In recent years, the conversation around sustainable and ethical fashion has become a ubiquitous one. Despite slow progress at first, consumers are becoming more aware of the dangers of fast fashion and the life cycle of the clothes being purchased. Sustainable and ethical fashion is rooted in protecting people, investigating worker safety and banning the use of child and forced labour; the planet, fashion is the second highest polluting industry in the world and sustainable fashion aims to put less strain on the planet’s resources; and animals, leather, fur, wool, cashmere, and other animal-derived materials causing them to suffer.
The struggle many fashion brands (especially independent ones) are facing is trying to maximise their growth, while not being complicit in an industry that survives on the exploitation of low-paid workers and the other issues it carries with it. In case you somehow missed it, a now infamous Sunday Times report released this month shone a light on Boohoo and it’s immoral practices. The online retailer, which also owns BoohooMAN, PrettyLittleThing, Nasty Gal and MissPap, was revealed to pay workers a mere £3.50 per hour at their factory in Leicester. This insight came to light after the National Crime Agency was revealed to be investigating the East Midland city’s textiles industry over allegations of exploitation.
“Within the last few days NCA officers, along with Leicestershire Police and other partner agencies, attended a number of business premises in the Leicester area to assess concerns of modern slavery and human trafficking.” an NCA spokesman said.
Boohoo responded to these claims, speaking to the London Stock Exchange, and said that they were “grateful” to the Sunday Times for “highlighting the conditions” at the factory. They claimed to no longer work with the supplier responsible for the conditions and said that they would investigate further.
Boohoo is one of many big corporations that in recent years have come under fire for being complicit in the horrors of non-sustainable and non-ethical fashion. Having said that, there are many ways we can create more sustainable and ethical wardrobes in our homes by refusing to add to the damage caused by the conventional life cycle of clothing items.
So here are some methods you can use to make better, more effective fashion choices…
Not every consumer has the means to do so, but this is a tried and tested way to reduce your carbon footprint. Investing in items with a higher price tag, usually means higher quality as well as resulting in buying less clothes per year overall. Think twice about trend led items and invest instead in items you could see yourself wearing for years to come.
Giving clothes to charity shops or other charitable organisations stops landfills from filling up. Compared to the year 2000, the average consumer today buys 60% more items of clothing but keeps those items for half as long. Landfills add to pollution levels, as decomposing the clothes releases damaging toxins into the air. Creating a more circular economy will make a huge difference to the health of the planet – and your trash could be another person’s treasure.
Before you buy from a new brand, make sure you’re aware of how their clothes are sourced. The brand Reformation has been 100% carbon-neutral since 2015 and invests in programs that replace the resources they’ve spent. Baserange, a modern basics label, works exclusively with small family based factories and ensures good working conditions. “Our community is what drives us and we very much look upon [the factory workers] as family”, the owners say.
Fairtrade ensures that people who work in under-developed countries receive appropriate pay and that there are no human rights abuses involved in the production of goods. Look out for the Fairtrade label when shopping.
You can reduce your use of plastic by always making sure you always have a reusable bag with you. Although there are arguments for and against the use of reusable bags, they can be used hundreds of times which makes them more environmentally friendly in the long run.