There's so much to think about when buying clothes. And it's not just the practical questions like are they the right fit or colour, how much they cost or whether they're durable enough. We also want to know how they were made and sourced. As part of #FairTradeFortnight2022, we explore why the people who make our clothes matter, and where you can find fashion that is more sustainable for people and planet.
More transparent fashion for people and planet
The fashion industry has been notoriously bad for not being transparent enough when it comes to working conditions, fair wages, as well as how truly 'sustainable' a garment is. In fact, the UK government has brought in a new Green claims code, which seeks to expose 'greenwashing'.
At Green Heart Collective, we recognise the importance of supporting the farmers, makers, machinists and all other workers involved in making and producing garments. Due to the global nature of how brands source and produce their clothes, it often means that something you buy on your local high street has supported a chain of workers and farmers and their families across the world. Most of the clothes sold in the UK are made in Asian countries.
Unfortunately, the cheapness of fast fashion is often at the detriment of the workers who produce and make your clothes. A recent DW documentary even shows how UK 'workers' were being paid less than the minimum wage in factories in Leicester.
Fast fashion brands are now churning out 'sustainable' collections. Thanks to a new tool, greenwash.com you can see through some of the false or misleading claims made by many leading high street and fast fashion brands. It's worth a play around!
What is the difference between Fairtrade and fair trade?
Fairtrade, fair trade. You can barely notice the difference written down, but there is a difference.
Fairtrade is a protected term only used by "organisations, brands or products that are part of the Fairtrade International system." You'll also find the Fairtrade mark on the products, so that makes things easier to spot. This mark, or the term 'Fairtrade' means that a "set of standards are met in the production and supply" of that product. Which means that workers are properly paid and looked after.
Fair trade, on the other hand, is not protected. This means anyone can technically apply this to their products. So even something that isn't fairly made could still be misleadingly described as "fair trade" on a website, or an advert.
But this doesn't necessarily mean that these products aren't fairly made. It's important to try to find details about how and where brands make and supply their materials for their products. We love using Ethical Consumer to find out more about brands, but there are lots of other tools you can use online such as Good on You.
Where can you Find Sustainable and fair trade Fashion?
The most sustainable fashion you can find is already in your wardrobe. Buying second-hand is the next best thing for planet-friendly fashion.
But if you do have to buy new, then buying sustainably made clothes that fairly support farmers and workers is much, much better than buying fast fashion that exploits its workers!
So, let's look at where you can find sustainable and fairly made fashion online and in-store.
Ethical Consumer ranked the most sustainable and ethical activewear brands in its March/April 2022 edition. We were pleased to see that People Tree, Girlfriend Collective, Yogamatters and Gossypium ranking in the top five. We have a selection of these brands in our store and online! Click here to see what activewear we have in stock.
Rapanui's old factory burnt down, but they have since built a new one that has won them the Queen's Award for Innovation. It's powered by renewable energy and can print T-Shirts on demand. They even recycle old their old products. The Isle of Wight based brand offers a range of men's and women's sustainable fashion, that is made and sourced 'fairly'. To be clear, Rapanui are not a 'Fairtrade' label, but according to Ethical Consumer, they are given the top rating for their cotton policy for fairly sourcing and paying for their materials.
Fashion with a bit of Thought
Thought have a range of men and womenswear that are produced using sustainable materials and are transparent about paying their workers fairly. They have even partnered with Fairtrade to produce a truly Fairtrade and sustainable capsule collection of t-shirts made using organic cotton vegetable dyed T-shirts.
Save money, buy second hand clothes
We were excited that a second-hand vintage business featured at the top end of Ethical Consumer's rankings for sportswear and jeans. Beyond Retro have been around since 2002 and have physical shops in the UK and Sweden.
Depending on where you shop second hand, you can save a lot of money compared to when buying new. Sometimes you might have to buy new, especially if you're in need of underwear! So by buying mostly second hand you'll in theory have a bigger budget for buying sustainable, fairly made products like You Underwear.
Something Colourful and Comfortable
Lucy and Yak are well-known for their dungarees but they also offer a range of bright and unique designs across their range of tops, jackets, dresses and skirts. Their fascinating story tells of founders Lucy and Chris who originally quit their jobs in New Zealand, upcycling old clothes into tobacco pouches. Their next step took them to India, where they found a supplier to make dungarees, which sold out! They have since become a well-loved brand that offers sustainable and fair trade fashion. On their website they proudly display that they pay their UK workers the living wage, and they also give insight into their India branch; they have a brand new air conditioned factory, where the team of 30 tailors are also paid fairly.