Sometimes trying to buy ethical clothing can be really overwhelming. There are a lot of different issues to consider like the working conditions in factories where clothes are made, the environmental impact of different materials and child labour. Trying to find something that’s ethical and suits your style can be really tricky. But don’t stress, we’ve got some handy hints to help you find exploitation free fashion.
1. Do your homework
Some quick research might be all you need to find out if your clothes are being produced ethically. Start with these simple questions:
- Where were these clothes made?
- Who made them?
- What are they made of?
If the answers to these questions aren’t easy to find, then chances are what you’re looking at isn’t made ethically. If you’re not set on a particular brand sometimes a quick google search is all it takes to find and ethical alternative. But if there’s a brand you love and you can’t find this information anywhere why not ask them? If brands are making their clothes ethically they will be more than happy to tell you about it. If not, you asking the question will show them that their customers care about where and how their clothes are made. Shop Ethical have a great ethical fashion guide that rates brands on a whole range of issues, check it out to see how your favourites fare.
2. Shop Local
Although it might seem like most big brands have their factories in developing countries where labour is cheap, there are still heaps of great clothes being made in Australia. Have a look at Ethical Clothing Australia and Indigo Bazaar to find brands that make their clothes here, and treat their workers well. Brands like Vege Threads, Funkis and Nobody Denim prove that clothes can be manufactured without exploitation right here in Aus, they might not be as cheap as Kmart but isn’t it worth paying a little more to know that you’re not contributing to the exploitation of factory workers?
Vege Threads, image from www.thefinderskeepers.com
3. Buy Direct from the Designer
The rise of sites like Etsy have given us access directly to designers all over the world. Most small scale designers and makers produce their own wares so, unless they are depriving themselves of healthy conditions, the items they produce are ethical. Buying direct from a designer also means that you can easily ask questions about the items you buy, like where the fabric was made and if they haven’t put the item together, who did.
4. Go Vintage!
Shopping at pre-loved clothing stores, garage sales and op-shops is another way you can help reduce the demand for cheaply manufactured clothing. Vintage shopping has heaps of perks! Firstly, you are recycling someone elses’ waste so it doesn’t end up in landfill, which is a win for the environment. Second, the clothing is usually very cheap, so if you can’t afford to shop ethical brands at least you don’t have to head to a cheap department store for a new outfit. Finally, many op-shops and second hand stores like Dear Gladys are set up by charities which means the money they make from selling the pre-loved clothing goes to people in need. Of course the clothes you buy second hand may have been manufactured unethically but by buying second hand your money never goes to and supports the original retailer with the unethical practices.
Customising or even learning to sew your own clothing is a great way to reduce demand for unethically manufactured clothing and breath new life in to tired or ill-fitting clothes. Many sites, like The Pineneedle Collective and Create-Enjoy are dedicated to clothing DIY’s with posts for beginners to the very experienced. Just make sure that you are using sustainable fabrics!
If you want to check out how ethical some of your favourite clothing brands are or read up on more of the issues surrounding unethical clothing production check out MeasureUp, Labour Behind the Label & Free2Work.