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What Does Being Ethical Mean in Fashion?

Ethical fashion and sustainability are hot social media buzzwords. But what substance do they carry beyond the buzz? Fashion has been in the limelight for the impact it has (often adversely) on the environment and lives and health of the people who craft it.

However, in the social media age, people care about what brand they are wearing and have an increased awareness of harsh labor conditions, manufacturing failures, the lack of regulations to improve workers' health, safety, and labor rights, and the challenging environmental impacts of apparel manufacturing.

Fashion designers and brands that want to earn lasting popularity with today’s fashion customers must take the issue of ethical fashion manufacturing seriously and avoid applying the movement’s values and terminology loosely.

This begins with educating themselves and continues by educating the customer. So, sit tight and as we delve into tips on what you should look for if you’re looking to find ethical manufacturing companies for your apparel, footwear, or accessories brand. 

What Does Being Ethical Mean in Fashion? 


The ethical standard in fashion manufacturing is often thought of too broadly. Different clothes manufacturers and apparel brands vary on their definition of this term, so your search should start with getting specific about what you mean when you say you’re looking for an “ethical manufacturer”.

Some manufacturers' version of ethical production is paying fair wages to workers without much of a focus on safety. Others focus on environmentally conscious production but do not care about the working conditions in the factories making their products. While there is no single fixed definition of what precisely ethical manufacturing means, the goal of achieving an ethical fashion industry must be supported in every area, from production, to materials, to supply chain, and labor standards.

Some questions fashion designers can ask manufacturing candidates about these topics include: 

  • Do your workers receive what is regarded as a live-able wage? 

  • Do they freely choose to work this job? 

  • How long are their working hours?

  • Do they receive breaks and mealtimes?

  • Do they have access to medical care in case of on-the-job injuries? 

Other information you may want to consider includes: 

  • How do they deal with their waste? 

  • From where do they source their materials?


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