Discover What Ethical Fashion Means To You, Using Our Values System
3 years ago | Features|
Image: Karlie Kloss photographed by Ryan McGinley for The New York Times. Image source.
At Well Made Clothes, we understand that shopping is personal – and shopping for ethical fashion shouldn’t be any different. In fact, even the term ‘ethical fashion’ can mean very different things for different people. There isn’t a right or wrong answer here – and it’s important to recognise that it would be virtually impossible for any one brand to do it all. Which is why we have developed the Well Made Clothes Values System – to help you understand the different issues involved in the fashion industry supply chain and to make informed purchasing decisions based on your own values.
Ultimately, the way we shop says a great deal about our ethics and, in this way, we can use our wallets to vote for the issues we care about. With any luck, this will also result in better, more available resources for all brands to improve their ethical makeup. But for now, we are excited to reward those brands that are working hard – and it is hard work – to make a positive difference throughout their supply chains. So, as we prepare to launch new season clothing with values, we are running through our values again, to help you discover what ethical fashion means to you personally. Each and every well-made brand must meet at least one of the following values, on top of our minimum labour and environmental standards.
1) Handcrafted helps protect age-old craftsmanship
Most clothing is handcrafted, in the sense that people – rather than Terminator-like robots – made it. But not all handcrafted fashion actually upholds the beauty and cultural wisdom of age-old craftsmanship, which Business of Fashion describes as being “on the verge of extinction” now. In a fast fashion dominated world, then, we believe that protecting this craftsmanship is vital. To meet our ‘Handcrafted’ value, brands must prove that a minimum of 50% of each product is made using traditional handmade methods, which can only be completed by highly skilled workers.
2) Local manufacturing keeps jobs onshore
The forces of globalisation have meant that many local fashion manufacturers are now struggling to stay afloat – if they haven’t already gone out of business. And, as a result, we are left with an industry dominated by low cost overseas production – which ultimately comes at a high cost to both people and the planet. But by supporting local, we can help keep jobs and industry onshore. To meet our ‘Local’ value, brands must prove that a minimum 80% of their Cut Make and Trim (CMT) production takes place in their country of origin. In other words, their products must be sewn and made onshore.
3) Minimal Waste helps prevent further landfill
Yes, consumers are responsible for much of fashion’s landfill problem, but brands also discard an average 20% of their fabric during production. And, even after the production stage, dead inventory poses a massive problem. Business of Fashion calls this retail’s dirty little secret”. So in order to meet our Minimal Waste value, brands must show active waste reduction in the supply chain – which includes materials, effluents, water and/or electricity.
4) Gender Equality helps protect women from workplace harassment
Female garment workers dominate the fashion industry and yet these women rarely receive safe working conditions. According to Tola Meun of Cambodian NGO CENTRAL, “gender based violence is a daily reality for women garment workers driven to meet unrealistic production targets”. So our Gender Equality value helps customers support brands that support women. To meet this value, a minimum of CMT production must comply with equal employment rights and anti-discrimination laws, as well as employing female identifying people in managerial roles, offering equal pay and up-skilling, training or family support.
5) Sustainable fashion and homewares help protect the planet
‘Sustainability’ is a word that tends to be used loosely in fashion, making it one of the most misunderstood concepts in the industry. At Well Made Clothes, we define sustainability as minimising environmental harm. All brands that meet our sustainable value must have at least 80% of their products made using sustainable materials and processes – including low impact dyeing, or implementing climate neutrality. And we aren’t talking about ‘natural’ fibres here, but about organic textiles, transition cotton, certified closed loop viscose (you know it as modal, bamboo etc.), recycled polyester and nylon, recycled cotton and hemp, or peace silk.
6) Fair working conditions help empower garment workers
At Well Made Clothes we believe that the people making our clothes deserve to be treated the same way we are treated: with living wages; safe working conditions; voluntary overtime; and freedom of association. Unfortunately, modern slavery is still prevalent in many brands’ supply chains. So to meet our Fair value, a minimum number of the brand’s CMT manufacturers must be accredited with a globally recognised, independent certifier. The specific minimum requirements of this certification must include a living wage, paid (and voluntary) overtime, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
7) Vegan goods cause no unnecessary harm to animals
According to PETA, more than one billion animals are killed each year for their fur and leather alone. Which isn’t necessary, when you consider how far the industry has come in terms of leather alternatives. Pineapples and grapes are both being used to produce great non-animal leather now, while Modern Meadow has found a way to engineer lab-grown leather. And we love supporting brands that are supporting these sorts of alternatives. So to meet out Vegan value, brands must demonstrate that 100% of their products do not harm or kill animals in any aspects of production.
8) Transparent supply chains empower businesses to make a difference
Transparency is one of the most difficult, but also most important, values. It means truly understanding one’s supply chain and sharing this openly with customers. But it is sadly very rare. “Perhaps just as shocking as the events that transpired [at Rana Plaza],” Business of Fashion points out, “was that many of these brands hadn't even the slightest clue that their own production was taking place in that facility. Their auditing system failed. They just didn't know.” So to meet our Transparency value, a brand’s raw materials and facilities – including CMT dyeing and printing facilities – must all be completely traceable and known to business.
To shop well-made products by value, simply navigate the site using our ‘Values’ dropdown at the top of the page.
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