The fashion industry is one that (literally) touches all of our lives, whether we realize it or not. This makes it a great starting point when trying to move towards a more intentional lifestyle because most of us at least are required to get dressed in the morning (although quarantine has done wonders for my athliesure game).
Whether you shop from discount stores, Barney's, or second-hand shops, nobody is unaffected by this industry. The world of fashion has been near and dear to my heart since I was a little girl and throughout a career in tech. That's probably one of the reasons that it's so heartbreaking to see into the marginalizing, abusive, and neglectful labor and manufacturing processes used in today's textile industry.
Ethical fashion has become more mainstream thanks to brands, influencers, and celebrities challenging the status quo. Now is our turn though. For decades people used the excuse that it costs too much, the pieces are ugly, the shipping isn't free. Well those excuses are gone. There are varying levels, versions, specifications of whatever you consider to be "ethical" at most price points. The term "ethical fashion" doesn't provoke blank stares anymore, and people are embracing the natural wrinkles and comfort of linen over polyester in drones.
While it may be hitting the mainstream, that doesn't mean everybody knows what's up, which is why I'm here to introduce the concept of ethical fashion to those who are getting caught up - which is 100%, perfectly fine.
It's ironic to me that in an industry based on ethics, fairness, inclusion, and diversity, that people can get so judgemental. If a company makes clothing from recycled water bottles, but has to put some spandex in to make the garment stretch, they get harpooned for it. If an influencer supports a vegan handbag brand, some followers get angry that they're supporting the use of synthetic fibers. It is definitely a delicate balance between holding yourself and those you support (ie: give your time and money to) accountable for what they consume and promote, while also embracing the imperfection, failures, and restraints that people with different backgrounds and lifestyles have.
The thing to remember is that it isn't about buying NO synthetic fibers ever, being perfectly ethical, and never supporting anyone who does anything bad to anybody. That is unrealistic, and a great way to end up feeling guilty, shamed, and exhausted. It's about balance, yes, but before the balance, you need awareness. You need to know what the basic industry terms are, the ways people and companies greenwash (and what greenwashing is), and how to make intentional choices that support your lifestyle and your values.
I challenge you to become so aware, so educated, so unabashadly proud to know how, who, and why your clothes are made. You'll need to open wide not only your eyes and ears, but your mind and heart as well; really see what goes on behind the scenes when making your clothes. Learn how you can help make this an industry a more responsible one.
ethical fashion 101
"Ethical Fashion" is not necessarily a straightforward term as the word "ethical" can mean so many things to different people. Because of this, defining standards, criteria, or other quantifiable measurements becomes a bit difficult. I've found it easiest to break it down into smaller, more easily measurable metrics. Each of these typically have their own often unofficial guidelines, certifications, and expected standards.
Cradle to cradle, circular economy, slow fashion; these are all terms and ideals that are encompassed under the broad umbrella of what is considered sustainable. They focus on re-purposing, circular design, and lean menufacturing; making only what is needed to minimize waste. Using materials such as Tencel, linen, and organic cottons, biodegradable packaging, and minimizing waste across the entire supply chain are all tactics that will help to improve the longevity and health of our beautiful planet.
Greenwashing is a term that is used to describe the false and/or intentionally misleading statements used to give an image of sustainability without actually being sustainable. For example, a company that shall go unnamed might make statements around their clothing recycling program. What they fail to mention is that over 75% of the "recycled" pieces still end up in a landfil, and they are producing so much synthetic (aka: petroleum-based, therefore 200+ years to biodegrade in ideal conditions, and toxic to incinerate) clothing that it not only negates the recycling program, but puts additional strain on the environment with the wasteful and unsustainable supply chain needed to run the recycling program. In a nutshell, it's claiming to be "green" without actually being green for the sake of public opinion and reputation. They want the credit without doing the work, and they target people who don't bother to ask questions or learn the truth.
If saving the planet is high on your list, you'll want to look for biodegradable, organic fabrics such as linen and GOTS certified organic cotton. Hemp and bamboo are decent choices, although they come with their own range of issues, depending on sourcing. Your best bet is to seek out eucalyptus, lyocell, or Tencel (lyocell that meets specific standards). It's one of the most sustainably grown, sourced, and produced fabrics available. It also feels like heaven.
fair trade, cruelty-free, transparancy
A fair trade business is dedicated to providing safe working conditions and fair compensation for all those involved in creating the products they sell. In order for a label to be considered fair trade, it needs to hold a fair trade certification. Fair Trade USA, Fair Trade America, and Fair Trade International are all ways to get your business fair trade certified, which proves that you've gone through the strict evaluation proving that your entire supply chain has met various ethical standards when it comes to working conditions and wages. Even an item or brand isn't certified as fair trade, we seek out some that provide 100% transparent pricing, meaning they give either percentages or dollar amounts to show exactly what the purchase price is going towards. This way, we can more easily ensure that the people who made the goods were paid fairly and provided with a safe environment to work.
community, diversity, and inclusion
A community or diversity driven brand is one who gives back towards a specific community or cause. Whether it's a global effort like rebuilding communities destroyed by war and violence, or working with local artisans to employ former victims of human trafficking, or even helping to get more girls exposed to and interested in careers in technology, making a difference in a group of peoples' lives through employment, education, funding, or any other positive manner, it's a very important key to ethical companies that is often overlooked. Civil rights efforts and fighting for equality is high on the list of what we look for in companies to be sold at Joon+Co.
cruelty-free and vegan
Protecting the safety and rights of our animal friends is not to be forgotten. Some of the worst practices in the fashion industry stem around the mis-treatment, abuse, and murder or innocent animals. It's gut-wrenching at best to research what animals are put through at the expense of beauty, convenience, and luxury for humans. Many of the processes used on animals to to create some of most popular fashion, beauty, and shoe items would be considered without a doubt torture if done to humans. There is an ever-increasing amount of vegan brands out there, and more and more companies are taking steps to at least improve the conditions that the animals go through, such as only using animal products from animals already being raised for meat. It's not all vegan, but it's a start.
locally made and sourced
Items and brands made and sourced in the USA are a great way to give back to the local economy. Focusing on a specific region, state, or city of the country, is a great way to help out small and local businesses in your own neck of the woods. Checking down the supply chain is important with this specification though, as many companies will advertise "made in the USA," but actually source a ton of their materials overseas. While there's nothing wrong with that in itself, advertising 100% made in the USA is a bit misleading.
Of course, there are other ways to be considered "ethical" but this list is what we at Joon+Co. use to quality an item, brand, or collection as appropriate to be sold in our shop, along with fitting into our aesthetic and meeting our high design and quality standards. Treat this as a general guide to finding ethically made and responsibly sourced items. Together, we can turn the fashion industry around to be one that is making a positive impact in this crazy world, its people, and its animals.read the definitive guide to Intentional Living
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