Fashion That's Sustainable: What Ethical Fashion Really Is and Why It's So Important

Ethical fashion shop featuring eco friendly clothing, vegan leather, and more.

Ethical fashion is most certainly trending, and for good reason. When you go to the mall to buy a new cotton dress you don’t necessarily consider how your shopping spree affects the environment or human rights, but it does in fact make quite an impact.

It takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt, equivalent to how much water you drink over the course of an entire 2 and 1/2 years. The fashion industry’s manufacturing is responsible for 20% of industrial water pollution worldwide. These startling numbers most likely don’t cross your mind during your weekend shopping spree, but maybe they should. Ethical fashion is becoming a movement that more and more people begin to support. Fast fashion is out and ethical fashion is in.

What is ethical fashion?

Ethical fashion is fashion that prioritizes human rights and environmental sustainability during design, sourcing and manufacturing of clothing and accessories. It’s a term used to describe the impacts of the fashion industry that many people don’t think about, like the working conditions of the people making your clothes, as well as the sustainability of the factories that are producing them and their effect on our environment. The Ethical Fashion Forum has created a set of criteria that distinguishes ethical fashion from non-ethical fashion and draws on the importance of defending working conditions and workers’ rights,  animal rights, minimizing water use, supporting sustainable livelihoods and using eco-friendly fabrics, as well as using efficient energy practices during production. Ethical fashion considers the well-being of workers, the environment, and animals.

Slow fashion is in, fast fashion is out!

Ethical fashion supports slow fashion, not fast. Fast fashion refers to the mass production of clothing that much of the fashion industry lives by. It produces a lot of clothing in a little amount of time, at an inexpensive price, and it gets stocked in stores quickly so they have new items constantly. The temptation for most consumers to participate in fast fashion stems from the fact that they can buy three cute dresses for the price of one, but if most consumers understood the damaging effects fast fashion has on our environment and laborers, they might considering slowing down.

In order to get so many pieces of clothing for so little cost, in so little time, fast fashion brands take shortcuts in terms of production, distribution and manufacturing. This is known as the fashion cycle, the amount of time it takes for an item to get from the designer to the consumer. In slow fashion there are usually only two cycles each year which results in the normal spring/summer, fall/winter seasons for clothes. In fast fashion there are as many as 50 cycles per year. Fast fashion takes unethical shortcuts to achieve the results that slow fashion doesn’t.

Instead of harming our environment, Ethical fashion production practices aim to protect it. Slow fashion utilizes sustainable practices that conserve water and eliminate the use of toxic chemicals that fast fashion manufacturers don’t take into consideration. On your next shopping spree, maybe take a second to think about what you’re buying. Your cotton dress affects more than just your wardrobe.