Ethical fashion through the lens of Etehas

What is ethical fashion?

When you think of fashion, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Our top guesses would be designer clothes, famous supermodels, glittering fashion weeks, flashy magazine covers, and of course, difficult-to-pronounce French brand names. But there’s so much more to fashion...let’s take you behind the scenes. 

The fashion industry is a complex one that goes beyond the latest runway trends. One in eight of the world’s adult population is employed by it, right from the farmers who grow the fiber crops to the artisans who stitch your garments. Over 100 million animals are killed every year for meeting the fashion needs of humans. This is where the issue lies: when we think of fashion, we forget to look beyond what we see. We forget about the millions of people whose work keeps this industry thriving and the animals from whom materials are derived.

That’s where ethics meets fashion.

In a nutshell, ethical fashion is kind to the people and animals behind the scenes in the glamorous world of fashion. It is an approach centered on welfare across the entire supply chain, which includes sourcing of raw materials, design of the garments, production/manufacturing, and retail where the final product reaches your hands.


Why is it important?

Ethical fashion is a solution to the perils of fast fashion. Think of it like a classic hero vs. villain story, except at this point, the villain (i.e. fast fashion) is LOVED by people. If you aren’t already familiar with it, fast fashion is basically fashion now. It is based on producing the latest styles rapidly in high volumes. For a ‘consumer’ (yup, that means you), these clothes are trendy, cheap, and disposable. Fast fashion, the way it is now, is not ethical.

You might like buying such new clothes to keep your fashion quotient high, but fast fashion has a cost beyond the price tag. Let’s look at three key issues.

First of all, fast fashion is exploitative. No tragedy could convey this better than the one that occurred in 2013 in Bangladesh, where the Rana Plaza factory collapse led to the death of 1,135 garment workers, more than half of whom were women. It was discovered that despite major cracks appearing in the building that housed several clothing factories, the owner took no heed to the warnings of an imminent collapse. 

There are numerous other examples of the fashion industry’s modern-day slavery. Take Cambodia, for instance, where workers are forced to stitch for over 11 straight hours without using the restroom. To add to that, working seven days a week is normal for garment workers in such developing countries. So that the workers are not able to collectively defend their rights, they are prohibited from forming unions.

Evidently, brands’ ‘business as usual’ overproduction combined with society’s overconsumption leads to the devastating exploitation of workers.

Secondly, there is prevalent child labor due to the growth of fast fashion. As garment factories look to produce huge volumes in quick time to meet the tight deadlines set by fast fashion brands, they employ children since they can easily pay them unfairly low wages and make them work for long periods, in some cases even over 100 hours a week.  

Looking at India, a child here must be at least 14 years old to legally work in a factory, yet millions of children are illegally forced to work. At such a tender age, children are exposed to harsh chemicals and contaminated air, leading especially to respiratory ailments. Most child laborers globally work in the agriculture side of fashion, such as cotton cultivation. Working daily in the unforgiving outdoors leads to problems ranging from extreme exhaustion to long-term physical and mental deterioration.

Third is cruelty towards animals. We all know that some materials such as leather, wool, and fur are taken from animals. This is not a recent phenomenon, but rather has been going on since the times of hunters and gatherers. However, when we buy clothes made of these materials, we don’t imagine the torture the animals were put through. They might have been beaten, gassed, electrocuted, or even skinned alive!

One billion rabbits are killed each year for their fur. 10 million dogs and 4 million cats are killed in China alone per year. Such statistics are endless. What we need to grasp is the fact that innocent animals are the helpless victims of fast fashion.

Considering these atrocious problems, it is high time that fashion brands responsibly drive change in the industry towards an ethical approach. They must take a stand and become transparent.

Interestingly, whom do these brands listen to? YOU. Yes, you have the power to choose brands that genuinely care about this issue and are part of the ethical fashion movement.