Give back schemes
I believe that any business, no matter what product or service they provide, should use their greater influence to give back to their local and global community. Ever heard of a little thing called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? CSR schemes will be easily accessible on a company’s website, but watch out for greenwashing terms that may lead you astray. For example, if they state that they adhere to specific labour laws, or pay their employees a minimum wage, whoop-de-freaking-do. That means they’re doing the bare minimum they need to, to stay above the law. It’s not good enough.
Buy one give one scheme, or committing a percentage of profits to conservation projects, are a few examples that should catch your eye. TAMGA Designs are a great example; they give 1% of annual sales to the Sumatran Orangutan Society. No one expects this of them, or has asked them to do that: they’ve chosen to use their power as an international fashion brand, to make a positive change in the world.
Image via Peppermynta
Since the rise of fast fashion, the idea of emailing a brand to learn more about how their garments are made is alien. My friends were shocked when they found out I frequently email fashion companies. But to me, it makes sense.
Emailing brands is an effective way to find out more about brands before I support them with my money.
If brands do not have a clear transparency report regarding the production of their clothes and details of their ethics, email them. Don’t be afraid to ask them the hard questions. Of course, some things may need to be kept secret (e.g. Can I please have the direct contact details to your supplier? This may not be the best question to ask first hand), but if they cannot answer simple questions like this:
- Who makes your clothes?
- Where are your clothes made?
- How do you make sure labour standards are met consistently?
- Where are your fabrics from?
… they’re probably hiding something.
Longevity and apparel care
When you spot a repair scheme or statements around durability, chances are, you’re onto a good thing.
Ethical and sustainable fashion is not just about the production of the piece of clothing: how you treat the garment throughout its lifetime matters too.
Patagonia’s ‘Worn Wear’ program is a superb example. Patagonia offer tips and tricks for cleaning and repairing garments, and encourage customers to return products when they’re worn through, or need a quick repair.
Rather than a list of must-haves, use these pointers as a guideline for finding brands who walk the talk. Before you back a brand, analyse their collection frequencies, sign up to the newsletter, investigate their give back schemes and transparency, and look out for messages around longevity and garment care.
Now that you’re a skilled, ethical fashion detective, go forth, and think before you buy.