How to know if your clothing is ethical
Posted: Aug 27 2019
Help! I just bought something. How do I know if it was ethically made?
I'm sure we've all been there– strolling through a store or clicking through an online shop, not really looking for anything in particular when bam! something catches your eye and you know you *have to* have it. It might already be in your cart or even in your closet before a pang of guilt hits you and you think something like, "Did I just buy something that came from a sweatshop? Or a factory that pollutes the air and local waterways? Was an animal killed for this? Was this made by a child?!"
Of course, the best thing to do is not to buy things like this in the first place. But we're only human, and we can be impulsive sometimes. I get it.
Here are some easy steps to take to find out if your clothing is ethical.
1- Look online
The first thing you need to know is that ethical companies are proud to be the way they are. Because of this, they will make it easy to find the information you are looking for. They probably mention their efforts right on the About page on their website, or have a dedicated page to sustainability or their impact.
If you don't easily find what you're looking for on their site or by Googling, you may start to get suspicious.
2- Use an app
That's where it comes in handy to use an app, like Good On You. They've done the hard research already and have rated thousands of brands on a 5 tier scale, from "We avoid" to "Great." They take into account the brand's impact on people, planet, and animals.
3- Engage on social media
If you can't find your brand, and really want to get to the bottom of it, you can try reaching out to them on social media. Fashion Revolution started a popular campaign after the tragedy of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in 2013, called #WhoMadeMyClothes. They encourage customers to post the question and tag the brand. A brand's response, if any at all, can be very telling.
Beware of Greenwashing
Now, I should warn you about Greenwashing, which is what certain brands resort to to clean up their public perception. Greenwashing is when a brand makes a really big deal out of one campaign or collection that is, on the surface, eco-friendly, and hopes that you forget about the entire rest of their business which is decidedly less so. But you're a smart cookie, and you know better!
Now, if what you learn about your newly purchased clothes doesn't delight you, here's my advice:
First of all, don't throw out this new piece of clothing, even if its provenance makes you uncomfortable. Anything you do with it is better than sending it to the dump.
It is yours now, so take responsibility for it. Wear it, love it, and keep it in good shape. Make it worth it that you bought it by making it a staple of your wardrobe. Don't just replace it with the next thing.
If this seems hard, let that be a lesson you take with you when you go shopping. Remember, fast fashion has tried to program us to believe clothing is disposable. (It's not.)
If everyone simply took ownership of all their clothes, not tossing them out as soon as they stopped sparking joy, we'd have much less textile waste, more functional, streamlined closets, and fast fashion wouldn't be what it is today.
Pictured: the Portmanteau jacket in Forest.