Ethical Fashion

Eco fashion and ethical fashion are two terms that keep reappearing and establishing themselves in our lexicon. With a modern-day awareness sparked by Primark controversies and a growing consciousness of where our clothes come from, consumers have started to challenge the way our products are made, seeking instead labels that guarantee environment-friendly, cruelty-free, fair-trade manufacture- or preferably, all free.

The issues of a consumer culture which demands cheap, mass-production are never-ending. For the fashion market, valued at a whopping three trillion dollars and employing over 115 million worldwide, these issues are paramount. Every year people and children in less-developed countries have been exploited, billions of animals have been harmed, tons of water has been wasted and harmful chemicals have been pumped into our environment. The subsequent goods are not recyclable and the problem of sustainability is a frighteningly growing one.

While some brands have been established as ethical and eco-friendly from their very beginnings – take Stella McCartney for example, who among many commitments avoids animal products, uses renewable energy where possible (it running at least 45% of her brand’s operations) and takes part in the Clean By Design program – there is a long way to go for many luxury fashion houses and high street brands.

There are various ways in which consumers can begin to tackle these issues and commit to an eco-friendly or ethical lifestyle when it comes to their clothes, and we have decided to help you out with a few ideas to get going. Recycle clothing and take advantage of Leeds’s vintage-clothing and charity-shop hotspots. Down in town Blue Rinse, Aladdin’s Cave and Ryan’s Vintage are some of everyone’s Leeds-famous favourites, but up in Headingley and along the Otley Road you’ll find some gems in Oxfam, Sue Ryder and Mind and other charity-shops. If you’re feeling lazy, search for some bargains on Ebay and browse the ASOS marketplace.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for there and want to head to the high-street, be particularly selective with who you buy from. Avoid renowned companies like Primark whose ethical standards are persistently called into question and instead shop in H&M, Zara, Marks and Spencers, New Look and Levis, examples of brands who are (maybe surprisingly) somewhat more ethical than their high-street counterparts. If you are unsure about the brand, do some research online.

For 100% eco-friendly and ethical brands you have to look a little bit further beyond the high street, and seek out the smaller retailers. There are many designers whose retail is small enough to maintain ethical and environmentally-friendly standards, or otherwise brands who use vegan and animal-cruelty free materials. Our affordable favourites include Matt & Nat, Della, ASOS Africa, and Reformation.

Aside from the question of where you shop, think about what you buy. Turn away from animal-based materials including the less obvious ones like wool and angora. With today’s modern science there is an abundance of materials which will often achieve the same effect, but without the cruelty. Avoid cheap, disposable clothes and pick valuable items that will last, for example those from the designers above. As they say, quality over quantity.

Ethical High Street Picks

Left: H&M Conscious Collection; Right: ASOS Eco Edit
Left: Reformation; Right: Nobody’s Child

Mamie Hampshire

Images courtesy of: sophelise, The LDN Diaries, The Fashion Ache, BAA Clothing, Stylist

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