Ethical, Fair, Green, Eco & Sustainable Fashion - What does it mean and what it is all about?
Ethical, Fair, Green, Eco & Sustainable Fashion are popular terms and many brands use them to label their products. Nevertheless what does ethical, fair, eco and sustainable fashion mean and what do they truly stand for?
Firstly let us define the terms: ETHICAL, FAIR, GREEN, ECO and SUSTAINABLE fashion.
1. ETHICAL & FAIR FASHION
There is quite some confusion as to when it comes to definition of the ethical/fair fashion. What is certainly is that the ethical/fair fashion is a response to fast fashion. The fast fashion has taken a big leap in the 1960s and 1970s when young generation started using cheaply made clothes in order to express their personality. Nowadays the fast fashion is defined as fashion, which captures high fashion's new trends at fashion shows and conveys them to the high street. Some of best known fast fashion brands are: H&M, Zara, Primark, Topshop and others (source: Wikipedia).
Apart from a great success the fast fashion brands have seen in the modern history there are quite some concerns regarding the fast fashion. Some of them are: poor working conditions, poor payment, forced and/or child labor, devastation of cultural heritage.
Unsurprisingly there has been a response to the fast fashion; the ethical/fair fashion concept. Let us elaborate what exactly does ethical/fair fashion represents:
a. Working Conditions
In the past years there have been quite few headlines (e.g. Rana Plaza, Kunshan, Dhaka) referring to accidents in the production plants, mainly located in the South and South-East Asia. Many times the workers in these production plants work in facilities with poor ventilation systems, unsafe and dangerous electrical supply, long hours, unsanitary conditions, without fire escapes and others. The ethical/fair fashion proceeds towards a safe working environment, where workers do not need to worry about their physical and mental wellbeing while completing their tasks.
The fast fashion brands manage to maintain affordable prices for consumers by utilising economies of scale. Amongst others also the workers' payment.
Clean Clothes Campaign (from 2015) concluded that only between 0.5 and 3% of the full costs associated with the cloths production are allocated as payment to the workers (source: Clean Clothes).
Indeed in order to remain competitive in the market many of the world's clothing brands migrated their production, in the early 1990s, to the South and South-East Asia. Unfortunately due to the loose regulations in many of the developing countries the big brands additionally benefit from the low-cost labour force (e.g. in Bangladesh the minimum wages covers only 60% of the living costs in the slum, source: Mochni). As it might be expected the ethical/fair fashion stands for just payment, enabling respectable existence to the workers as well as a transparent business model.
c. Modern Slavery and Child Labor
The fact that in 2019 about 40 million people still lived as modern slaves (source: Global Slavery Index) is horrible. This is a result of poorly implemented regulations and restrictions in some of the economically poorest, but densely populated regions.
In the textile industry in particular child labor is not uncommon. And regardless of the child work being forbidden in most of the countries, about 11% of the global workers are child labourers. This is a consequence of a great demand for cheap and unskilled labor force (source: Mochni).
The ethical/fair fashion proceeds towards morally correct working conditions where all the laws and regulations are implemented and respected. This includes all the children having the happy and healthy childhood, spending time with their peers in school and therefore creating a better tomorrow.
d. Cultural Heritage
Industrialization as any other period with the fast growth in history has besides the well known positive effects also some negative ones. One of them is loss of ancient skills and knowledge. Many times with fashion industry entering native communities the importance, expertize, accomplishments and knowledge of the indigenous people are minimalized. As artisan sector is, in many of the countries with great number of clothing production plants, second or third in size in employing people (source: Mochni) many of the old knowledges, rituals and skills, which have been passed from generation to generation for centuries, have the potential of being lost and forgotten. Therefore it is important to take the initiative and work towards preservation of those old knowledges, rituals and skills.
2 GREEN FASHION
According to STEP (Sustainable Technology Education Project), green fashion refers to clothes that use environmentally sensitive fabrics and responsible production techniques (source: STEP). Environmentally friendly fabrics for example bypass the harmful chemical processes, coloring and bleaching. Additionally the environmentally friendly garments see to be free from toxic irritants and synthetic chemicals, which means they are organic and entirely biodegradable. Indeed such fabrics can hold various certificates (e.g. GOTC) to validate their cleanness.
That being the case it can be concluded that the green fashion is an upgrade of the ethical/fair fashion (please note that some definitions of the ethical/fair fashion take into consideration the entire process of clothes productions; thus from garment and clothes production, retailing and purchasing activities, source: The Good Trade), by adding the environment into the equation.
3 ECO & SUSTAINABLE FASHION
The sustainable fashion takes into consideration even broader spector of matters. Besides the sustainable sourcing, production and retail processes, the sustainable fashion also stands for more sustainable consumption patterns. Therefore in order for a brand to claim they are a sustainable brand they need to strive to change their consumers' consumption attitudes and behaviors (source: Green Strategy). An adjacent term to sustainable fashion is eco fashion (source: Wikipedia).
All in all ethical, fair, green, sustainable and eco fashion terms intervene and complement each other. At LUMA we believe that all of us as individuals as well as companies, be it big or small, established or start up, should work towards environment and people friendly working conditions to the best of their abilities whilst continuously improving. Taking care of the environment and people involved in the garment industry results in preservation of many ecosystems, however also a richer and healthier environment for the people.
LUMA & SUSTAINABLE FASHION
At LUMA we strive to have a positive impact at each stage of the design, production and retail process. Therefore we utilise local designer, only certified and organic fabrics, local sewers (providing equal payment) and deliver through CO2 neutral carrier.
More about who we are and what we stand for, you can read in the following blog post: Welcome to LUMA.