• Julia

What I got wrong about ethical fashion

Updated: Aug 10, 2019

Just like plastic waste and vehicle emissions our clothing industry is a challenge that our world needs to (and has begun to) tackle.

Some fun facts about the fashion industry:

  • It accounts for 10% of Carbon emissions of the world

  • The average American throws away 30 kg (65 lbs) of clothing per year. That's more than an entire suitcase.

  • At the same time we are producing enough clothing to dress the entire world's population (yet, many people still don't have enough clothes...)

Of course - we need clothing! Unlike plastic (in most cultures) running around naked would be very inappropriate (and cold!). It's not about eliminating the clothing industry but transforming it to be more sustainable. The best action to take would be to produce all of our clothes ourselves. But most of us don't have the time (or if you are like me, you lack the skill).

"It's not about eliminating the clothing industry but transforming it to be more sustainable and ethical."

Therefore, we rely on companies to implement ethical practices.

Media attention and activists can help make this possible. But we as consumers also have an immense power to put pressure on companies to treat their workers and the environment better. Ultimately, if no one buys their clothing, to maintain business they will have to make changes! So what am I suggesting? Are there alternatives?

This blog post is about how to make a big difference in the world just by making more sustainable choices.

The Psychological Fallacy that we all fall into

This is a psychological fallacy that we all fall into: You buy a cheap T-Shirt, so cheap that there is no way it pays the person (or child) making it well or that the materials used are not destroying our planet. But we don't like feeling bad about ourselves. In fact, our brains are very good at stopping us from feeling bad.

So we find reasons why we are not buying more ethical clothing. To make us feel better about ourselves. I used to have a lot of psychological fallacies when it came to ethical fashion. Let's tackle them one by one.

"I used to have a lot of psychological fallacies when it came to ethical fashion. Let's tackle them one by one."

1. Every brand is unethical in some way

Yes. Most commercial brands that we buy are not ethical.

BUT There are many, many alternatives!

You want to find out how many? With the app goodonyou (you can just use their website too) you can check how sustainable a brand is.

They will tell you with one search how the brand of the shirt you are wearing performs in regards to their workers, animals and the planets. And if it turns out that you are wearing a sweater that was most likely produced by a 7-year old in a dark basement, it gives you some brands that produce similar clothing - but ethically.

Also - maybe it's true that most brands have room for improvement. But if consumers made choices that signalizes to producers that ethical fashion is lucrative to invest in, we will see more and more change happening in this industry!

2. It's hard to find a brand that is NOT unethical


Again the app goodonyou gives you great ethical alternatives to brands you like. Moreover, there is a wonderful blog called The Good Trade where you can find out recommendations on ethical fashion and where to find it - everything of where to find an ethical wedding dress to ethical sports wear.

3. Ethical fashion is ugly

I grew up in a very sustainability-loving area in Berlin and there were many clothing stores where people sold dresses that they made themselves etc. Frankly, none of them were really my style. For a long time I thought that sustainable fashion couldn't be... well fashionable?

Super not true!

I have found many brands online whose clothing and shoes I loved. In fact, most of the clothes are produced with more care and you can feel the difference wearing it.

4. Ethical fashion is very expensive

Okay. I have to admit - a lot of the ethical clothing companies have higher prices. But firstly: that makes sense! If you are considerate about which materials you use and want your workers to work under humane conditions and receive payment they can actually make a living from - it will be more expensive. However:

"There are many ethical fashion brands that are affordable"

There are many ethical fashion brands that are affordable

Most of the ethical brands have sales - so it's just a matter of being a little bit flexible and keep searching

And the good news is: if more people bought sustainable clothing, it would become cheaper! (Economies of scale)

I myself own several pieces of clothing where the name of the person who sewed it is stitched into it, a commitment made by Krochet Kids to pay their workers living wages - I bought two T-Shirts on sale for 10$ each! So it's just a little patience and effort to find what works for you. But with every ethical choice you make - one worker can support their family and another brand understands that we don't want to wear clothes whose production hurt the person making it and the planet.

If you cannot break up with one of your favorite brands

- consider upcycling and buying used clothing = go thrift shopping. Again: a little bit of patience and search-skills can get you some great deals at local shops or online, e.g on thredup. And if you have clothing you never wear - consider donating, recycling or selling them - don't just throw them away.

Nonetheless: being more conscious about what you buy, how much you buy and where you buy can put pressure on companies to make really big changes for humans and the planet!

Here a summary of the ethical clothing sites/apps that will help you take make the leap:

Good On You

The Good Trade

Thread Up

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