It is estimated that the global fashion industry is worth over 1.9trillion nzd and employs over 300million people globally. With known labour exploitation, vast quantities of raw material and chemicals used in production of textiles, excessive amounts of clothing made - and dumped -the industry is suffocating with problematic practices which are damaging our relationships with people & planet alike. With this in mind – it is crucial that we appreciate our individual part in defining the ethics of our fashion choices and finding pathways to stand behind our beliefs. As we all wear clothing and make choices around our purchases, we are each a stakeholder in this arena alongside manufacturers & retailers.
The philosophy of ethics -in short- is essentially a form of knowledge which deals with moral principles and how such principles govern peoples’ behaviours. In relation to fashion there are many interpretations & assertions about ethical fashion. In general, these come down to statements centred around both a practice of sustaining a more humane and an environmentally conscious future for the fashion industry.
With pressure on good practice within the industry, government lobbying and trade agreements all backed by consumer will – the possibility of the industry being able to shift trajectory toward a more fair and sustainable future comes to light.
This result would manifest in better gender & pay equality, more diverse representation between cultures, fair trade for raw materials and production, animal welfare and steps to undo some of the grave environmental harm done with dedicated investment into sustainable farming and manufacturing of garments.
With a swathe of green washing and ethical washing adrift in our society it is increasingly challenging to get a clear view on how to make ethically minded fashion decisions. There are good sources and guides out there that can support a more in-depth foray into these debates if buying new threads– check out Good on You app or NZ local Tearfund.org.nz for direct and informed rating on the sustainability and ethics of fashion brands. These guides won’t answer every question or tick every box -however- they are a good place to start and are guiding lights towards informing both consumers and manufactures about what is being discussed and what matters for ethical fashion to become normalised.
Induvial consumers collectively voting with the power of our wallets creates shifts in industry. We all make choices and the impact of our collective shift & interest towards a more sustainable and ethical movement is already having significant impact on leading fashion houses with an emerging trend of reselling, remodeling and recycling being celebrated and commoditized.
The adage stands firm – Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle and Resell. Ethical fashion at the consumer level is about mindful consumption – consider what your needs are, consider buying for longevity with well made tailoring and materials. Buy what brings you joy and make the most of it and when you are ready, gift or sell it on so others can continue the garment’s lifecycle.
It is no secret that the fashion industry is fraught with ethical minefields, the good news is that it is also no secret that consumers are the key to changing the industry for the better and that change is already in motion. As Sandra Gordon & the Good on You team claim, “By choosing ethically you become the solution. Wear the change you want to see” Knowledge is power and choice follows – how will you choose to positively impact the fashion industry this year?
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