minimizes impacts on animals and the environment. In my mind, it is most concerned with the people involved in the process.”
Beth Greenaway, The Green Scene Blog: “Put simply: thinking about what you buy and where you buy it from. There are so many different elements to ‘ethical fashion’ – it’s about the workers, the materials, the environment and ultimately the customer – how they buy, how much they buy and the after-care of the garment.”
Summer Edwards, Tortoise & Lady Grey: “Ethical fashion is clothing and accessories that have been produced in a manner that takes cares of and respects the human rights of workers/artisans. Fashion has been ethically prodused if workers/artisans can earn a livable wage for a fair day’s work.”
Conclusion: As you can see, there is no single definition of this “umbrella term” as it encompasses a broad range of different ideas. And while defining the word “ethical fashion” is essential in being able to communicate an understanding of the problems of the fashion industry, what is more important is practicing what one preaches. Discussion AND application is what ultimately influences others towards a more mindful way of consuming fashion.