There is an ever growing number of celebrities and fashion icons supporting green carpet events and green initiatives. Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCarthy, Michael Kors are just some of the big designer names to promote their ethical fashion lines. However, there are rarely any fashion houses which can guarantee that their entire chain of production is 100% eco-friendly and environmentally conscious, so it’s up to us as consumers to choose brands that share interests closest to our individual. So, the first question we should address is: what actually qualities a company as sustainable or ethical?
The ideal production model should have a ‘green stamp’ for all of the elements in the production chain starting from acquiring fabrics and materials, through manufacturing labor, to distribution and sales channels. Here are the main traits of an ethical business:
- Organic cotton – growing cotton fields requires tremendous amounts of pesticides and causes pollution (since almost 25% of all petrochemical-based pesticides go into growing this crop). By switching to organic cotton we have the chance to significantly lower the chemical pollution. When looking for such garments, check if they have a Global Organic Textile Standard certification (GOTS) stated on the tag.
- Fairtrade – clothing inspected and certified by the Fairtrade International guarantee that the products have met certain standards of production, environmental needs, business practices and (most importantly) labor conditions. That means the workforce has received a decent living wave for the work they did.
- Alternative and recycled textiles – besides organic cotton, more and more companies are using bamboo, hemp and even banana fibers to create organic materials. On the other hand, addressing the issue of waste contamination, there is a growing trend of recycling non-degradable materials like PET products and nylon into polyester yarn. Natural materials (like cotton and wool) are also known to be reused.
- Local production – if you want to act green locally and support small communities, cut down on transportation costs look for locally manufactured garments. It is a great way to support family businesses and you may find truly unique, even customized designs that are not available with huge retailers.
- Transparency – having no strings attached is the best business policy and many companies are acknowledging the fact by publicly sharing on their websites how their products are created. By taking their customers on a journey through their production process, a strong loyalty bond is created and it’s easier for shoppers to make a decision based on the transparent information provided to them. For example, while searching for women’s dresses online, look for tags such as ‘Who made this?’ to trace the origin of each clothing piece in store.
Although the talk about green entrepreneurship has been a hot topic for some time now and we can notice a considerable progress in the fashion industry, it has taken a disaster of great measures to provoke people to act on those talks as well. As if it was not enough that one dark September day in 2012, 289 people have died in a fire at a garment factory in the southern city of Karachi (Pakistan), another fire broke out at a shoe factory in Lahore which killed 25 people. Apparently, not much was deducted from this tragedy as it was repeated in November 2015 when a factory collapsed killing at least 45 people and endangering more than 100.
The imperative for a safer, ecologically and ethically sustainable future is to prevent such disasters as the Pakistan factory collapses by thinking globally and acting locally: making smart shopping choices, getting detailed information on the supply chain of our retailers and supporting only environmentally safe materials and products. The best fashion statement is a stand for preservation of our natural resources and fairness in labor policies worldwide.