Awareness around sustainable fashion is becoming more and more prevalent. It's great that brands are finally awakening to the fact that we, consumers, do care about the impact of our clothes on the environment and the people who make them.
Surely after the Rana Plaza atrocity, we can only move forward and turn towards kinder business models, right?
If there is something that I did grasp in my Economics classes, it's that "supply follows demand". The more of a demand there is for sustainable fashion, the more likely a supply for it will soon ensue.
While this axiom remains true, add a good dose of psychological prowess, and some brands suddenly have a certain edge over their competitors without having to make any changes to their business model.
All it requires is a mere change in marketing strategy.
This "psychological prowess" I'm referring to is known as greenwashing.
Think of all the green packaging you are surrounded with or the word "natural" on so many products without ever using meaningful words such as "organic" or "grass-fed". This applies to a lot of fashion brands too. Simply saying that they will improve their environmental impact by 2050 is not enough for us consumers anymore. We want statistics, reports and evidence.
When it comes to the supply chain, it's not uncommon for brands to claim that they have their workers' rights and wellbeing at the forefront of their business plans.
Visit the “about us” section of a major fashion brand and it will most likely state that it does not condone slavery or child labour; that they choose their workshops with the utmost care and that audits are carried out frequently.
Yet, over the years, scandals concerning the lack of regard towards workers of the fashion industry and the environment have become more and more apparent.
You might be wondering, why do brands spend so much money on advertising that sustainability is at their core of their business model? Why not put that said money towards actually improving their impact on the world?
Well, unfortunately, for a lot of brands, it’s all about getting the “bang for their buck”.
Yes, the answer lies in profits.
Building a sustainable business is more expensive and requires a lot of processes to be put in place.
Spending money on huge advertisement campaigns, on the other hand, tantamounts to more sales without going through the trouble of implementing much change.
So, how do we go about spotting genuinely sustainable brands from the ones who are trying to weave around us the fabric of a fair world fantasy?
How do we know which brands to trust?
Among this immense kerfuffle that we’re submerged in online, how do we single out the voices that are reliable?
It’s not easy, but, fortunately, there are some platforms out there who have made it their mission to research into brands and shed light on how sustainable they are.
Brand Reviewing Platforms
Rank a Brand
Rank a Brand has covered a vast range of brands over the years, and their database is full of brands for you to peruse through quickly and efficiently.
Just search for a brand on their site, and you’ll be presented with an ethical score ranging from A-E (along with a summary of why they received that particular score).
They virtually do all the work for you by scouring public sources as well as the brand’s site for background information.
Their assessment is based on the industry’s standards for transparency, environmental impact and working conditions.
Very nifty for a free tool!
I love the fact that it’s accessible to everyone. If you do have the funds to support their humble cause, they have a yearly membership of £20, which gives you the opportunity to have your say when they decide which brand to review next.
Shop Ethical! is an incredible resource for reviewing which brands are sustainable or ethical.
User functionality is clearly a priority for this site; therefore making it easy to navigate and viewing the information you need quickly and efficiently.
I love how it’s all put neatly in a 3 column format; one for the praise, one for all the criticism and a third one for listing all the resources Shop Ethical! used to review the brand.
Just enter a brand name in the search engine, and you are presented with a concise brand review that takes into consideration labour rights, animal rights and, of course, mother earth’s rights!
Good on You
Good on You is a helpful little app you can refer to on your phone at all times.
I love the fact that when I'm on the Good on You app, I don't feel like I am on an ethical platform. I mean, yes, I do, because I am. But there are always discounts on there which definitely helps make shopping fun! One of the downers of sustainable fashion is the lack of variety and steep prices.
The "Good on You" app counteracts that beautifully. Plus, it's free!
The app not only contains brand reviews but is full of blog posts to help you along your sustainable journey. Motivating content and a brand reviewing service within pocket reach?
The Ethical Consumer
The ethical consumer offers a great service and its greatness lies in the fact that you can customise it to your liking.
Each brand is given an overall score, but there are also sliders which you can toggle depending on what factors you accord the most importance to.
For example, if you are more invested in the animal cruelty side of fashion, you can toggle a slider so that animal cruelty is weighed in more heavily in the score.
The score that the brand receives will, therefore, vary based on your own personal ideals of what ethical fashion means.
The big caveat is that Ethical Consumer is a paid subscription service, and, as a result, not accessible to all. They do offer a few resources to free users. You can see their best and worst rated brands, but you won’t be able to customise or view research findings. I can’t afford to pay for a subscription myself at this point but its something I might consider doing in the future to give a full review of the paid aspect of their service.
Clean Clothes Campaign
Clean clothes campaign is another is another excellent platform striving to make a positive change in the fashion industry by highlighting the socio-economic issues within the industry.
They've published extensive studies on gender violence and modern-day slavery in the workplace among many others. They've shed light on global conglomerates such as Walmart and Gap - companies who tend to affirm themselves as sustainable and ethical in their self-produced, internal reports.
Independent organisations like Clean Clothes Campaign also help build more holistic strategies which take into account socio-economic issues that profit-centred brands don't. Identifying problems is the first step towards change, but developing a sound strategy to forge the way forward is just as crucial. It should be the follow-up stage after the identification process.
My Favourite resources from Clean Clothes Campaign:
Gender Based Violence in the H&M Garment Supply Chain
Five years since the Rana Plaza collapse: What has happened in the field of prevention and remedy?
Lucy Siegle is a well-known environmental activist, and she’s spoken about the horrifying aspects of fashion a plethora of times. She is one of the producers of the brilliant documentary “The True Cost of Fashion”, where she highlights the failures of fast fashion brands.
Here's one of her quotes from "The True Cost": ‘This enormous rapacious industry that is generating so much profit for a handful of people, why is it that it is unable to support millions of its workers properly? Why is it that it is not able to guarantee their safety? We’re talking about essential human rights. Why is it that it is not able to guarantee that while generating these tremendous profits?" (Lucy Siegle, The True Cost of Fashion)
To me, this sentence is compelling because it highlights the incongruity between the number of profits the fast fashion industry generates and the appalling conditions its workers.
Her articles for The Guardian offer excellent tips on how to adopt healthier fashion habits; healthier for us, garment workers and our lovely planet.
Fashion Revolution is probably one of the most famous anti-fast fashion movements. They are well-known among millennials for their unique and engaging approach towards creating awareness around fast fashion. If you’ve never heard of them, you’ve most likely heard of their viral campaigns — “who made my clothes” and “haulternative”.
They aim to empower both consumers and retailers by advocating transparency. Every year, they publish a “Transparency Index Report” which I highly recommend reading.
It not only reviews and ranks brands based on their transparency but because their definition of transparency is itself very transparent, it exemplifies what the fashion industry should strive towards.
Here is their definition of transparency: “Transparency requires brands to know exactly who makes their products – from who stitched them right through to who dyed the fabric and who farmed the cotton. And crucially, it requires brands to share this information publicly.”
Beautiful, isn’t it?
Not only do they review and rank brands but the report is also full of little gems of information for those of you who wish to get a better understanding of why we need to push for brand transparency and accountability.
Backing everything they say with facts and figures and delving into the “why” of everything, not only reinforces their credibility as a reliable, ethical fashion resource, but it also sets an example of what brands’ reports SHOULD look like.
Another appealing aspect of Fashion Revolution is the range of ways they deliver their resources. From in-depth independent studies on fast fashion to podcasts that you can listen on the go.
I usually listen to their podcasts while I’m doing bits and bobs around the house, and it makes me feel like I'm being productive while attending to the tedious little tasks of life!
Fashion Revolution is definitely a platform worth supporting with your time or some spare change as they are a non-profit organisation. #not sponsored in any way whatsoever.
My Favourite Resources from Fashion Revolution: