A Beginner’s Guide To Being A Conscious Consumer and Shopping Ethically

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As concious consumerism remains relevant in the realm of fashion, I no longer approach clothes buying with the same ethos. In 2016, my only standard of purchasibility was whether I loved said item or not, the Marie Kondo method of sparking joy taken out of context and made to work against itself. I was hell bent on finding my personal style made up with statement pieces, convinced maximalist dressing was my height of self expression, and yet weeks later I would feel distant to the collection of crop tops, and at my peak a fluoro yellow and orange polo shirt, that I had managed to accrue. That isn’t to say I no longer want to purchase clothing with each scroll through my Instagram feed, rather that the instant gratification of purchasing clothing no longer exists in isolation from considering how the item was made, the working conditions of who made it, and the impact it has on the environment. 

Many brands that do have ethical production processes as one of their core values will let you know. Brands like New Zealand’s Kowtow whose garments are all made from ethical and sustainable materials, and Melbourne’s Kuwaii who are slow fashion focused and produced locally, include comprehensive information about their ethical values and actions on their websites. However, not all brands offer information about their ethical status at the fore, so how do you find out more about the ethical status of companies? As consumers become increasingly interested in supporting ethical brands, companies and organisations are creating resources to help us make informed decisions about the brands we choose to support with our money and values. The following online marketplace, app, and guide have been created to be accessible, simple and straightforward information about ethical shopping. 

 Image from @kowtow Instagram, featuring the Escape Crew made from 100% ethical organic cotton.

Image from @kowtow Instagram, featuring the Escape Crew made from 100% ethical organic cotton.

Well Made Clothes

This online marketplace allows you to purchase directly from the brands it features, and has introduced me to some of the most beautiful, and well made, brands I have ever seen. For a label to feature on Well Made Clothes, it must meet the environmental and labour requirements of their basic code of conduct, and further must meet as least one of their 8 Well Made Clothes values. These values include fair, transparent, vegan, gender equality, hand crafted, local, and minimal waste — the values each label fulfils are then displayed on the description of each product. This marketplace also features a treasure trove of articles addressing news in ethical and sustainable fashion, opinion pieces, and interviews with featured designers. Well Made Clothes is ideal for online shopping that allows you to be a conscious consumer, and discovering emerging and smaller brands — my most recent find is Dorothy, sweaters knitted by a mother daughter duo in. New Zealand featuring nostalgic, colour blocked designs that always feature an unexpected twist that makes them both warm and refreshing. Visit Well Made Clothes and find out more about the marketplace here.

Good On You App

This app began being developed following the collapse of the Rana Plaza Factory in Bangladesh in 2013, an event that resulted in the deaths of 1,134 garment workers — an event that Good On You creators state put a sharp focus on the impact fast fashion has on the people who make these clothes, and the environment. Good On You allows you to be a conscious consumer anytime you can access your phone, featuring ratings, as well as news, information and offers about ethical and sustainable fashion. The app’s rating system considers people, planet and animals and the ratings include great, good, it’s a start, not good enough, and we avoid — straightforward and in line with the app’s intention to simplify understanding the impact of a brand. Established by Ethical Consumers Australia, this app is an ideal tool for making informed choices and deciding which brands you want to support in your ethical fashion journey whether you are shopping online, in person, or just wanting to know more about the brands you love. Find out more information and download the Good On You app here.

Baptist World Aid Ethical Fashion Guide

This guide is created by Baptist World Aid, an organisation that aims to educate people around the unjust treatment of people working in the fashion industry supply chain. This exists as a companion to the Ethical Fashion Report, and aims to encourage consumers to support brands that are taking actions to protect their workers from exploitation. Brands are graded by the efforts they take, and the transparency of these, within their supply chain to protect workers from forced labour, child labour and worker exploitation, with higher grading brands typically having systems in place regarding labour rights management systems. These management systems are assessed in three stages, which include raw materials, input production, and final manufacturing — all of which are imperative to the production of a brand’s products. Baptist World Aid encourages consumers to download this guide, or order a physical copy, and take it with them when shopping so they can make ethical and informed choices about the brands they support. Find the Ethical Fashion Guide and more information about Baptist Aid here.

 

 Image from @dorothy_nz Instagram of handmade knits.

Image from @dorothy_nz Instagram of handmade knits.

All of these tools have been created to simplify the act of being a conscious consumer and supporting brands which are actively pursuing and championing their ethically and sustainably made status. With these resources so accessible, buying ethically can become second nature in the act of building your wardrobe and developing your personal style — and now each purchase can also reflect your values. Within the complex nature of the fashion supply chain and being ethically made, it is hard for a brand to be perfect, but by supporting brands that are taking efforts and implementing systems to stop workers from being exploited, we as consumers are encouraging other brands to do the same and to take steps in the right direction instead of continuing exploitative practices. In the fashion industry, money talks, so become a conscious consumer and let companies know that you expect higher standards in all stages of the supply chain in the fashion industry.