Written by Jasmine Mayhead, founder of Ethical Made Easy, a platform dedicated to ethical and sustainable lifestyle brands that adhere to Ethical Made Easy’s three core values: transparency, freedom, and integrity.
You’re concerned about the future of the planet. You’ve read countless articles saying how bad fast fashion is. You’ve watched documentaries that shine a light on the vulnerable garment workers who make our clothes. And you’ve decided it’s time to do something about it; to become a more ethical consumer.
But where on Earth do you start? At Ethical Made Easy we know how daunting it can be when you first start out on your journey to shopping ethically. Here are four steps to help you build an ethical wardrobe and feel more confident about the often confusing world of ethical fashion.
Start with your values
To create a more ethical wardrobe, it’s important to first understand that everyone’s version of ethics is different. For some, avoiding animal-based products is ethical, whereas others believe that to be ethical you simply steer clear of fast fashion brands. There is no hard and fast rule because each human being has their own set of values which is what makes us all so unique.
As far as we’re concerned, ethical fashion is fashion that aims to reduce the negative impacts on people, animals, and the planet. Ethical fashion is kind to the planet and people every step of the way: from seed to garment, or what is otherwise known as the supply chain.
To label a brand ‘ethical’, we take the whole supply chain into account, including the materials and dyes used in the manufacturing process, the conditions and wages afforded to the workers, and even the packaging a brand uses when they ship an item of clothing to you. Ultimately, the two most important factors are how transparent a brand is about their supply chain, and how fair they treat each person in that chain. If it’s still a little unclear, you can browse our brand directory of ethical brands.
Stop right now (thank you very much)
Now that you know what ethical fashion is (or at least you know where to find it), we have one easy to understand, easy to implement step that will, without a doubt, make your wardrobe more ethical. Ready? Drum roll please…stop shopping! Or at least, just hit pause for a hot minute.
It might seem like a big call for a website that houses ethical brands, but we don’t exist so you can shop ‘til you drop. We exist so it’s easy to make a better purchasing decision when you need to shop.
The best way to do this is to stop buying fast fashion because fast fashion is destroying our planet. If you want to know how to let go of the fast fashion brands you love, head over to our journal and keep reading.
Fall in love
Once you’ve broken up with fast fashion, it’s time to fall in love with the clothing you already own. We believe the best way to change your mindset is by looking at fashion with heart eyes.
That’s right, we want you to start a relationship with your clothes. And not a one-off, casual hookup, but the kind you bring home to your parents. By falling in love with the things already hanging in your wardrobe, you’re reducing the amount of stuff in the world. The easiest way to remember this step is with the saying: no purchase is the best purchase!
We also like to consider the 4 Rs when looking at the clothes we already own: Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Repair. If you reduce your consumption, reuse the things you own and then repurpose and repair them when they need it, you’re already making an ethical decision. Finally, once an item is at the end of its life, then you can bring in the fifth R, which is recycle (that’s if it’s a biodegradable garment, of course).
Become a good shopper
Now for the question on everyone’s mind: how do I make a good purchase when I really need something? If you’ve considered your personal values, broken up with fast fashion, and fallen in love with what you already have but you still need to make a purchase, it’s time to learn how to shop well.
Seek products that are made with respect for people and the planet. Look out for natural fibres, fair-trade certifications, transparency reports, and information about how the product was made. Find brands that align with your values—are you vegan, do you care about female empowerment, do you want the most sustainable fabric, etc.? Keep your eye open for brands who give back to their local and global communities through other initiatives, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. A good purchase is good for you, the people who made it, and the planet. Don’t ever underestimate the power of your dollars. Another hard and fast rule that we stick to is making sure the things we purchase will be worn for at least 30 wears—that equates to once a month for 2.5 years.
In the meantime, don’t be afraid to question your favourite brands. If brands see (in terms of $ in their back account) or hear (from you asking them questions) that people aren’t purchasing due to their ethics (or lack thereof) then they’ll begin to change their ways. They’ll begin to realise that it’s not just important for humanity (although it should be enough), but it’s also good for business.
We hope you’ll walk away from reading this feeling empowered that you already have the tools to be an ethical consumer—the items already in your wardrobe and strong values to go with them. For everything else, you can trust us to guide you in the right direction. If you are actively looking for brands to support who believe in a better tomorrow and who are actively creating a world they want to be a part of, our ethical brand directory just may be the perfect place to start.