The realities of ethical fashion

The bad, ugly, and questionable truths that have us rethinking the fashion industry in 2023

multiple green shirts on cloth hangers
PHOTO: Keagan Henman / Unsplashed

By: Nercya Kalino, Staff Writer

Fast fashion in the clothing industry has become a prominent collective discussion over the years. More people are citing concerns over the ethical practices of clothing companies and the impact behind what they wear. Younger generations have grown to understand that the impact of clothing trends and brand names goes beyond our individual purchases. We are also curious to know if the brands we buy from take the initiative to keep their business practices ethical, with some of us growing wary of ethical fashion’s price tag as the cost of living makes necessities difficult to afford.

Most young people are living in a time where their branded fashion options are largely unethical, at least to some degree. Fast fashion is by far the most frustrating component of the clothing industry. The term refers to “design, manufacturing, and marketing methods focused on producing” large quantities of clothing for the lowest possible cost. Most businesses choose this option to increase profits. If a company can use child labour, poor working conditions, underpay workers, or use cheap production methods to satisfy your “drip” — many will do it. 

Other household brands such as H&M and American Eagle fail to fully transition their production practices to fit a sustainable approach, despite their claims. While these more affordable brands might have a sustainability page, they don’t reveal that not all their items use the same production practices. In a sense, it’s a generalization of their ethics to avoid being called out. 

For instance, H&M is currently facing a greenwashing lawsuit citing the issue of misrepresenting sustainability practices. According to The Cut, they’re being accused of using vague language like “close the loop” and “a conscious choice,” despite using fossil fuel-based synthetics for their fabric. It’s a case among many other brands that do the same, but have not been called out yet. As consumers concerned about the environment and the ethical practices behind clothing production, there seems to be a dilemma because we don’t want to contribute to the problem. However, many companies that brand themselves as truly ethical charge much more for their products. Not everyone can afford these brands, which is why we have to adapt with what we have. There are still ways to support sustainability without breaking the bank, such as buying less and repairing. 

Fighting back against the principles of fast fashion means we must take the initiative to make our clothing worth its dollar. Second-hand clothing is often an accessible option for people with lower budgets, and it doesn’t directly contribute to the fast fashion industry. Focusing on proper care of clothing reduces the amount of money you spend on replacing wardrobe items, allowing garments to last longer. It’s also worthwhile to invest in higher-end ethical brands if you can afford it, since clothing bought from such brands tends to reflect its cost in longevity and quality.