You have probably heard the terms ethical fashion, cruelty free fashion and sustainable fashion, but if you've not yet heard of total ethics fashion then it's time to get up to speed. This new fashion system promotes a wholly ethical and environmentally responsible supply chain and it's aim is to revolutionise the fashion industry.
"A total ethics fashion system prioritises the life and wellbeing of people, animals and the planet before profit"Collective Fashion Justice
Before we deep dive into total ethics fashion, let us first look at the more common terms you may have heard and how they differ and why these systems are so important for our future.
Sustainable fashion is an umbrella term used to categorise the practises of fashion brands. These include ethics, animal welfare, and caring for people in their supply chains. These are the four main systems:
Slow fashion is the opposite of Fast fashion. This fashion system involves taking a long-term view of a product lifecycle. Brands who adopt a slow fashion approach will carefully consider design, materials, and function to ensure items are made to a high standard and will last as long as possible. It works on the premise that if items are made well, consumers will need to buy less, therefore slowing down the rate at which new garments are made. Slow fashion also includes the sharing and renting of clothes.
Why do we need slow fashion?
A staggering 100 billion items of clothing are produced each year, that's nearly 14 items for every human being on the planet. This level of consumerism is fast depleting earth's natural resources, such as fresh water, which the earth is unable to replace at the same rate. The thirst for cheap fast fashion is contributing to pollution and climate change.
Ethical fashion covers the production and working conditions of people in a fashion supply chain. This also encompasses Fair trade practices. Ethical fashion looks to resolve a range of moral issues which exist in the fashion industry, such as slave labour, child labour, racism, and sexism. An ethical company will be taking all necessary steps to ensure no human beings or animals are hurt in the process of making their items.
Why do we need ethical fashion?
Fashion supply chains are complex and labour intensive. For many years, fashion brands have been linked to reports of slave labour, child exploitation and low pay. This practise is not just happening overseas, it is happening here in the UK too. In June 2020, Labour Behind the Label published evidence of working conditions in some of Leicester’s garment factories, who primarily make for retailer Boohoo. The evidence showed workers were being paid as little as £2.50 per hour, when the national minimum wage was £9.30.
Circular fashion is the application of a circular economy to the fashion industry and aims to ensure that items are in circulation for as long as possible. It promotes the use of materials which are environmentally safe, effective, and recyclable. This system also encompasses recycling, upcycling, and buying second hand.
Why do we need circular fashion?
The UK is the fourth largest producer of textile waste in Europe. Around 1.75m tonnes of clothing and textile waste is created in the UK each year 1.2m tonnes of it ends up in landfill. 360,000 tonnes of the textiles thrown away in the UK every year are clothes. The average item of clothing is only worn just 10 times before being discarded.
Cruelty-free fashion is a term used to describe fashion items that have been made without the use of any animal products or animal by-products. It also includes items that have not been tested on animals and items that have not been made using any animal labour or animal testing. Examples of cruelty-free items include faux fur, vegan leather, and other materials made without the use of animal products such as wool, silk or down feathers.
Why do we need cruelty free fashion?
It is difficult to estimate exactly how many animals are killed for fashion, since the majority of animal skins and furs used for fashion come from unregulated sources. However, according to the Material Innovation Initiative approximately 1.4 billion animals are used for their skin, fur or feathers every year. Three of the top 5 most damaging materials used in fashion are animals based materials. Cow-derived leather is cited as the most damaging and has almost 3x the negative environmental impact of synthetic alternatives. Turning cow skin into leather requires more than 250 chemicals including arsenic, coal tar, formaldehyde, cyanide and mercury.
The Total Ethics Fashion System is a holistic approach to fashion with a focus on sustainability, fair trade, and ethical production. It includes everything from production, to manufacturing, to distribution, to consumer education and advocacy, to product labelling and transparency. It also incorporates responsible design and material sourcing, eco-friendly packaging, and fair labour practices. The goal of the Total Ethics Fashion System is to create a more sustainable, socially responsible, and ethical fashion industry.
The fashion industry is full of injustices and exploitation, and many brands are fixed on their desire to maximise profits. This is done at the expense of all else and we must demand better. Total Ethics Fashion is fundamental to the changes we need to see happen in the fashion industry over the next decade or two if we are to reduce waste, improve the lives of workers in the supply chain and relinquish our reliance on animals for materials. I will leave you with one more fashion term which we as consumers can adopt.
Conscious fashion: Conscious fashion is a movement that focuses on sustainable and ethical practices in the fashion industry. It encourages people to be more aware of the environmental and social impacts of their clothing choices. This includes using materials that are sustainably sourced and produced, reducing waste, and supporting workers’ rights. It also encourages people to think about the lifecycle of their clothing, from production to disposal.
Will 2023 be your year to become a conscious consumer?