Impact of Ethical Fashion on Communities

Ethical fashion refers to an approach to the design, sourcing, and manufacture of clothing production that keeps workers and communities in mind, alongside minimising the impact on the environment. So how do ethical fashion brands help communities?

Over the past decade, the practice of ethical fashion has been a growing part of the fashion industry and has helped raise awareness of issues in garment factories within less economically developed countries. The practice of ethical fashion aims to address problems associated with the way the fashion industry operates in relation to exploitative labour, environmental damage caused, animal cruelty and the use of hazardous chemicals. Recently, ethical fashion has been in the public eye and portrayed as its own industry, circulating online news media and being showcased in blogs. The term ethical fashion is a very broad term that deals with a range of issues including, exploitation, sustainable production, working conditions, fair trade, and the environment.

In the podcast below I spoke to Daisy Morrison, co-founder of the Ethical Box, who explained the practice of ethical fashion and influence of celebrity in raising awareness of ethically made garments.

Peter Conway director and printer of an eco-friendly screen printing company, I Dress Myself spoke of the companies approach to the eco practice, he states that: “We were the first screen printing company in the UK to exclusively use 100% solvent free water based inks for all of our printing. We specialise in screen-printing by hand using eco-friendly inks to produce high quality products with attention to detail. We print organic T-shirts, art prints and bespoke packaging for clients across Europe. The brand is not something we sat down and invented, it has been a process of evolution. We made the choice to start a screen printing company and we wanted to make it as ethically oriented as we could, as this was how we approached all other aspects in our life.”

In relation to the execution of ethics, Conway states: “Our brand shows that people can run successful businesses along ethical lines and that quality doesn’t have to be compromised for something to be printed using eco-friendly materials. But more importantly our working practice benefits farmers in India who don’t have to use harmful chemicals, manufacturers in Turkey who receive fair wages and our employees who work in a relatively clean and chemical free environment.”

The current level of awareness received in bringing garment manufacturers to the public eye has enabled ethical fashion companies to help factory workers on a one-on-one basis and find effective solutions to issues.

Once Upon a Doug is an organisation that works with female farmers to create cotton cloud shaped fashion accessories called Dougs. The organisation works in partnership with Chetna Vikas, a development organisation that focuses on farmers, women and children who are deprived of their developmental rights. Harry Edmonds, former director of UK operations at Once Upon a Doug spoke of the production of garments, he said: “Once Upon a Doug is a social enterprise that aims to support female farmers in a broad area of Maharashtra, India. They grow cotton amongst other crops. It’s a big struggle to make a living out of this with the different seasonal rain, there are sometimes pesticides that they are sometimes told to use and they take out loans to buy these, which can be very difficult to pay back. Once upon a Doug aims to try and provide supplementary financial income and upscale them in business skills so that they can help themselves and make their life better through learning skills from being able to and more for their families.”

Edmonds had also touched upon the financial impact of the production of Dougs and how it benefits workers, explaining that: “All of the women that we work with that produce the Doug symbol, they all get paid for each one they make. So there is a direct financial income for them and also the profits go to Chetena Vikas, which invests in tones of different projects to help the local communities.”

So what can we do as consumers to ensure that we shop more ethically aware? According to Peter Conway of I Dress Myself, “Consumers need to educate themselves regarding the impact that their shopping habits have on the world. My tip is if you are going to make one change, use organic cotton. The amount of people who die from pesticides each year is staggering.”