Everybody keeps asking me why it’s so important for my fashion business to be ethical and what exactly is ethical fashion. Well, ‘Ethical fashion’ is an umbrella term used to indicate that working conditions and production are all morally right within the fashion supply chain. In a nutshell, basically, it means no one suffered during the making of the clothing whether that be animal, person or mother nature.
It’s important to me because I don’t want to wear something that has been made by a woman, no different to myself except in country of birth, being paid 90p a day. She’s being paid 90p a day to make something that I then buy for £80 from a high street store and make some old men very wealthy in the process. I don’t know about you but I’d prefer she got paid a little bit more and they pocketed a little bit less. Certain low end stores get a bad rep for this sort of stuff but it isn’t just them, it’s pretty much every single high street store that manufactures in this way. Their supply chains are long and complicated and it makes the monitoring of the factories hard to implement, some brands won’t even know which factory their product is manufactured in.
Photo credit: brandnative.co.uk
Aside from the low wages, there’s also the production practices. I’d prefer not to wear something that has been made with dangerous chemicals which have had a detrimental impact, not only on the environment but also to the health of the person that made it. Jeans are a really good example of this. Xintang in Southern China is affectionately known as the denim capital of the world, and quite rightly so. One in every three pairs of jeans sold around the world are manufactured there. Waste chemicals have been dumped into the river so many times that the river now runs a denim blue, regardless of whether or not you’re a tree hugger that can’t be good. Samples from the riverbed found the lead and copper levels along the river far exceeded the recommended limits, both copper and lead are extremely poisonous and even though monthly wages here are twice the national average local people refuse to work in this industry. One reason being that people that have worked in the industry are known to be infertile from all of the chemical exposure.
With regards to production practices what most people don’t realise is that for denim to have that worn look, that we all love so much, it was traditionally done using a process known as ‘sandblasting’. Sandblasting literally means blasting the denim with sand to give the denim a distressed look. Unfortunately sand contains a compound called silica and exposure to this can be fatal. Turkey made sandblasting illegal back in 2004 when a doctor in Istanbul found a common connection between a group of men all suffering from similar lung disorders. After some investigation, he found that they were all working in the denim industry and had been sandblasting the denim. Most, but not all, big name brands have now banned the use of sandblasting within their supply chain but it does still happen.
Once you start looking into the fashion industry and see how we’ve been manufacturing clothes over the last 20yrs you’ll see it isn’t very cool, but thankfully that is changing. A business must make a profit in order for it to be a business but that profit should not be the sole purpose of the company at the expense of the workers within the supply chain, it’s just BS. I could waffle on for hours about this but I wanted to keep it short and sweet so it’s still fairly light hearted. If you want to know more then a good film to watch is True Cost which can be found on Netflix.