Ethical fashion, what exactly is it? Elena from the The Curious Button explains it as, “how the clothing was made, encompassing everything from how the cotton was grown to how the garment workers who made the clothes are treated and paid, their safety (no sweatshops, child labour, worker abuse, or slavery involved.)”
You can also expand this further to add in environmental ethics and consider if the clothing production is harmful to the planet. However, some separate that under the Sustainable Fashion umbrella.
Good news! The popularity of ethical and sustainable fashion is on the rise! People care about the planet and want to invest in high-quality, well-made clothing that lasts a long time!
Since there are more ethical fashion companies popping up these days (woot!), how can you tell if a brand actually has ethical standards set in place? We listed 5 ways below!
5 Quick Ways to Tell if an Online Fashion Brand is Ethical:
1. Read the Brand’s About Page on Their Website
The brand’s about page should explain the brands ethics code, why they are an ethical company, how they make their clothes, where they make them, how they source fabrics and what those fabrics are. Essentially, their supply chain process should be transparent.
Example of Encircled’s About Us Section:
There are four sections dedicated to different parts of being an ethical brand; About Us, Sewing Studios, Values and Fabrics. This allows the customer to be more informed about where the clothing is made, the chosen fabrics and what the company values.
2. Check for Factory Information on Their Website
If production is done in an unregulated country then you should search for wage information and certifications like fair trade, living wages, names and details of factories.
A brand who is willing to share where their products are made and their employees working conditions is an ethical brand.
Encircled takes pride in every item made in Toronto and showcases all the Sewing Studios on their website.
3. Make Sure the Item Descriptions State Where Fabric is Sourced
Once you’ve reviewed the company’s ethics policy and factory information, the next step is fabrics. The company should list where the fabric was sourced or knitted and/or dyed. Bonus points for sourcing of raw materials and certifications on dye and sourcing such as, GOTS certified, OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified.
See below Encircled’s Description for their Dressy Sweatpants:
4. Google The Brand and Stalk Their Social Media
Here are some questions to ask yourself while scrolling through search results:
- What articles are coming up first about the company?
- Do they have a lot of press?
- Are they a well-known brand?
- What are they talking about on social media?
- Does their social media encompass the values stated on their website?
- Are bloggers wearing their clothes and writing about them?
Here are a few reliable blogs that act as a great resource for researching ethical brands:
5. Look for Certifications
Some certification icons to look for on a company’s website that show they have gone the extra mile to be recognized in the ethical community are:
- Certified B-Corporation
- Fair Trade Certified
- World Trade Organization
These certifications are granted to an ethical fashion company if they meet certain criteria. The certifications are granted by a third-party organization to keep the ethical fashion company accountable for their actions. Becoming a certified member means agreeing to random audits. This ensures that the company will stay on track and continue to put in place ethical practices.
One note: a brand still can be ethical without one of these certifications, it is not mandatory but, a great accomplishment.
6. ASK the Brand
If all else fails and you’re still unsure after researching, email the brand directly. A true ethical brand will email back with a thought-out response and lots of information about their practices! Fashion Revolution is a great resource for tools and questions to ask brands. This year Fashion Revolution Week is this week April 22nd-28th.
Here are some Key Questions to Ask:
- Who made my clothes?
- Are they making a living wage?
- Where are my clothes produced?
- Are the factories safe and regulated?
More resources from Fashion revolution to take action and an example template (source Fashion Revolution) of what to email a brand if you’re unsure of what to say:
I am your customer, and I love your style but, I want to know more. I want to know #whomademyclothes.
So please tell me and where I can find out more information about your supply chain.
I want to feel as good about the story behind my clothes as they make me feel when I wear them.
I care deeply about the people who have worked so hard to make the things I buy from you. I want to know that they’re being treated fairly, have the freedom to speak out, and are paid enough to live with dignity, opportunity, comfort and hope. So tell me, what are you doing to ensure that the people who make your clothes are being paid a living wage?
Sincerely, Your Name”
Lisa Kiss is an Entrepreneur, Founder of LisaKissCreative.ca and Ethical Fashion Blogger at KissCollective.ca. Lisa lives in her hometown Hamilton, Ontario! She loves sharing her journey of mindful living and passion for yoga and wellness on social media! Lisa is currently working towards her 200hr Yoga Teacher Certification. You can find her @lisamariekiss on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter and @lisakisscreative on Facebook.