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Fashion is one of the most profitable industries, with huge markups and margins, yet the people who actually sew the clothes are working extremely long hours for little return. Wages are so low that workers are sacrificing their mental and physical health in order to keep their families afloat. More often than not, children are also working in the same very poor working conditions. 

Ethical fashion is a way of finding solutions to the current injustices plaguing the garment industry.

What is happening?

Slave Wages

Some wages in areas where clothes are produced such as Bangladesh, Turkey or Pakistan are well below the income required to live life without having to worry about where the next meal is coming from. Workers are also deprived of sleep, access to healthcare and a decent education. Many countries only pay the minimum wage which is set at about 20% of the living wage. The clean clothes campaign highlights that the workers who made the £180 England kit were only paid £2 for the entire day. 



Child Workers

As many as 152 million children are at work (The ILO). This includes all stages of the supply chain in the fashion industry - from the production of cotton seeds in Benin, harvesting in Uzbekistan, yarn spinning in India, right through to the different phases of constructing garments in factories across Bangladesh, often in very hazardous conditions. When corrupt factories conduct human rights and safety audits, children are hidden away in order to keep everything above board. These children often have no documentation stating their age or identity, and their age is only confirmed by dental and bone maturity. Sometimes this labour is even forced and unpaid 

Hazardous Chemicals

Farmers throughout the fashion supply chain are often exposed to seriously harmful pesticides and insecticides that can cause severe health issues ranging from respiratory problems, skin irritation, seizures and even death. Cotton is an extremely hard crop to grow and is very prone to insect and pest attacks. Thus, cotton farming uses 6% of the world's pesticides and 16% of the world’s insecticides but only covers 2.4 percent of the world's cultivated land.  

Environmental Impact

Using chemical pesticides and insecticides to grow crops like cotton is also very harmful to surrounding ecosystems. The Aral Sea has shrunk by one-third, and the further chemicals used to dye the materials can also make it back into the water causing dead zones. There is an incredible amount of waste in fashion as roughly 92 million tonnes of waste per year is going to landfill and that number is expected to rise by 52% by 2030.  Fashion is the 4th biggest cause of pollution in the world 




Ethical fashion aims to give workers a fair deal and a decent quality of life alongside protecting the world we live in. We can help by making small alterations to how we shop and what we value when buying clothes.

We can start by choosing to buy brands that make an effort. When we refuse to buy fast fashion, companies will seek better means of production. Ethical clothing is increasing and we must keep it going by using our voices where possible. It works. Child labour is down by one third since 2000 as a result of the positive changes that have been implemented. 

Shop Ethical Brands

We can start by adjusting our shopping habits and re-analysing what we value. Looking at tags can indicate the likelihood of a garment being made and sourced fairly, but not always. It's worth using tools such as to search for ethical clothing.

Thrift, Sell, Swap or Rent

Thrifting for deals on great clothes or using apps like Depop, Vinted or eBay to buy pre-loved clothes is an ideal way of keeping clothes out of landfills and giving them a second, third or fourth life. It can also be an additional source of income or at least help pay for new garms. Swapping is a great way of letting go of old clothes and keeping your wardrobe fresh while hiring special occasion outfits saves money (and closet space)!

Quality over Quantity

Before you buy something, consider its lifespan.  Are the materials going to hold up over many washes? Is it of thin/frail quality? If so, it's not likely to last many wash cycles leaving it destined to be discarded quickly. In the long run, it’s better to buy better quality garments to avoid wasting money and contributing to environmental issues.

Researching brands and materials

A fashion brand should be transparent in its operations. Some companies *cough* Zara *cough* might do a collection or two with organic cotton and sustainable materials and promote that fact more than the items themselves. This is called “greenwashing.” Usually, brands who are doing good will post about it on their website and have some third party certifications such as Fair-Trade and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). They should use organic and sustainable materials for all of their pieces. 



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