It can be challenging to know where to begin when taking steps towards building a sustainable wardrobe. Fast-fashion and high street chain stores are a lot more readily available to us and most of them seem to be a convenient and sometimes cheaper option.
The good news is, shopping for ethical fashion isn’t all about ditching the shopping mall and your favourite stores altogether, you’d be surprised to know that many brands are now introducing recycling, eco-friendly materials and ethical manufacturing to their practices.
If you feel unsure about a particular brand, the best thing to do straight away is to check what materials the garment is made from. Fabrics like linen, hemp and organic cotton are renewable, recyclable and biodegradable materials and if the clothing the does not include fur or leathers, has not been mass-produced by the designer or is upcycled, then that's even better!
Your favourite famous brands to watch out for include:
H & M
H & M in recent years have become much more transparent about their production processes and are making a conscious effort to make their clothing sustainable, receiving a B+ in the 2019 Ethical Fashion Report. On top of this, H & M encourage customers to recycle their clothing by offering a gift voucher as a reward.
On the other hand, while it is all well and good that H & M are promoting textile recycling, their business platform only recycles about 1-2% of donated goods donated in-store, the rest still ends up in landfill. There is still a long way to go, but at this stage, it's better than doing nothing!
Cotton On received a positive overall rating of A- in the 2019 Ethical Fashion Report, which is very impressive, especially for a high street store. The brand is working towards an industry collaboration where workers at every level of the supply chain are treated fairly and ethically. Cotton On also does not use fur, angora, wool, down or exotic animal skin or hair in their products. Good going for the Aussie brand.
Another brand also scoring an A in the 2018 Ethical Report, Zara has now implemented some admirable policies in their supply chain, including the ‘Closing the Loop’ programme, which encourages customers to drop off their used clothing in store so that it can be upcycled. Their animal welfare policy also forbids the use of fur or any products tested on animals, so its another great option that won’t do the world of damage.
Placing itself as a shining light in Aussie ethical fashion, aiming to lead the way as a sustainable brand, receiving an A- on the 2019 Ethical Fashion Report. On all counts of ethical materials used, emission reduction, good treatment of workers and charity donation, the brand is excelling.
Witchery also raised $10 million so far for ovarian cancer research via what is known as their 'White Shirt Campaign'. Though their care for animal welfare is where Witchery falls short, the leather they use is a by-product of other industries and the website does not actually state its sources, Witchery also continues to use exotic animal hairs such as cashmere, mohair and alpaca.
Although these brands making great moves towards sustainability in fashion, they still do promotes rapid consumption, which in itself is unsustainable. Having styles and 'trends', updated as little as every 13 days damages the planet and fills up our landfills, is contributing to the problem rather than resolving it.
Fast-fashion brands produce huge quantities of cheaply made garments, often using unsustainable materials, such as viscose and polyester. The manufacturing of viscose, polyester and conventional cotton consumes vast amounts of energy and water, as well as hazardous chemicals.
While there are challenges when becoming a slow fashionista, this piece was written not to stop you from buying from the high street completely, the intention is to steer you in the right direction when you feel as if you absolutely must go shopping for something new.
As a shopper, you have the right to know how a brand’s production practices impact the environment.
In the long run, you're better off supporting businesses and brands whose entire moral compass revolves around recycling fashion and fabric sustainability. Thrifting, upcycling and shopping independently will always be better, but it's ok to shop from the high street now and again!
Check out the 2019 Ethical Fashion Report for more information and to find out which brands you should most definitely stay away from!