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Even Marilyn resorted to occasional 
tree hugging!

Since we're commemorating with Fashion Revolution Day on April 24, one of the most tragic catastrophes fast fashion has provoked - the collapse of the Bangladeshi garment factory Rana Plaza in 2013, leaving more than 2,515 workers insured and 1,129 dead - I'd like to dedicate this month's topic to ethical fashion and take the opportunity to answer some of the typical myths that surround it. Let's see if I'll convince you...

P.S. Se puede encontrar la versión de este post en castellano en el directorio de Slow Fashion Spain modasostenible.com

"It's for hippies & minimalists"

Well it can be, just like non-ethical fashion can, but it can also be a whole variety of other things too + let's give both hippies and minimalists some credit; hippies, with their love for peace and natural living, contributed a lot in terms of making people more conscious about social and environmental issues. 

Many leading organisations, such as Greenpeace were founded back in those days. It was also to a large extent the flower children who appreciated and popularised artisan craftsmanship on a large scale, giving a livelihood to many of them the world over. 

Minimalists on the other hand, taught us that less is more, by curbing our consumer habits and investing in quality, rather than quantity. Interestingly, both styles are making quite a comeback at the moment... 

So far, so not so bad! But back to you, dear non-hippie/non-minimalist, how can we convince you? Maybe the fact that Stella McCartney, one of the most fashion-forward designers of our time has been a big advocate of ethical fashion for decades now (although #itsnotjuststella)? The fact that everyone from Grazia, to Vogue to The Financial Times is eager to give us their take on ethical fashion? Along with many celebrities such as the lovely Emma Watson. Still doubtful? May I invite you to have a glance at my S/S 2015 Conscious Mens / Womenswear Edit? Not that I pretend to be on a par with the aforementioned, it's just that you might enjoy my little celebration of this season's ethical fashion ;) 

"It's sooo expensive"

Once again, it can be and probably was in some cases in the past, but not any longer. Like in most sectors, there's a high end, but there are also many very reasonably priced brands nowadays. Check out the Ethical Fashion Directory by The Guardian or the Ethical Fashion Forum's Directory for more information on brands.

Also, let's do the maths here, what's going to cost you more in the long run, a pair of jeans costing you Euro 30 and lasting you six months, or a pair that costs you Euro 100 and lasts you several years and may be part of a recycling concept and/or offer a repair service, such as Nudie Jeans or MUD Jeans do. And there's also the feel good factor that lets you sleep at night, save in the knowledge that neither another human being nor the environment had to suffer to make you look good.

Times are tough and you might not be able to afford a pair of jeans with a Euro 100 price tag, not a problem, how about getting a little savvy and:

- buy secondhand or even new from e.g. e-Bay
- wait for the sales
- watch out for sample sales via your favourite brand's website
- find outlets
- organise a swap with family or friends

It's all about becoming resourceful! 

"It's too difficult to find"

As someone who lives in a midsize city, I admit it can be a little tricky, but it's not mission impossible - especially not in the day and age of online shopping! Perhaps, the sceptics -and I was one of them for a long time- will have to change their attitude a little. 

In its beginning, online shopping used to be and in a few cases still can be disappointing. But on the other hand, I really think that if you adhere to a few simple rules, it doesn't have to be:

- Make the most of visiting a brand's shop while in a bigger city and try on different garments to get an idea of the sizing etc. + save up for the occasion so there's no need to shop online!

- If you're bank gives you the option buy with a cyber credit card to avoid fraud.

- Read the terms & conditions well, I know it's boring, but there might be some points you're unaware of. I'm thinking import tax, no return policies for overseas purchases etc. here... 

- Quiz friends who have bought from the same brand about their experience. If you are a similar size, perhaps they'll let you try a piece they've bought. 

- Check out customer feedback/rating both for specific items, to see how accurate the seller's information is and whether or not they're trustworthy and provide good customer service.

- Measure! And maybe watch this beforehand if you're unsure). So many disappointments could easily be avoided if people paid better attention to this rather than just succumbing to a momentary impulse to buy something.

- Get in touch with customer services - better a two minute chat to clarify your doubts, than a 20-minute-wait down the post office.

- If there's no risk of your size running out, maybe wait until the seller has a free delivery or other type of discount offer to save on p&p fees!

All that said, if you live in a big city or are about to visit one, how about planning a little shopping route by finding your favourite brands stockists on their website? It can be a great way to discover some multi-brand boutiques or stores that way.  

"You'll never really know whether it's truly ethical or not"

While it's true that the topic of sustainable fashion can be a little bit of a jungle if you're a novice -there's different jargon, certifications and aspects to get your head around- once you got to grips with the basics and know what information to look out for it really is DOable! 

So as not to overload you with information, let me just share this basic list below with you, which I compiled with consumers, rather than professionals in mind.

Get the basic know-how:

- "The Sustainable Fashion Handbook" 
  by Sandy Black & Hilary Alexander
- To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle 
- "Green is the New Black: How to change the world with style"
  by Tamsin Blanchard
- "Naked Fashion" by Safia Minney
- "Killer Clothes - How Seemingly Innocent Clothing Choices Endanger Your Health...and How to Protect Yourself"
  by Anna Maria Clement & Brian R.Clement

Inform yourself about the fashion industry's impact:

Fashion Revolution (see country index)
The Greenpeace Detox Campaign
Clean Clothes Campaign  
Fabrics for Freedom
- "The deadly cost of Fashion"
"The True Cost" (documentary to be released 29/5 / pre-order here)

Learn more about consumerism/fast fashion:

"The story of Stuff" 
- "Sweatshop" (3 Teenagers find out how they're clothes were made)
- "Secrets of the super brands (Fashion)" BBC 3 / Alex Riley 
"The neurological pleasure of Fast Fashion"
- "Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion" 
  by Elizabeth L. Cline

Discover re- and upcycling:

- "ReFashioned: Cutting-Edge Clothing from Upcycled Materials" 
  by Sass Brown & Nathalie Chanin
- "Junky-Styling: Wardrobe Surgery" 
  by Annika Sanders and Kerry Seager

Stay up-to-date:

Tree Hugger
The Guardian Sustainable Business
Eco Fashion Talk
Ethical Writers Coalition (NY)

I hope this post has put to rest some of your doubts about sustainable fashion, however, should you have any further questions, why don't you drop us a line or two for our next "Ask Dr. Slow" Edition at the end of this month to:


We'd  to hear from you!


  1. Great blog post! Sharing it with my multitude (not) of followers.
    I am getting tired of trying to hit folks over the head with they "WHYS" of eco-sustainable "fashion" - why not just save the planet and save yourself some money; quit buying every new thing that comes down the pike?!
    Use the common sense that the great Creator gave to geese and THINK before you push that 'enter' key or whip out the plastic card.

  2. Great article! You might also enjoy the blog goodonyou.org.au/blog - a lot of good research and resources on ethical fashion! :)


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