The collapse of the Rana Plaza building will forever remain a dark period in the fashion industry. The factory, which housed multiple garment factories, resulted in the death of more than 1,100 workers - mostly women, and over 2,500 were injured. More recently in 2021, Boohoo faced intense criticism for not dealing with allegations of labor exploitation and unsafe working conditions in their supply chain.
The conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, that saw numerous garment workers in Asia being left unpaid or received reduced wages , to reports of forced adult and child labor in regions like Uzbekistan where even teachers, medical personnel, government and private sector employees are pushed to the fields to harvest cotton – cases of exploitation are all around. Even in the US, where clear and enforced labor regulations exist, sweatshops continue to proliferate, as evidenced by a 2022 U.S. Department of Labor survey that revealed pay violations in 80% of the South California garment shops it scrutinized.
According to a McKinsey consumer sentiment survey, 63% consider a brand’s promotion of sustainable practices to be an important purchasing factor. In this blog, we'll take you on a journey to explore the world of ethical fashion, shedding light on fair trade and transparency. Let's delve into how you can make a positive impact on the environment and workers' rights through your clothing choices.
The Current State of the Fashion Industry – And Why Fair Trade Matters
The fashion industry, as we know it, has a significant impact on the environment and the rights of workers involved in the supply chain. From excessive water usage and pollution to hazardous working conditions, the traditional fashion industry raises serious concerns. However, there is hope in ethical fashion—a sustainable alternative that prioritizes people and the planet.
Understanding Fair Trade
At Vustra, we proudly support fair trade. But what does fair trade mean in the context of fashion? Fair trade is an approach that ensures workers in the supply chain are paid fair wages, provided safe working conditions, and have their rights respected. It promotes sustainable practices, community development, and empowerment. By choosing fair trade garments, you contribute to a better future for workers and communities.
Take our supply Turkey-based partner Gulsen for instance. It is a women owned and operated business that prioritizes in fair trade production - and has even obtained the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (SEDEX) certification. Workers here have been proven to receive fair wages and work in safe environments, allowing them to support their families and communities. Your purchase directly impacts their lives and helps break the cycle of exploitation.
The Importance of Transparency
Transparency is a crucial aspect of ethical fashion. It means being open and honest about a brand's supply chain, manufacturing processes, and the materials used. By embracing transparency, brands empower consumers to make informed choices aligned with their values.
According to findings reported on FashionRevolution, as we go deeper into the supply chain, we observe a decline in transparency. Specifically, it indicates that while 48% of brands disclose the factories responsible for manufacturing their clothes, a mere 8% disclose the farms that produce the raw materials, such as cotton, used in their products.
In some regions, there are legal requirements for brands to disclose certain information. For instance, the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act (TISCA) requires companies above a certain revenue threshold to disclose their efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their supply chains.
How to Support Fair Trade and Transparency
Now that you understand the significance of fair trade and transparency, let's explore practical ways to support these principles and contribute to a more ethical fashion industry. Here are some steps you can take:
Researching and Choosing Ethically Conscious Brands
Start by researching brands that prioritize fair trade and transparency, such as Vustra. When you support brands like us, you directly contribute to creating a positive impact. Certifications indicate a brand's commitment to fair practices. Other issues to consider when researching and choosing ethically conscious brands:
- Supply chain transparency: Look for brands that are transparent about their supply chain, meaning they disclose information about where their products are sourced, how they are manufactured, and the conditions under which they are produced. Brands that prioritize transparency are more likely to be committed to ethical practices.
- Labor conditions: Pay attention to the labor conditions in the brands' factories or production facilities. Ethically conscious brands prioritize fair wages, safe working conditions, and prohibit child labor and forced labor. Look for certifications like Fair Trade Certified or organizations that audit and verify labor practices.
- Environmental sustainability: Consider brands that have a strong commitment to environmental sustainability. Look for certifications such as GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) for textiles or other recognized eco-friendly certifications. Ethically conscious brands strive to minimize their ecological footprint by using organic and sustainable materials, implementing responsible manufacturing processes, and reducing waste.
- Animal welfare: If you are concerned about animal welfare, choose brands that are cruelty-free and avoid the use of animal-derived materials. Look for certifications like PETA's cruelty-free logo or choose brands that are certified by organizations promoting animal-friendly practices.
- Social impact initiatives: Some ethically conscious brands go beyond fair trade and sustainability by actively engaging in social impact initiatives. They may support local communities, donate a portion of their profits to charitable causes, or participate in projects that empower disadvantaged groups. Consider brands that align with causes you care about and actively contribute to making a positive difference.
- Consumer reviews and feedback: Research customer reviews and feedback on the brand's ethical practices. Online platforms, social media, and ethical fashion communities can provide valuable insights into a brand's reputation and commitment to ethical values. Look for independent assessments or reports that evaluate brands' sustainability and ethical practices.
Reading and Understanding Labels and Certifications
Labels and certifications play a vital role in ethical fashion. Educating yourself about these labels and certifications empowers you to make informed choices that align with your values. Here are a few more examples of labels and what they signify:
- B Corp Certification: This certification is awarded to companies that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. It ensures that the company operates with a purpose beyond profit and considers its impact on various stakeholders.
- OEKO-TEX Standard 100: This label ensures that the textile product has been tested for harmful substances. It guarantees that the garment is free from chemicals that may be harmful to human health.
- Certified Organic: This label indicates that the product is made from organic materials and has been produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Look for certifications such as USDA Organic or Soil Association Organic.
By familiarizing yourself with these labels and certifications, you can easily identify brands and products that align with your values and contribute to a more ethical and sustainable fashion industry. Remember to look for these labels on product packaging, websites, or in-store displays to make conscious choices that support fair trade, transparency, and the well-being of workers and the environment.
Supporting Circular Fashion: Embrace Sustainable Style!
Circular fashion is part and parcel of supporting fair trade and sustainability. Here are some ways that will leave you feeling great about your choices!
- Clothing Swaps: Organize clothing swap parties with friends, family, or colleagues. It's a wonderful opportunity to exchange clothes you no longer wear for new-to-you items. Plus, you'll get a chance to socialize and have some fashion fun!
- Upcycling and DIY: Unleash your creativity by upcycling old garments or transforming them into something new. You can add patches, embroidery, or create entirely unique pieces from existing items. The possibilities are endless!
- Sustainable Materials: Look for clothing made from organic, recycled, or upcycled materials. These fabrics are not only kinder to the environment but also tend to be of excellent quality and comfort.
- Support Local Designers: Seek out local fashion designers who prioritize sustainability. By purchasing from them, you're supporting local talent while encouraging environmentally friendly practices.
- Repair and Maintain: Extend the life of your clothing by taking good care of them. Repair any minor damages, follow proper washing instructions, and store your garments correctly. It's a simple yet effective way to reduce waste.
Engaging with Brands and Asking Questions
Don't hesitate to engage with brands and ask questions about their practices. You can contact them directly or explore their websites for information on their supply chains and sustainability efforts. By showing your interest, you encourage brands to prioritize fair trade and transparency.
Your inquiries demonstrate that ethical practices matter to consumers, encouraging brands to be more transparent and accountable.
Remember, every small action counts. By supporting fair trade and transparency in the fashion industry, you contribute to a more sustainable and socially responsible world. Together, we can make a positive difference in the lives of workers and the environment. Happy shopping!
Spreading the Word and Advocating for Change
To create a more sustainable fashion industry, we need to spread awareness and advocate for change. Here's how you can make a difference:
Educate your loved ones about the importance of fair trade and transparency in fashion. Encourage them to make conscious choices and support ethical brands. Together, we can amplify our impact.
Social media is a powerful tool for raising awareness. Share your ethical fashion journey, promote sustainable brands, and highlight the benefits of fair trade and transparency. Let's inspire others to join the movement.
Several non-profit organizations like Fairtrade International, Fashion Revolution and Remake are dedicated to promoting fair trade and transparency in the fashion industry. Consider supporting them through donations or volunteering your time. Together, we can drive change on a larger scale.
Shop Consciously, Dress Responsibly
So take the first step towards supporting a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry. Remember, small actions add up to significant change. Choose brands like Vustra that prioritize fair trade and transparency, read labels and certifications, engage with brands, and spread the word. Let's create a future where fashion and sustainability go hand in hand.
Ready to explore ethical menswear? Visit our online store and discover a range of stylish, sustainable options that make a positive impact. Together, let's dress consciously and reshape the fashion industry.
Photo source: https://truecostmovie.com