What, exactly, is ethical fashion, and why is it important? You see it on a lot of advertising, these days. A website or catalogue will mention “ethical fashion” and you can’t help but wonder what it is all about. There are several features that are taken into consideration when clothing is designed, manufactured, and distributed ethically, and it applies in every step of the production.
Designers for clothing companies have a lot of variables to keep in mind. First and foremost, they have to understand and express the desires of the head of the design house. The designs theselves must be of the quality required.
However, there is more to design than just shapes. The designer must consider the types of fabrics that will be used in their designs. For ethical fashion, the designer must understand that certain colours may not be achieved because of the types of dyes necessary. Some fabrics are not easily produced, and can present a production problem. So, the design must be done with ethical considerations.
Ethical fashion often uses easily renewable materials. For example, linen is actually a product of hemp, a highly renewable source of fibers. However, hemp must be grown with care and with an eye toward use in the clothing industry.
Another highly renewable material is bamboo. More cloth is manufactured these days using bamboo, which is soft, flexible, and very durable.
The reasons these materials are considered renewable is because they grow quickly and easily without requiring an excess of water or chemicals. Cotton, for example, is an excellent product for clothing, but it requires a great deal of chemicals to keep insects and weeds from harming the crop. Ethical materials are intended to be the results of crops that have been raised as organically as possible.
The dyes used in fashion are geared toward precise, consistent colouring. However, some dyes are carcinogenic or liable to cause other health problems. These are banned in first world countries, and fabrics made with these dyes are not allowed to be sold. However, processing must be carried out in other plants.
Labor can be a real scandal in the fashion industry. Several big-named designers have been brought to shame when it is exposed that their products are produced by slave labor. Many factories in third world countries employ slave labor, forcing people to work in inhumane conditions that actually present threats to their lives.
The crops used for the manufacture of material must be harvested in an ethical manner. Therefore, no child labor is allowed by the designers who feature ethical fashion. The only labor acceptable for these crops is adult labor, who are housed and paid in humane ways.
Processing, or milling the crops of bamboo, cotton, and hemp must be done by adults only. Security and safety measures must be honored by the mill and agricultural community responsible for the crop. Factories that dye and weave the material must use safety procedures that will protect the workers from contamination and injury.