Sustainable Clothing

by Ralph Goodstone, Vice Chair the Ethical Fashion Forum

Fashion is one of the world’s largest and most influential industries, yet it is one of the worst polluters and exploiters of child and slave labour.

The goal of those involved in ethical and sustainable fashion is to transform the way that fashion business is done – changing lives for millions of people in supply chains on a global scale.

What can we do as individuals to support these aims?

  1. Support those brands and retailers who are genuinely committed in their ethical and sustainable aims. Before buying check out their values and visions on their websites to make up your own mind. Leading lights in the field include Marks & Spencer, H&M, Patagonia, Timberland, Peopletree, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and Adidas. Other companies are increasingly offering sustainable sections within their ranges and you may make some exciting discoveries here, e.g. ASOS ethical clothing and Net Sustain within Net a Porter.
  2. Look for organic textiles in cotton, silk and wool clothing made from materials grown in compliance with organic agricultural standards and bearing the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) label. Items made from recycled fabrics and materials also now compete on style and reduce your carbon footprint!
  3. Should you reject fast fashion, i.e. cheap disposable clothing which eventually goes in huge quantities into land fill after a few wears, or buy higher quality that lasts longer and can be repaired and handed on? Your choice! Whatever you decide, follow these tips for keeping your favourite pieces in tip-top condition.
  4. Consider new developments in clothing hire, resale and rental – all extending the useful life of garments. Try Frontrow or My Wardrobe HQ. Or buy vintage or pre-loved if its everyday pieces you’re looking for. Every high street has at least one charity shop where you can pick up good quality clothes at a fraction of the cost, and without producing any more carbon emissions.
  5. Support and join organisations which make a difference, e.g. Common Objective and Fashion Revolution.
  6. Lobby your elected officials/MPs/Heads of Colleges and Schools. The whole sustainability mission needs a level of co-operation which inevitably involves governments and legislation. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals are a good starting point for education.
  7. The challenges of ethical trading – climate change, slave labour, saving the planet, resisting pollution – are high profile issues. These were once the exception, but attitudes are dramatically changing and they are fast becoming the norm. You can help in many ways by taking these first steps!