Made in France, fair trade, vegan, locally made, organic cotton, 100% vegan, natural materials… The trend in clothing, as in food, is the search for ethics.
Let's start with a simple self-analysis exercise, if you will. You, who frequent organic produce stores, undoubtedly care about consumption better. Whether it is for your health, the environment or respect for producers, at some point in your life you have realized that at least one of these reasons is worth changing your consumption habits, even if it means paying more, and know that quality comes at a price. All in your honor! But has that awareness that happened on your plate spread to your locker room? For the vast majority of us, this is not the case. However, the logic is the same.
Two weights, two measures
Fast fashion (that industrial fashion at lower prices than ever before) is to ethical fashion what fast food is to organic food: its polluting and harmful counterpart, but ubiquitous, because it is less expensive. However, the environmental, health and social impact of fast fashion is no less dramatic than that of intensive agriculture and livestock farming: to wash, colour, waterproof or even artificially fade jeans, manufacturers use processes and materials that are toxic to the environment and health.
The textile industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, after oil, we learn from the excellent documentary about the textile industry The True Cost, directed by Andrew Morgan. As if that wasn't enough already, carbon dioxide emissions2 The size of the textile sector is expected to increase by 63% by 2030 to reach approximately 2.8 billion tons annually. And let's not even talk about the fact that growing cotton requires a lot of pesticides, especially since it is essentially GMO… Moreover, who has not heard about the tragedy of Rana Plaza, this textile factory in Bangladesh that collapsed in on itself, swallowing 1,135 lives ?
Traditional fashion versus ethical fashion
So, on the one hand, we have a product that is cheap, often of poor quality, highly polluting, potentially harmful to health, and is manufactured by underpaid workers subject to brutal management methods when they are not directly slaves; On the other hand, a more expensive product, but respectful of the environment, the humans who produce it, animal life and/or locally made, often more resistant and sometimes even a jackpot, all at the same time! There is no ambiguity: quality has a cost in food, but also in clothes… as in everything, in fact! Therefore, we cannot demand quality and ethics without agreeing to pay the right price. Nothing is free, and what we save by buying cheap is often paid for by social and environmental abuses.
I want to act: where do I start?
The good news is that many initiatives have been born from these findings. Today's ethical fashion breaks the clichés of the cool Baba look, offering collections in all styles, even the most elegant. More and more ethical fashion brands and multi-brand dedicated stores are emerging online, and many websites and blogs list these initiatives.
When shopping, look for labels and certifications that guarantee ethical working conditions, organic fibers, recycled materials, and the absence of toxic products.
Educate yourself and learn to recognize brands that are truly committed from those that are barely or falsely committed, just so you can ride the trend (in ethical as in organic food, there is a very wide range of intensity of commitment). ).
Don't let yourself be fooled by the marketing sirens: the “Made in France” slogan can hide subcontracting to secret workshops, even in the heart of Paris (you should be wary of low-priced Made in France); “Natural fiber” could be genetically modified cotton that has been sprayed with pesticides.
Also consider buying used: exchange, give away, or sell what you no longer use. And if you like, why not knit your next scarf? But let's keep in mind that more consumption is good, but less consumption is better! What if you challenged yourself to sort your wardrobe? You'll find gemstones in perfect condition that you'd forgotten existed, and you'll undoubtedly find that in the end, there are endless new shapes you can create from what you already have!
So why not take advantage of this to change our habits and reserve the majority of our future purchases for beautiful ethical fashion pieces?
Price or cost?
Major ready-to-wear brands, and fashion in general, have clearly noticed this desire for ethics and are increasingly characterizing the purchasing choices of their customers and offering “green” collections or sustainable recycling initiatives. Some will talk about opportunistic marketing or hiding, but even if H&M, Adidas and others are starting to make their way into the field of ethical fashion, it is because the topic is becoming more relevant and we cannot help but rejoice!
However, if the budget of large ready-to-wear brands makes it easy for them to innovate, it is much more difficult for the creators of small brands. The scarcity of customized training, the difficulty in identifying good practices, the lack of communication and support between brands… Fortunately, initiatives are being put in place to help these brave creatives: the Frenchment cooperative, currently being set up, allows them to combine their purchases to benefit from wholesale prices from material suppliers Moral raw. Ethipop or Le French Bureau supports creatives in managing their project. But a lot of content creators still have a hard time finding information and informing themselves well.
To this is often added, according to them, the difficulty of producing their collections in France: they often note that the cost is infinitely higher for a service much less prompt and of a much lower quality than in Portugal, for example, and the most committed ones have difficulty explaining that if Their ethical brand was more precious than others, it was because they played the game fully rather than partially. But the consumer often trusts the marketing message of all brands and does not differentiate in terms of the degree of participation, but rather in the price.
I am the change I want to see tomorrow
Let's learn how to align our values with our clothing choices by supporting these beautiful and valuable initiatives and let's not forget one essential thing: As a consumer, every purchase we make is a vote for the kind of world we want for tomorrow. Each of us holds, in our own humble way, the key to change!
Ethics and fashion: why not?