How To Tell if Your Clothes Are Actually Produced Ethically and Sustainably.
I remember the first time I went Black Friday shopping. I was in 8th or 9th grade and wanted a pair of Uggs (I know, I know… so #basic. I needed them to go with my Hollister jeans and Avril Lavigne-esque blue eyeliner.) Specifically, I wanted the mini boots with buttons on the side. So I weighed through the masses of people fighting each other for limited-quantity deals and pushed my way to the Ugg Store and bought them with my hard-earned babysitting money. (It really was hard-earned… I babysat 8 kids at a time for that Ugg boot money.) LOL.
This year I’m not participating in Black Friday, as a small act of resistance against the fast fashion industry. I’m also kicking off my Ethical Fashion Q+A series, which I’m really excited to share with you over the next few months.
"Something I wonder about is how to know when something is legitimately sustainable/ethical... you know how, for example, food companies slap "organic" on something even if it's not actually organic? I wonder if the same thing happens in the fashion industry."
Absolutely, the same thing happens in the fashion industry. I would actually argue that it happens even more than in the food industry, because there is less of a focus on certifications for ethical fashion and fewer people are talking about it. Everyone knows what organic food is but a lot of people aren’t familiar with slow / ethical / sustainable fashion.
So back to the question, “How do I know when something is legitimately sustainable/ethical?”
The short answer:
Buying second-hand is always sustainable/ethical. I love to thrift and shop consignment locally and online (my favorite is Tradesy — I always check the seller though, to make sure it’s actually second-hand and not just a shop using Tradesy as a platform).
Besides shopping second-hand, there are several things I look for/ask myself when I’m considering a brand who appears to be sustainable:
The Long Answer:
I think it’ll be helpful to talk about the nuances in these terms (Most of these were adopted from YIREH. I loved their post a little while ago called 10 Ethical Fashion Terms You Need to Know)
When deciding if the brand is fully transparent throughout their supply chain:
Everlane does an amazing job of this. Some things to look for are where the clothing is made, how much workers are paid, and where the fabric itself comes from. The brand should mention sustainability as part of its mission and should include hard data around their efforts. Otherwise, promotions around environmental or social impact may be marketing tactics.
Looking at their certifications:
I mentioned earlier that certifications are reassuring to me because they add credibility — but at the same time, many sustainable brands don’t have them.
These are things I primarily focus on for large brands, as they should have the resources to get certified if they are actually sustainable.
Here’s what the certifications mean:
Thinking about greenwashing:
One greenwashing tactic is using big, broad claims with small fineprint. Or bragging about energy efficiencies / labor payment standards when they are actually just the law. The biggest one I’ve seen in fast fashion is having a line of “sustainable clothing” within a bigger organization that is not sustainable at all.
Here's an example:
Photo from fashionista.com
Patagonia: Not Greenwashing
Was this post helpful? I hope so! When I first started my ethical fashion journey the amount of convoluted info out there was overwhelming, so I hope this series helps streamline what I’ve learned and answer your questions.
Shopping ethically requires more thoughtfulness, so I always remind myself why I’m doing this. And I err on the side of caution. Two quotes I think about often when I shop are “if a deal seems to good to be true it probably is” and “if you aren’t paying the price someone else is.” I shared a couple weeks ago that I quit fast fashion cold. I don’t buy clothes from malls or fast fashion online at all. When I’m in the mood for fun and mindless shopping, I go thrifting or consignment shopping. And when I’m buying a staple piece I research first.
Okay, stay tuned for the next post in this series! Thank you all for being caring and thoughtful people. Hope you have a good week! :)
I wanna show you some of my favorite sustainable brands and thrift finds! And lots of pictures of me attempting to model - ha! Hope you enjoy!!!