Climate change is the one trend that we never want to see again, and unfortunately, it’s the one that’s here to stay, year after year.
Many of us want to do our bit to be as eco-friendly as possible and lessen the impact that we are having on the earth. From bringing a re-usable cup to the coffee shop, to reducing the amount of plastic we use, every little thing can make a difference.
When we talk about eco-friendly fashion, you might think about clothes from recycled materials, or vegan leather. Something that is made with as little impact on the earth as possible. But do you ever take into consideration the conditions under which this fashion is made? About the men and women who are working to produce your favourite accessories?
From designing, right through to retail workers, ethical fashion is concerned with the working conditions of those people that make our fashion possible. This covers everything from exploitation, to fair wages and time off. Ethical fashion companies believe in fairness for everyone who helps to produce and sell their products.
Ethical women’s clothing may seem like something that is almost impossible to come by. Part of the reason behind this is our obsession with new garments. The simple answer is, many consumers don’t take the time to think about where their clothes have come from.
It wasn’t until the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, that anyone really took notice of what was happening. 1,134 people died after the Bangladeshi garment factory collapsed during the morning rush. Retailers Bon Marche, Primark, and Matalan where among those that were sourcing from the factories in this building.
In the aftermath, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh was signed by over 150 companies, yet this was seen by many as too little, too late. We should continue to question just how it is possible to produce garments at such cheap prices, while providing a fair wage and working conditions for all of those involved in producing and selling it. This issue has led to the development of a fashion revolution and companies like Ecoage and Fashion Revolution are at the forefront of fighting for this change.
You may find it difficult to believe that these types of working conditions still exist, but the sad fact is that they do. Most sweatshops locations are in Asia because the poorer parts of these countries turn a blind eye to it. For the most part, sweatshop conditions are not illegal in these countries, as it is providing work for people. This is one of the major issues with sweatshops, meaning that it continues no matter what we try to do about it.
A sweatshop is defined as a place where workers are paid low wages, for long hours, in poor conditions. Traditionally, the media has been focused on sweatshops in China, however the country has experienced rapid growth and the wages across the country have risen dramatically; as the economy has improved so have the wages. Now most sweatshops are mainly located in Bangladesh and some small countries like Vietnam and Cambodia, which have received the bulk of the production that has moved away from China due to rising costs. Large brands like Nike and Adidas have moved production completely out of China to Vietnam, which enjoys lower costs.
Sweatshops are illegal in the UK, and fair labour laws means that no one should be working legally in sweatshop conditions in any country, particularly if they are manufacturing garments for a UK company. Due to the lack of transparency however, many companies either don’t know about their workers' conditions, or turn a blind eye to it because it has been outsourced by their suppliers.
Ethical fashion is at times used as a catch-all phrase incorporating both fair working conditions, as well as environmental sustainability. Eco fashion is concerned primarily with the impact that our fashion is having on the environment. This looks at the materials and resources that are used to produce a garment as well as how biodegradable it is.
Ethical fashion concerns itself with the human and animal ethics surrounding garments. When we talk about either eco or ethical fashion however, both are intimately related. For example, you can’t just be concerned with the environmental impact of making clothes while ignoring the working conditions, just as you can’t laud a company for paying a fair wage while making clothes destined to clog up landfills for thousands of years.
Slow fashion is a new trend that combines all the attitudes of ethical and eco into one package. The name comes from ‘Fast Fashion’ which is what we call the clothing stores that sell just like fast food. It’s cheap, not great quality, and never satisfies the way you think it will. Fast fashion is the opposite of eco-friendly, as it is made to be discarded in a few months or weeks, to be replaced by new clothes.
What we need is affordable ethical clothing, that doesn’t use sweatshop conditions. This is where slow fashion comes in. Slow fashion is all about ethically sourced clothing and sustainable fashion.
As the name might suggest, slow fashion produces less collections than average each year. This gives the garments the time they need to be made correctly. This means that all the employees are working standardised hours and getting fair pay while doing so.
Slow fashion wants everything that we own to be as eco-friendly as possible. This means that if there is a more sustainable way of doing things, that takes a bit longer, then this is still viable for the business. Slow fashion wants to be more sustainable in the long run, with as close to zero waste as possible.
With slow fashion, there’s no more second guessing about where a garment has come from. One of the best things about it is that you can follow the garment right from the farmers who grow the cotton that make it, through the factory, to the store or ethical clothing online store where it’s bought. Being 100% transparent is something that the producers of our food are trying to do more and more, and while this is much harder to achieve with fashion, it makes it much easier to make the right choices.
Our CEO Vanita Badlani Bagri attended a conference held by Drapers at the Gherkin, co-sponsored by Trust Pilot and which was attended by the likes of Cath Gidson, All Saints and Urban Outfitters. At the conference the main conversation revolved around how more transparency is required in the fashion industry, with our CEO talking to these high street retailers about how we have open communication with our customers and suppliers alike.
Amongst the points discussed were how fashion brands can convince shoppers that they are worthy of trust and loyalty, especially when it comes to major ethical issues. Other points of discussion included:
Slow fashion is all about clothes and accessories that are going to last. At times this makes them more expensive, but this is made up by the fact that you won’t need to replace the garments every year. If you can buy a few pieces of sustainably sourced, well made clothing, your wardrobe will last for years.
When considering the leap into slow fashion, there are a few things that you must remember and consider. We’re so used to fast fashion at our fingertips that it can be hard to readjust to this new way of thinking,
It’s not just fast fashion retailers that make use of sweatshops. Some high end, expensive retailers have been caught out as well. Ethically sourced fashion doesn’t always have to break the bank either - affordable ethical clothing and accessories is out there, if you take some time to look.
At LaBante London, sustainable fashion accessories are what our company is all about. It starts with the materials that we make our products from.
All our handbags contain 25 recycled PET water bottles. Using recycled material means that it is getting a new life instead of ending up in a landfill, and it is a great alternative to other materials that may be more environmentally damaging to produce. This process also uses less water than making fresh fabric and gives a new lease of life to waste that has been created.
We use recycled materials as much as possible, in everything from our swing tags to our paper bags. Even our sunglasses are made of 100% recycled wood and we have a zero waste packaging system.
We believe that a big part of producing ethical fashion is that it is also kind to animals. That is why all the leather we use is 100% vegan. We have even started making some of our premium ranges from leather made from vegetable waste.
Our factory is based in Guangzhou, China in a sweatshop-free environment. We have employees in China who make regular unannounced trips to the factories to check payroll and attendance and our design team also goes over to check on the conditions there. We also ensure that all our workers are well paid, to keep up with the high cost of living in the region.
Our team is made up of 99% women, and our seamstresses get maternity pay when they decide to have children.
Check out our full range of ethically sourced accessories today!