My year of ethical fashion

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Ever since I heard about the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, I’ve found myself becoming more and more uncomfortable with the fast fashion movement and the fashion industry in general. It’s an industry that depends on sweatshops, child labour, and all manner of questionable working conditions that range from unfair and exploitative to plain dangerous. Aside from the human element, there are also a bunch of environmentally damaging and unsustainable practices going on too.

Over the past few years I have been making slow and steady progress towards refashioning my wardrobe into something a bit more people- and earth-friendly. It is, unfortunately, something that’s easy to (wilfully) forget about. It’s easy to get carried away by a beautiful piece that you *must* have, or to buy something because it’s convenient, or to think that, well, you don’t buy that much in the whole scheme of things so one little cheap, mass-produced top here and there isn’t going to make any difference, really.

The thing is – it does, and it will. So this year I am throwing out the excuses and the intentional ignorance and committing myself to an ethical wardrobe. My rules are as follows:

  1. Buy less in general. Be more critical in separating wants from needs.
  2. Think about restyling, re-purposing and customising things I already own instead of buying something new. Consider making things from scratch (let’s be real, this probably won’t happen as my sewing skills are regrettably sub-par).
  3. When I do decide to buy something, it must be either ethical or secondhand, sourced from op shops or sellers on Depop or Facebook (and these sellers must be located within Australia).

So, what actually constitutes ‘ethical’ clothing? For the sake of my own decision-making, I’m classifying it as anything from a brand that ranks ‘good’ or higher on the ethical ratings app Good On You.

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Realistically, ethical clothing is expensive and I’ve often struggled to find pieces that are fun, youthful and interesting (not to mention fitted – is there some unwritten rule out there in the eco-fashion industry that anyone interested in ethical clothes must also love looking like a walking duvet?) so my prediction is that it’s going to be a year of op-shopping. Bring it on, I say.

Before I go, here are some resources that might be helpful if you’re looking at buying ethically (or just want to know more about the state of the industry):

Behind the Barcode

Ethical Clothing Australia

Choice report (a little out of date but still useful)

Good On You

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