Last April, 1,133 people were killed when the Rana Plaza factory building collapsed in Bangladesh, injuring an additional 2,500 people. It was an event too big to go unseen, and brought to the forefront a necessary conversation about the production of our clothing.
Most of us already pay attention to where our food comes from, we try to reduce the emissions of our transportation, and we even make an effort with our personal care and cleaning products to choose non-toxic and biodegradable formulas.
So why haven't we applied the same awareness to our wardrobes? I like to say that fashion is the last frontier, and today, we are finally upon it.
The umbrella of sustainable or eco-fashion can feel a bit overwhelming, because most of us are still unsure of what it means. In the simplest terms, "eco fashion" (sometimes referred to as sustainable, ethical, eco-friendly, slow or green fashion) can be defined as a philosophy whereby the production, materials, people and planet are all considered.
Last April was rife with tragedy. This year we have a chance to change the game and support good products, production, people and our planet. Here are five easy ways you can start to make ethical choices when you shop:
1. Pick local brands.
Look for pieces proudly made in the USA. Shop small boutiques that stock local designers, or attend art fairs for unique finds. Pickwick & Weller, Proud Mary, and Amour Vert are some of my favorite home-grown brands who design and manufacture here in the good ole' US of A.
2. Look for companies that offer information about their supply chain.
Production in the fashion industry used to be a secretive affair, but today brands with a good report card proudly display their processes. Check out websites of your favorite brands to learn more about their supply chain. A good place to start is with Everlane, The IOU Project and Icebreaker for transparency that is setting the new standard.
3. Buy secondhand.
The best and easiest way to participate in sustainable fashion is to buy what already exists. When you buy secondhand, you may not know the production story or 100% love the materials used, but you do know that you are saving gallons of water, a significant amount of energy, and keeping a perfectly good piece of fashion out of the landfill. Keep an eye out for local thrift and consignment stores.
4. Support fair trade.
Fair Trade labels ensure that the farmers and artisans used to produce the piece have been compensated with a fair wage. A number of brands now display the fair trade tag to help consumers see their commitment to fair production. Eileen Fisher and People Tree are leaders in this space.
5. Get social.
Capsule collections and products or lines linked to a cause are on the rise. When mainstream brands (like Kate Spade or ASOS) choose to work artisan groups to help support the local economy, they offer stylish ethnically inspired pieces. Additionally, we see brands signing up for the "one for one" model so that when you purchase a pair of shoes (TOMS) or sunglasses (Warby Parker) someone in need also benefits from your purchase.
With these five go-green guidelines, you can actively participate in the Wear No Evil movement and begin to impart change. So often we hear that change starts with ourselves, and that is true. When you apply eco awareness to your wardrobe, you have the opportunity to do good while looking good, and change the world in style!