Our attitudes to fast fashion are changing and as we become more conscious consumers, more and more of us want to shop ethically. But where to start? Having become accustomed to fast fashion where clothing has become cheap, seasonal and throw-away we need to take a whole new approach as well as make some wholesale changes in our attitudes to fashion.
That doesn't mean compromising on style. If the idea of ethical fashion conjures up images of oatmeal ponchos and hemp knickers, think again. The ethical fashion industry is full of creativity, genuine design talent and this is one movement going firmly in the right direction with some of fashion's most influential players choosing ethical. There is no better time to change your own habits.
Together with my partner Stephanie, we launched Gather&See last year precisely to make shopping on-trend ethical fashion easier. We both wanted to find beautiful ethical fashion that didn't cost the earth. So came along Gather&See, a website where customers can shop by ethical philosophy (from organic to fair trade and everything in between) just as easily as shopping by seasonal trend or product. In our quest for a more sustainable fashion offering we have come up with our own ways of shopping more ethically in a broader sense. Even if you put just some of these ideas into practice they will help you to find a new connection, respect and joy for your clothes. Enjoy!
#1 READ THE LABEL
It sounds obvious but check the label on your clothing to find out where it was made and what it is made of. In the past decades we have become far more conscious about the provenance of our food, it is high time we do the same with our clothing. Our skin is the largest organ of our body so we should care what we put next to it. Look for pieces that are made from natural and organic materials or innovative eco-friendly materials such as tencel or recycled fabrics. Kowtow is one of our all time favorite brands, making beautiful organic pieces that are so soft on the skin. Be wary of anything with the 'poly' prefix or that states 'do not stand close to fire' - likelihood is that the production of such a piece is not good for those making it or for the environment. In fact the clothing and textile business is the second most polluting industry only to oil.
#2 ASK WHO MADE MY CLOTHES?
Fashion production is incredibly labor intensive but thanks to glossy advertising campaigns and merchandising we have become completely disconnected to those that sew and cut our garments. With such long supply chains, we know that big brands are not taking responsibility for garment industry workers' rights in the factories that are producing their clothes. Tragedies such as the Rana Plaza factory collapse only serve to reinforce this issue. Fashion Revolution Day is a movement that asks customers to ask brands directly, Who Made My Clothes? Look for brands that confirm that they pay their workers a Fair or better Living Wage - it helps create sustainable jobs and can have a big impact on poverty reduction. At Gather&See brands such as Osei Duro and Lalesso go as far as listing the name of the seamstress on the label of your item.
#3 SEARCH OUT SMALL BRANDS WITH GREAT STORIES
If you have ever turned up to a party in the same high street dress as someone else you will know the value of having something unique and exclusive. There are hundreds of small brands, who offer beautiful ethical clothing and work to very small production lines where they can be confident that their values are upheld. Buying brands such as Cus at Gather&See where the pieces are handmade in a small studio in Barcelona not only means you know exactly where your fashion is coming from, it also means its unlikely you will see it anywhere else. These brands have amazing stories behind them and you can take great pleasure in immersing yourself in the ethos and background of the brand you proudly wear.
#4 SHOP ONLINE
Whilst there are some amazing small eco-boutiques in major towns and cities for the best selection of ethical fashion, head online. This way the world is your oyster with e-tailers that offer a wide selection of ethical brands that you will unlikely find on your local high street, or even in the biggest department stores. It is online that you will find the most fashion forward pieces with brands designing with aesthetics top of mind as much as ethics. Ethical labels such as Osei Duro, Reformation, Maiyet and Stella Jean are producing collections regularly praised by the fashion media and seen on the world's most stylish women from Taylor Swift to Beyonce. Follow their lead and find these ethical fashion gems online. Most online e-talilers offer international shipping and free returns and best of all you get to try your new wares in the comfort of your own home.
#5 CHOOSE QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
So the dreaded question of price. Much has been made of ethically made fashion costing more than high street clothes and this is really indicative of how warped the fashion industry has become. If you are buying a dress for $10.99 someone else somewhere is paying for it in terms of pay and working conditions. It also won't last you very long, or you might not even ever wear it but it was so cheap you can't be bothered to return it. This is wrong on so many levels. We own more clothes than we have ever owned before - and in truth how many do we really wear? Make considered purchases seeking quality over quantity, work out the cost per wear and it will soon become cheaper in the long term to buy that beautiful locally produced silk dress than it will that cheap nylon equivalent that frays after just a couple of wears. Intersperse these investment pieces that will last for seasons with fun cheaper pieces from bigger brands with eco-conscious lines (H&M Conscious, Zara Organic) and the increasingly good value ethical brands (Refomation, Della Los Angeles, Hiro + Wolf) for an on trend look that doesn't compromise ethics.
#6 LOOK AFTER YOUR CLOTHES
Last but not least look after your beautiful clothes. One of many sad aspects of the fast fashion industry is that we have become accustomed to viewing clothing as disposable. We throw away a blouse because it has lost a button or a skirt because we can't work the zipper and it ends up in vast landfills - 85% of US clothing ends up in these landfills where fabrics such as Polyester and Nylon can take up to 200 years biodegrade. So instead read the care label, get out your sewing kit and think twice before getting rid of a piece of clothing. Cherish your clothing for the sake of those that made it, the environment that is so often damaged by it and for your own pleasure and peace of mind. Some of my most treasured items of clothing are those that have been past down from my Mother, with a little care there is no reason we shouldn't be passing down our favorites to the next generation.
6 Rules For Ethical Shopping by Alicia Taylor & Stephanie Hogg of Gather&See
Gather&See offers carefully curated collections from the very best in sustainable fashion talent from around the world. Showcasing designers that pride themselves on aesthetics as much as their ethics, the website will present sustainable fashion in a fresh and innovative way. Not only do each of these brands have a great story to tell, they also fit into at least one of the Gather&See's 6 founding principles: Fair trade, Organic, Recycled, Eco-friendly, Handmade and Small Scale Production.