In the wake of the Rana Plaza tragedy, the fashion industry has been scrutinised by the media and consumers blamed for their fast-fashion habits. Ethical fashion has slowly gained traction over the years, but there are still a lot of misconceptions around ethical and sustainable shopping in general. How easy is it really? The Monsoon Trust asked some ethical fashion lovers to weight in:
Nicola from Little House in Town...
My decision to maintain a more ethical lifestyle began because of two things: firstly, I realised just how huge the plastic waste from a clinical laboratory was and felt a need to counterbalance that usage. Secondly, I signed up for an allotment with my now husband and we began to learn about the principles of organic growing and seasonal cycles of food production, which fascinated me. From that point I began to shop seasonally and look out for organic products in the supermarket and, being a keen high-street clothes shopper, it wasn't long until the ethical principles began to
spill over in to my wardrobe!
Simple changes are always the best when you are trying to get started in leading a more sustainable/ethical lifestyle. With food I began to look for items marked with the Soil Association accreditation for organic or things produced in the UK. With clothes I looked for Fair-trade and Soil Association accreditation and began to read the ethical policies of different clothing brands on their websites. If they don't have one, they are probably not using ethical practices! In addition to this, I massively scaled down my consumption of clothing and tried to free myself from the cycle of
'fast fashion' by buying quality items that would last me a long time, rather than stylish quick fixes that I would dispose of within the year. It was tough to get used to at first, but I get a sense of pride from it now.
I also have a folder in my internet bookmarks where I store links to ethical brands that I trust, so that I can return to them when I'm looking for a certain item. Another issue is that not many ethical brands have made it onto the high street, so ethical shopping remains largely internet-based, with the exception of certain companies including Monsoon and M&S.
My favourite ethical clothing item in my wardrobe is a fair-trade banana fibre jumper that I got from People Tree a couple of years ago. I get comments on it all the time and you should see the look on people's faces when I tell them what it's made from! It's a great talking point and allows me to chat to people about ethical fashion without coming across as preachy!
I'm no expert on the fashion industry, but I think that the biggest issue in fashion is the culture of over-consumption and cheap, fast fashion that dominates the high street. The Rana Plaza incident was a huge tragedy and really should never have happened in this day and age, but factory owners are pushed by big brands to produce clothing at ever cheaper prices and the consequence is that the welfare of garment workers worldwide is often shelved in favour of increased productivity.
Keep an eye on the blog over the next week for more sustainable fashion talk from The Monsoon Trust and featured ethical fashion bloggers.