An Introduction to Ethical Fashion: What Makes an Item Ethical?

The fashion industry is one that (literally) touches all of our lives, whether we realize it or not. 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 really dig deep into the labor and manufacturing processes used. If you've never really thought much about the ethics of the fashion industry, I challenge you to open your eyes and heart to really see what goes on behind the scenes when making your clothes, and learn how you can help make this an industry a more responsible one. 

"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.

Sustainability

Cradle to cradle, circular economy, slow fashion, just generally saving planet Earth, these are all terms and ideals that are encompassed under the broad umbrella of what is considered sustainable. They focus on re-purposing, designing and manufacturing with the end life of the product in mind, and making only what is needed to minimize waste. Using materials such as tencel and organic cottons, biodegradable and recycled packaging, and minimizing product, packaging, and operations waste are all tactics that will help to improve the longevity and health of our beautiful planet. 

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Fair Trade / Transparency

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 USAFair 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.

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Community / Diversity

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.

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 Vegan / Animal Friendly

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.

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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.

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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.

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