Here’s a short summary of some key concepts to help you understand ethical fashion.
Content by Laurie-Han Hébert. Translated by Caroline Marion.
We sometimes forget how important the consumer really is, and the choices that they make. Without customers, our companies wouldn’t survive. They decide for themselves where to spend their money with one brand or another. Consumers are responsible for the ethical or unethical purchases that they make. And chances are their intention was to consume that caloric hamburger or wear a 100% biodegradable raincoat.
“The consumer is liable for the existence of a clothing item by the way they preserve or maintain it, by the way they fix a button or simply dispose of it, insists Sonia Paradis. Consumers have a great power all along the entire process, and often we ignore this aspect.” – (Tremblay, 2014, Le Devoir)
According to the magazine Monde Économique, fast fashion can be compared to fast food. We have to essentially “create and launch collections in record times with a constant need for NEW.” (Hoffman, Monde Économique) On another note, Le Devoir describes fast fashion as “ready-to-toss”. (Poitras, 2015, Le Devoir)
According to Le Devoir: The slow-fashion movement is instated everywhere in the world. Recruiting more and more members, they all bring concrete solutions to counteract the distressing consequences that mass production has on the worker’s rights. Especially in third world countries.” (Poitras, 2015, Le Devoir)
The New York Times explains that designers, even the ones that are at the head of prestigious couture brands, where speed is a must, they give up on trying to launch new products at a fast pace. (Phelan, 2017, New York Times)
As we know it, fast fashion created a very short life span on clothes. In fact, the collections that designers create are more often than none reinvented at a quicker pace, and this means that they have to use cheaper textiles in terms of quality and price, which then leads to “short-lived fashion”. (Lévesque, 2017, Radio-Canada)
Sustainable fashion recommends the production of clothing be produced in a way where they will be long-lived, and at the same time respecting environmental and social impacts. We would also like to avoid the amount of clothing that gets thrown out just because the quality doesn’t meet the consumer’s standards.
L’association québécoise du commerce équitable says that there isn’t a standard definition for ethical and sustainable fashion. For them, each enterprise has their own idea of ethical fashion, and they have their own way of interpreting it. L’association québécoise du commerce… also indicates: “companies that portray themselves as sustainable or ethical usually mention that their products are made in companies that have reduced levels of an exploited environment, of workers, or sometimes both. In some cases, they will highlight the fact that they have multipurpose products that are also high in quality, in hopes of reducing the need to consume.” (de Fabritus, 2017, Association québécoise du commerce équitable)
Our definition of ethical fashion is quite simple; it combines both environmental and social factors. Ethical fashion for us is fair trade, fair wages, recycling, ecological and organic factors, as well as sustainability. Slow, sustainable and ecological fashion are all included in ethical fashion, which is perceived by some as a concept that includes certain requirements met to be ethical. Ethical fashion is above all a gathering of many positive attempts to become a better consumer. One thing we can assure is that a company doesn’t have to be 100% ethical to be considered an ethical brand. It’s simply the combination of efforts that can be put together that can make a huge difference. In our current society it is nearly impossible to be 100% ethical, which is why perfection doesn’t exist in this circumstance. The goal in this case is to change the world, to which Sonia Paradis, creator of Fabrique éthique, agrees “the concerns we have our serious, but that doesn’t change the fact that we have a lot of different approaches that we can take. Every designer needs to choose their battles wisely by making compromises that are best suitable for them. Because at the end of the day, the product is going to be consumed.” (Tremblay, 2014, Le Devoir)