How To Know If You Are Buying Ethically Made Clothing & What To Look For
While the environment may take up most of the conversation when it comes to sustainability, there are actually three pillars to sustainability: environmental, economic, and social. The social piece is what we are going to cover today since it can be somewhat confusing to truly be able to understand whether you are purchasing ethically made clothing, or clothing that just meets a certain set of environmental standards and is being marketed as “ethical”.
Who Made Your Clothes? Where? In What Conditions?
When was the last time you asked yourself that question? Today with very few people even knowing how to sew, it is so simple for us to disconnect ourselves from the process that goes into the making of our clothes — and fast fashion has only further contributed to the problem.
Today the global fashion market operates on 52 “seasons” a year. You heard that right — 52. Long gone are the days that wardrobes changed with the true seasons, instead today fast-fashion brands have made it so that every single week new clothing is being sold and “old” clothing is being discounted.
So if you are constantly feeling like you are being sold to you would be correct. Every single week your favorite fast-fashion companies are launching new products, and sales are landing in your inbox on-the-daily to help move outdated clothing.
But who makes all of these clothes? While the emphasis in recent years has been placed on the excessive waste that our fast fashion industry creates, and the need for drastic change in the environmental regulations of our textile industries, the people behind the making of our clothing are equally as important.
On April 24th in 2013, what is now known as the Rana Plaza Tragedy killed more than 1100 garment workers in Bangladesh, and thousands of other people were injured. The tragedy sparked a global conversation about the conditions garment workers are exposed to on a daily basis, and what consumers and companies can do to ensure that something like this does not happen again.
Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go when it comes to eliminating slave labor, child labor, and unethical practices in our fashion industry, but thanks to organizations like Fashion Revolution, consumer demand, and ethical fashion brands choosing to put social and environmental responsibility first, we are making progress.
What To Look For When Buying Ethically Made Clothing
When it comes to purchasing ethically made clothing one of the best things that you can do is get to know your favorite clothing brands. Now this can be difficult when some of your favorites may in fact be giant corporations, but today what we have working for us is direct connection (thank you social media) and demand for transparency.
Look For The Company’s “Impact Report”
The first place to start when determining if your clothing was made ethically or not is simply to ask. Send an email or a direct message on social media asking about the specific standards the company has in regards to worker wages, working conditions, and health standards. Look for their transparency on product creation and sourcing, and seek out the company’s social impact report.
Generally speaking the more transparent and aware a company is about their production process, the more likely they are to actually be producing clothing in an ethical fashion.
Seek Out Ethical Labels
While labels are never going to be a perfect solution, they can help in identifying what clothing brands have chosen to seek out third party verification of their company and production processes.
You can even look up a company’s b-corp “score” on the b-corporation website if you are interested in exactly how your favorite clothing brand ranks.
Choose Smaller Companies Who Know Their Garment Workers By Name
This is one of my favorite ways to ensure that you are really purchasing clothing that is supporting companies that put their garment workers first. While smaller companies are often going to be more expensive (their margins will be much lower than larger brands) they often will be directly involved in every aspect of the production process and will know the NAMES and family members of the people making your clothing.
When you support a small-ethical business you really are supporting a community and it doesn’t get much better than that.
Opt For Local
If possible, opt for clothing that has been sourced and made in one central location. This emphasis on local production will help narrow the journey your clothes go before they reach you, and often will mean supporting smaller companies that really know all the tiny in’s and out’s of their sourcing and production process.
This doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to only purchase clothing that has been Made In The USA, but looking for companies that are focusing on sourcing materials and making clothing all in one centralized region can be one way to purchase more sustainable and ethically made products.
Featured Above: Duluth Made In The USA Backpack In Partnership With BuyMeOnce, an ethical company that advocates for social and environmental ethics in our fashion and consumer products.
Where To Find Ethically Made Clothing Brands
There are many ethically made clothing brands out there that are really focused on not only protecting the environment, but putting the health and livelihood of those people who are actually making your clothes first. Below you will find just a few of the incredible companies that are proving that ethical fashion can exist and should be the norm.
BuyMeOnce is a favorite company of mine that does extensive research into the entire system that is involved with the making of a garment or consumer product.
The mission behind BuyMeOnce is to make it easier for consumers to make the most ethical, sustainable, and longest-lasting choices possible when it comes to the products and clothing they bring into their home.
Check out our favorite Duluth Made In The USA Backpack from BuyMeOnce that is perfect for travel, school, and work.
Hiptipico is a b-corp certified clothing and accessory brand based in Guatemala and exemplifies what it truly means to put the people who make our clothing first.
Hiptipico puts the artisan makers at the forefront of their brand, and showcases their traditional skill and weaving that goes into the making of every piece. You really feel when you purchase from Hiptipico that you are supporting a family.
Sseko Designs is fair trade certified company that makes beautiful clothing and accessories from Uganda. Sseko first started to help women in Uganda go to University by providing women with life skills training, fair work, and professional mentors.
Sseko is so much more than a clothing brand and really has challenged and expanded what socially minded businesses can create.
Ten Thousand Villages is the pioneer brand of the fair trade movement here in the United States. They partner with artisans all over the globe and have been an instrumental part in advocating for ethical supply chains.
From home goods to jewelry Ten Thousand Villages supports over 20,000 makers in 30 countries.
Not Perfect Linen is the perfect ethical alternative to some of your favorite bohemian brands. Not Perfect Linen is a family run brand that focuses on ensuring quality, promoting transparency, enforcing sustainable practices and ethical approach.
Not Perfect Linen defers to their customers to lead the manufacture process by producing in line with demand to reduce waste and offer reasonable prices.
“For us creating ethical items bring the sense of community and it is like quite protest against mass produced goods. We do not make things just to make money. The items are not just for profit. We make goods that involve years of learned skills, passion, commitment and sincerity.” - Not Perfect Linen
Nisolo is a beautiful shoe company that creates both mens and women’s ethically made leather shoes. Nisolo believes in radical transparency and all Nisolo producers receive beyond fair trade wages, healthcare, and a healthy working environment.
“We envision a fashion industry where success is based on more than just offering the cheapest price. An industry that not only values exceptional design, but the producer and the planet as much as the end consumer.” - Nisolo
Krochet Kids International provides life-changing job opportunities to women in need through their women’s men’s and kid’s clothing. Krochet Kids International puts the women they serve at the forefront of their company and introduce consumers to the woman who made their products.
There are few other companies like Krochet Kids International that truly embody the meaning behind “who made my clothes”.
What other questions to do you have about buying ethically made clothing? Leave your questions or any of your other favorite ethical clothing brands in the comments! #whomademyclothes