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Ethical & Sustainable Fashion: Complete Guide, Tips, Gift Ideas & More
You’ve probably heard the terms ‘ethical,’ ‘slow,’ and ‘sustainable fashion,’ but what do they truly mean?
Let’s start with the most important aspect: sustainability. Sustainable fashion promotes more environmentally, socially, and morally conscientious clothing manufacturing and consumption.
However, there is much more to it than just the clothes manufacturing process. Green Strategy has identified seven major types of more environmentally friendly fashion manufacturing and consumption:
- Green & Clean
- Repair, Redesign, & Upcycling
- Rent, Lease, & Swap
- Secondhand & Vintage
- High Quality & Timeless Design
- Fair & Ethical
As you can see, sustainable fashion is a broad phrase that encompasses all areas of the lifecycle.
To put it simply, it implies employing environmentally friendly materials and production processes, as well as a ‘print to order’ system to prevent unnecessary waste. Finally, it entails treating everyone involved in the manufacturing process fairly and ethically.
Ethical fashion is a relatively new word that opposes the practice of many huge fashion businesses notorious for poor working conditions and significant underpayment of employees, such as in infamous sweatshops.
On the other hand, ethical fashion entails treating all persons engaged in the production process fairly, providing good working conditions, and paying a fair wage.
Slow fashion is the polar opposite of fast fashion, which is both quick and inexpensive (and often of low quality). Many fashion firms nowadays change their collections every few weeks, which has a negative impact on the environment.
Slow fashion is more cognizant of the procedures and resources needed to manufacture clothing, making it more sustainable and ethical. It entails purchasing high-quality apparel that will last longer.
Slow fashion has the following characteristics:
- Several distinct styles per collection
- High-quality, sustainable materials
- Slow fashion is frequently found in tiny, local boutiques but is also available in larger places.
- Clothing that is sourced, manufactured, and sold locally.
Sustainable, ethical, and slow fashion is all about being gentler on the environment and the people involved in the process.
Beginner’s Guide to Sustainable Fashion: Where to Begin
We’ve produced a beginner’s guide to sustainable fashion to help you make a move, whether it’s your new year’s resolution or you’ve simply gotten tired of the vicious cycle of cheap disposable apparel.
We understand that there are so many variables to learn about that it can be incredibly intimidating at first… Where do you even begin shopping for ethical clothing?
Relax. Here are some simple pointers.
Why This Is Important: The Issues With Fast Fashion
Garment workers who are frequently underpaid in the rapid fashion industry
From high street chain flash sales to influencers showcasing big hauls, we’re continuously indoctrinated into buying more clothes without pausing to examine these three critical points:
- How they were created
- By whom
- What are the repercussions consumerism causes?
Unfortunately, fast fashion clothing is mainly produced (and purchased) without regard for the environment, from pesticide-laden cotton fields to synthetic fabrics that can take 200 years to degrade.
Fast fashion clothing is generally created by overworked and underpaid employees, with child labor frequently involved, because these firms do not normally engage directly with their supply chain.
Purchasing low-quality things and discarding them on a regular basis generates 92 million tonnes of garbage each year.
What Exactly Is Ethical And Sustainable Fashion?
Slow fashion, often known as sustainable fashion, is a more ethical alternative to quick fashion.
The United Nations defines sustainability as “development that satisfies the demands of the present without compromising future generations’ needs.
Sustainable fashion is thus a slower, more environmentally friendly, and ethical approach to the complete apparel supply chain:
- Designing clothing
- Material selection
- Producing clothing
Slow fashion advocates for using less harmful materials to the environment and/or animals, treating and compensating garment workers fairly, and encouraging consumers to buy fewer pieces that will endure for years.
Examples of Sustainable Fashion
Sustainable fashion is a broad concept that might be difficult to define at times.
Each example is an integral component of the broader goal of sustainable fashion.
Without further ado, here are the top 8 sustainable fashion examples right now:
- Ethical and Fair-trade Fashion
- Eco-friendly’ Fashion
- Vegan Fashion
- Slow Fashion
- Upcycled Fashion
- Thrifting, Swapping, Renting Fashion.
- Circular Fashion
- Conscious Fashion
Ethical and Fair-trade Fashion
Ethical and Fair-trade apparel are two excellent examples of environmentally friendly fashion.
Ethical and Fair-trade operations (in the fashion business) are concerned with the well-being of those employed in the sector.
That includes child labor, gender equality, safe working conditions, fair-trade manufacturing, and all other facets of social justice.
Based on these actions, both Ethical Fashion and Fair-trade Fashion can be further defined.
People and their well-being, whether mental or physical, are the focus of ethical fashion firms, advocates, and brands.
Fair-trade organizations and brands, on the other hand, ensure the formation and maintenance of supply chains in which farmers and manufacturers receive a fair portion of the cut in exchange for their products.
Both phrases encompass the socioeconomic aspects of the fashion business.
As a result, all participants in these actions are looking for methods to improve labor conditions, wages, and trade practices.
Both words refer to environmental issues caused by the fashion industry.
Consider waste generation, water and soil degradation, and resource depletion, all of which are hastening the global climate problem.
To this day, over 90% of garment brands continue to employ plastics and other non-biodegradable fabrics that cause widespread environmental damage.
Every year, for example, nearly 70 million barrels of oil are required to create polyester fibers, which end up in the oceans and kill animals or people by entering the food chain.
As a remedy, eco-friendly, biodegradable, and natural fibers that nourish the environment are being promoted by green fashion companies.
To date, the results have been positive, with an increase in the number of enterprises using eco-friendly and green products such as organic cotton, hemp, mushroom leather, kelp leather, and so on.
Vegan and cruelty-free fashion words refer to products made without the use of animal-derived materials or obtained through non-cruel techniques.
Similarly, all vegan and cruelty-free fashion campaigners’ initiatives aim to raise public awareness of industrial animal husbandry and animal abuse for fashion.
However, some argue that vegan fashion causes more harm than good.
According to the argument, the majority of PETA-approved ‘Vegan Fashion Brands’ employ PVC and plastic-based replacements for animal leather, which saves animals from slaughter but kills them by polluting their habitat.
Recently, vegan fashion advocates have argued that in order for a vegan clothing brand to be considered a “sustainable fashion brand,” it must also consider its environmental impact.
The majority of cruelty-free and vegan clothing businesses accomplish this by employing leather substitutes created from plants, mushrooms, fruits, or even in the lab.
Slow Fashion is a relatively new word used to describe a method of producing clothing that is at odds with ‘rapid fashion.’
Slow fashion, as opposed to industrial mass production, is manufactured by expert artisans, hence the use of the term ‘artisanal fashion’ to denote the same thing.
Inefficient production processes and limited resources are not the only factors that deplete the planet’s resources.
Fashion consumption and garment care both play essential parts in achieving sustainable fashion – see the ‘Conscious Fashion’ section for additional information.
Upcycling fashion is the act of reusing and repurposing textiles, materials, and clothes to re-create fashion.
This aspect of sustainable fashion upcycling is so popular among modern fashion designers and celebrities that it has given rise to a new type of high-end luxury fashion.
Upcycled Fashion is more than a new means of revitalizing old textiles and turning them into new garments because old fabrics contain their own stories of usage, wear, and life.
The use of repurposed fabrics in the creation of new clothing lends character to the final product.
As a result, creating couture through Upcycled Fashion assures that the finished garment is always original and thus unusual.
However, opinions differ on how important Upcycled Fashion is to attaining fashion sustainability.
The advantages of using repurposed materials are enormous:
- Upcycled fashion contributes to waste reduction.
- Recycles materials that would otherwise be discarded in a landfill.
- Reduces carbon and hazardous gas emissions caused by manufacturing and transportation.
Upcycling, on the other hand, raises serious environmental concerns:
- Upcycled clothing emits twice the amount of microfibres that pollute the oceans and the human food chain, harming animals and humans.
- Upcycling necessitates the use of more energy and chemicals than would otherwise be required in the case of innovative materials.
Fashion Thrifting, Swapping, and Renting
Recycling, thrifting, swapping, and renting clothing are all excellent examples of environmentally friendly fashion.
Thrifting, which is available at thrift stores and secondhand shops, is a fantastic approach to preventing the negative impact of fashion manufacturing.
Because the garments already exist, there is no need to produce them again.
Furthermore, no hazardous chemicals are used, no greenhouse gases are released, and no pesticides are used for a new collection.
However, there is an unspoken disadvantage to renting, thrifting, trading, and sharing, all of which are kinds of secondhand and vintage clothes purchasing.
The issue derives from the difficulties of analyzing the quality and condition of the garment you’ll be purchasing this way.
When you wear animal leather or plastic clothing, hazardous compounds will gradually seep onto your skin.
These chemicals will eventually disrupt your hormonal balance, causing changes in your skin, hair, nails, and so on.
Circular Fashion is another excellent example of environmentally friendly fashion.
The word refers to ‘closed-loop’ systems or industrial processes that strive to recover and incorporate discarded materials and trash.
Circular fashion developments come in a variety of forms.
However, the most popular type of ‘closed-loop’ technology in the fashion business today is the recycling of polyester and other plastic-based components and reusing them in fashion production.
Conscious Fashion is the most well-known form of sustainable fashion, and it is considered a consumer response to the problems brought by Fast Fashion.
Above all, the environmental impact of fashion is heavily influenced by customer decisions and how long they wear their garments.
Garments are utilized half as much as they were 15 years ago with the advent of quick fashion.
This is due to both decreased product quality and an insatiable drive to buy and display the current trends.
Therefore, Conscious Fashion advocates educate consumers about choosing slow over fast or about how to care for their clothes.
For example, washing and drying a pair of jeans consumes almost two-thirds of the total energy consumed during the garment’s lifetime.
More than 80% of the energy consumed by washing underwear is accounted for by the laundry process alone.
The message here is that washing clothes, regardless of how environmentally friendly they are, necessitates the use of power, water, and detergent.
How to Begin in Sustainable Fashion: A Beginner’s Guide
How do you actually embrace this kinder and more ethical perspective now that you understand how slow fashion differs from its evil quick cousin?
1. Save this basic guide to sustainable fashion so you may refer to it if you need to double-check something.
2. Determine the most environmentally friendly fibers: organic cotton, hemp, linen, organic wool, modal fabrics, and bamboo are all good places to start, as are recycled or repurposed materials.
3. Learn how to determine whether a brand is sustainable so that you never fall for questionable greenwashing methods again.
4. Start enjoying your clothing and caring for them to make them last longer.
5. Unfollow temptations (such as quick fashion brands and influencers who promote an unsustainable lifestyle) and instead be inspired by the right people.
6. Rather than shopping at fast fashion stores, fall in love with fair trade products.
How to Make a Loveable Sustainable Capsule Wardrobe
A sustainable capsule wardrobe can simplify your dressing process, break free from trends, and reduce your long-term fashion expenses.
What Exactly Is A Capsule Wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a smaller but carefully picked collection of color-coordinated, high-quality items that may be used to create multiple looks.
While this concept was discovered as early as the 1940s, it was Susie Faux, a London-boutique owner, who popularized it in the 1970s, characterizing it as:
“A selection of a few important pieces of apparel that never go out of style.”
How Much Clothing Should A Capsule Wardrobe Contain?
While 37 appears to be the sweet spot in most capsule wardrobe guides, the exact amount of garments depends on your lifestyle and ethos.
After all, when it comes to creating a sustainable capsule wardrobe, quality should always take precedence over quantity!
The number of wardrobe basics you need will also be determined by whether you intend to:
- Making separate capsule wardrobes for each season (in that case, a minimalist approach of 10-20 pieces should do)
- From now on, you will only rely on your sustainable capsule wardrobe (you can easily allow yourself a few more)
Steps To Learn How To Make A Sustainable Capsule Wardrobe
Begin by Decluttering
You can’t get a decent overview of a cluttered closet, so make some space on your bed and take everything out.
This is also a great time to undertake a sustainable declutter, getting rid of any quick fashion items that don’t belong in your new ethical capsule wardrobe.
Establish Your Personal Style And Habits
Learning how to design a sustainable capsule wardrobe is similar to finding your distinctive style: instead of a slew of solo standout pieces, search for recognizable themes and patterns.
That is why it is beneficial to begin by identifying your style and being realistic about your habits:
- Do you get your ideas from a specific decade?
- Do you have a color obsession?
- Do you want to be renowned for wearing a specific sort of clothing?
- What characters, celebrities, or influences do you appreciate for their style?
- How would you like others to characterize yours?
- Where and how do you spend the majority of your time, and what clothing do you require for that? (For example, more loungewear versus sophisticated pieces)
Make a Palette
The most crucial aspect of establishing a sustainable capsule wardrobe is versatility, which is why color is so vital:
- Your foundation color (for items such as trousers, shorts, and skirts) should be a neutral hue such as black, navy, brown, white, or khaki.
- You can then select a handful of accent colors that go perfectly with your base.
Put Versatile Clothing And Accessories First
Consider each item in your sustainable capsule wardrobe in relation to the others.
A white t-shirt, for example, can be worn beneath a blazer, spaghetti dress, or playsuit, as well as with trousers, shorts, or skirts.
Layers are one of the simplest ways to recycle clothing!
Dungarees and pinafores have radically distinct styles depending on what you wear underneath them.
Purchase Only What You Require
While creating a sustainable capsule wardrobe from items you already own is convenient, you may need to add a few classic pieces, especially if you started with fast fashion outfits purchased on a whim.
Fortunately, this does not have to be time-demanding!
Simple Sustainable Fashion Options That Make a Difference
It may appear daunting to begin ignoring that voice that is continuously encouraging us to buy more garments without questioning how they were manufactured.
What is the truth?
Making more sustainable wardrobe choices isn’t that difficult!
Get Rid Of Your Fast Fashion Mentality.
A vicious cycle of clothes hauls in order to have a nearly fully new wardrobe every season is unsustainable.
Following the next sustainable fashion recommendations will be much easier if you begin with this mindset adjustment.
While fast fashion has led us to believe that our clothes are disposable, we should begin to regard them as durable and valuable.
Declutter Your Closet
In addition to having too many quick fashion items that we don’t really enjoy, the ‘I have nothing to wear’ difficulty is frequently created by cluttered wardrobes that don’t allow you to appreciate each garment individually.
Begin by decluttering it in a sustainable manner, keeping only the items that excite you.
Repurpose The Same Clothes
Worrying about wearing the same outfit twice is so last decade!
Wearing the same clothing more than once (and yes, even publicizing them on social media) is perfectly acceptable.
Still, if you want to spice them up, get imaginative by planning multiple ensembles with the same garment.
When Purchasing New Clothing, Consider Factors Other Than Fashion
Forget about fads: if you’re a slave to this thinking, you won’t want to keep a lovely object just because it’s out of style.
Create your own unique style instead, and only acquire classic pieces that you’ll be happy to wear for years.
Look For The Most Environmentally Friendly Fabrics
Materials have a significant impact on the environmental impact of your clothes, so choose the most sustainable fabrics:
- Organic Cotton
- Rayon fabric
- Organic wool
- Upcycled or recycled material
Wash Your Clothes Less Frequently
Your seemingly harmless load actually has a substantial environmental footprint, ranging from 15-30 liters of water to 350-500 watts and the shedding of microplastics.
Learn how to lessen the environmental impact of washing clothes, consider making your own fabric spray, and avoid using the tumble dryer entirely.
Repair Them If They Get Damaged
Resist the urge to throw a garment away as soon as an accident occurs!
Repair it with thread and a needle, use cold iron-on patches, or take it to a tailor.
Take Care Of Them To Extend Their Life
Now that you know that garments should not be thrown away, simple tactics like allowing them to dry naturally and keeping them neatly will help them last longer.
Donate Rather Than Throw Away!
If Brangelina taught us anything, it’s that even the most romantic love stories may end.
Just because you can’t rekindle the flame with a piece of clothing doesn’t imply it should be discarded.
Sell it online or, better yet, donate it to charity!
Prioritize Quality Above Quantity.
It’s easy to get caught up in the trap of shopping therapy, but what’s the point of purchasing five items that will come apart after a few wears?
Instead, opt for fewer, higher-quality items that are built to last.
What’s better? Versatile clothing that can be worn with a variety of outfits.
Invest In Ethical And Ecological Fashion Brands
The most effective sustainable fashion decision you can make is to vote with your money by supporting firms that produce their clothing in an ethical manner.
Ethical Fashion Gift Ideas for Environmentally Conscious Loved Ones
These ethical fashion gift ideas will undoubtedly wow your friends or loved ones, whether it’s because they enjoy sustainable options as much as you do or you’d like to expose them to this more eco-friendly lifestyle.
Organic Cotton Tee
An ethical gift idea might be an organic cotton t-shirt.
An organic cotton t-shirt is a helpful gift that will result in many different outfits, a worthy upgrade from synthetic choices and even traditionally cultivated cotton (which is not so wonderful for the environment).
You can choose a more adaptable design, such as monochromatic or patterned styles, or a statement t-shirt with a concept they enjoy, such as animals, important words, or something that will make them grin.
Organic Wool Jumpers
Knitwear is more than just a gift: it’s a warm hug from you every time your loved one wears it!
The softest option is organic or mulesing-free wool. If your friend is vegan, you should replace it with organic cotton knitwear.
If you really want to outdo yourself, consider a lovely linen dress as an ethical fashion present for someone special.
These clothing have a timeless appeal thanks to the appearance of this strong fabric, and they can be worn pretty much all year, especially when layered up.
Linen is a terrific material for your sustainable summer clothing because it is both breathable and iconic.
You could even wear a linen dress with a neutral t-shirt underneath to create alternative styles, depending on the model.
This is the type of gift that, like socks, you detested as a youngster but absolutely adored as an adult.
Practical and comfortable, some sustainable pajamas are a lovely ethical fashion gift option that your friend or loved one will get to use almost every night.
As an ethical gift idea, consider a sustainable belt.
You can never go wrong with a belt, especially if you’re unsure of someone’s size.
Just keep your loved one’s values in mind: while most belts are made of leather, you may discover faux leather alternatives or more inventive materials like cork, hemp, and nettle.
A pair of socks as a sustainable fashion gift.
This is another ethical fashion gift idea that is a terrific stocking stuffer and safer in terms of sizing than clothes.
Organic wool or cotton is frequently used in the most sustainable socks, but you may also check for recycled materials.
Vegan or Organic Wool Beanie
When the temps begin to drop, who doesn’t enjoy a statement beanie?
Choose a versatile vegan model for extra ethical points: a fantastic sustainable fashion gift idea that will help your friend or loved one accent a variety of outfits.
A sustainable fashion present suggestion is an ethical scarf.
A scarf can be a useful and stylish ethical gift option that will last for many more chilly seasons, from thick organic wool models for winter to vegan shawl designs.
If you want to help someone build a sustainable wardrobe but aren’t sure about sizes and styles, here’s a game-changing solution: a gift card from one of their (or your) favorite sustainable shops!
This is one of the easiest and most stylish sustainable summer ensembles to put together since… You simply need one piece of clothing!
However, you can easily personalize it by adding accessories such as a straw hat, necklace, bracelets, or ankle bracelets, and the appropriate summer sandals.
Ethical dungarees for a summer outfit are a great present for an eco-conscious friend, relative, or lover.
Short dungarees, similar to playsuits but with more repurposing options, can be worn with monochromatic shirts, designs with a print, tank or spaghetti tops, or even a bandeau during the warmest summer afternoons.
This is the flexible shoe that the minimalists — and well-seasoned travelers — in your life have been looking for, with four styles of footwear in one shoe. A four-in-one shoe may be swiftly and easily transformed into a sneaker, slide, mule, or sandal. The adaptable shoe is also produced from plant-based materials such as sugarcane, Bloom algae, hemp, and cotton.
This season (and many seasons to follow), a deliciously soft hemp sweater will keep you cozy and fashionable. The embellished v-neck and cuffs offer a unique twist to this multipurpose classic.
A regenerative wool scarf is a really sustainable gift — a warm winter accessory produced with wool taken from a ranch that uses carbon-sequestering processes.
Eucalyptus Top And Pants
These silky smooth garments made of Eucalyptus Tencel Lyocell will help you sleep soundly. This is an excellent gift for your loved ones, and these will undoubtedly be their favorite pajamas they have ever owned.
Without a doubt, these pajamas will make excellent ethical gifts.
Recycled sportswear is both fashionable and environmentally friendly. They should use ethical production and recycled materials because old water bottles and fishing nets look better on you than in landfills and damage the oceans.
These are just a few ethical fashion gift suggestions to get you started.
Shopping for environmentally friendly gifts should not be stressful!
Because clothing plays such an important role in our daily lives, it is a very accessible way for us all to impact change.
Even if we can’t directly influence the operations of a fashion company, we CAN educate ourselves and create awareness about who made our clothes, and what they’re made of. The impact their manufacturing has on people and the environment.
In other words, choose to buy sustainably.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the significance of sustainable fashion?
- Less Waste is Produced by Sustainable Fashion
Every second, one garbage truck of textile waste is disposed of in a landfill or burned.
This massive amount of waste is generated by fast fashion firms, which introduce weekly fashion fads and fill them with low-quality, low-cost products.
Sustainable brands, on the other hand, focus on high-quality apparel made from long-lasting materials.
Furthermore, sustainable fashion manufacturers almost never follow rapid fashion trends.
2. Ensures Sustainable Fashion Fair Wages and Working Conditions
The production of low-cost, fast-fashion clothing is made possible by the harsh working conditions of garment workers.
The majority of fast fashion brands manufacture their clothing in underdeveloped nations where workers are paid less than a living wage.
Poor safety and health standards, excessive working hours, and constant production pressure all contribute to an environment of worker exploitation.
The fast fashion industry has also been accused of regularly using child labor.
Sustainable clothing manufacturers, on the other hand, prioritize fair salaries and safe working conditions for all employees
3. Emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are reduced via sustainable fashion.
Fast fashion has a significant carbon footprint due to the manufacture of materials, manufacturing, transportation, and even textile waste degrading in landfills.
Most fast fashion clothing, for example, is produced from petroleum-based materials.
Consider acrylic, nylon, and polyester, which all need a large amount of energy to produce and dispose of.
Sustainable fashion, on the other hand, makes use of biodegradable materials made from natural or recycled fibers.
Grown with little to no chemical treatment, less energy, less water, and no pesticides or fertilizers.
4. Water is saved by sustainable fashion.
The fashion sector is currently one of the world’s major water consumers.
Water is used not just for washing clothes but also throughout the manufacturing, dyeing, and finishing procedures.
To put that in context, it takes around 2,720 liters of water to produce one cotton shirt and a whopping 7,000 liters to produce one pair of trousers!
In addition to absorbing water, garment production has an environmental impact by polluting freshwater with hazardous chemicals that end up in waterways.
In comparison, most sustainable fashion manufacturers have “water on budget” practices that limit the amount of water used during the manufacturing process.
Furthermore, organic textiles created from linen, organic cotton, and hemp are prioritized in a sustainable fashion because they require little to no water during the manufacturing process.
5. Animals are saved because of sustainable fashion.
Animals are an important element of our ecology, with each one helping to keep the planet habitable.
Consequently, we should all be concerned about threats to wildlife and other animals.
Leather purses, shoes, fur coats, and other things created from animal leather, feathers, and wool have an impact on animal populations and, as a result, human survival on this planet.
In comparison, cruelty-free and vegan clothing manufacturers protect animals by employing leather and fur alternatives in their products, rescuing animals from exploitation and death while maintaining the ecosystem’s equilibrium.