Ethical & Sustainable
Let’s Talk About Ethics and Sustainability
It has become such a buzzword – everybody is talking about “sustainability” and labelling themselves as an ethical and sustainable company. But what does this actually mean, and what are they really doing?
Simply put, sustainable fashion is an approach towards sourcing, manufacturing and designing clothes whilst focusing on minimizing the impact on our environment and planet.
These measures include:
- How the textiles are made (e.g. avoiding the use of pesticides and insecticides by using organic methods); the impact of chemical waste
- What materials are used (e.g. hemp vs nylon, upcycled, recycled)
- The use of water, the amount and impact of water pollution and wastage
- What standards are applied (e.g. GOTS or Fair Trade which affects the sustainability of local communities who are involved in the production and manufacture of the textiles)
- Whether they make use of any energy-saving initiatives
- How wastewater and pollutants are managed and treated
- How they attempt to offset any environmental damage incurred
It’s about meeting today’s needs while ensuring that the way we go about meeting those needs meet future needs as well.
Ethical fashion is people (and animal) centred and focuses on the “do no harm” principle. Its aim is to ensure the production methods throughout the entire processing chain are both morally right and acceptable and protect human rights; incorporating aspects of fair trading, working conditions, workers rights and animal protection practices.
This focuses on aspects like:
- Where are textiles made?
- How much were the workers paid to grow the crops and to make the garments?
- Are their working conditions acceptable?
- How are they treated by their employers?
- Are Fair Trade policies and initiatives followed?
- Do they use animal materials and if so, how do manufacturers or their suppliers treat the animals (e.g. silk and wool)?
- Is their message and sizing inclusive and diverse?
- Do they reveal their fair work policies and factory locations?
- Do they support their local communities?
We have entered the world of Fast Fashion where we can spend more money on a coffee than on a t shirt! Trends are changing quickly, requiring mass production of cheap, disposable clothing. This in turn has led to a decline in garment quality over the years. Clothes can look faded, shapeless or worn out in a very short amount of time, encouraging us to go out and purchase again.
Clothing has become a disposable item with an average western family producing on average 30kg of textile waste each year.
Look at these stats:
- 80 billion garments are produced each year
- We produce 400% more clothes then we did 20 years ago
- On average, we wear a garment 7 times before getting rid of it
- Most women wear only up to 30% of the clothes in their wardrobe
- 3 years is the average lifetime of a garment today
- In the USA alone an average of 35kg of textile waste is generated per person each year
What does Whimsical Wanda do about it?
- I partner with small family operated businesses for my suppliers. Like myself they are 100% invested in what they do. This provides a much higher level of care and attention to the items being produced and this results in great quality – something that will last beyond 5 uses.
- I use local suppliers where I can - all printing is done right here in Melbourne, whilst other suppliers are in Sydney and Adelaide.
- Yes, some of my suppliers are in India and China. Unfortunately, the cost of production in Australia is very high and makes it impossible for little businesses like myself to produce locally. I choose my partnerships carefully and ensure my manufacturers are small, ethical, talented seamstresses who take great pride in their work.
- When I need to partner with a larger manufacturer, generally their headcount is less than 15. This all comes back to the first point of having more control over the quality, care and attention to the items being made and the environment and care in which it is made. These small businesses also have a good overview of their workforce and forge close relationships with these people, ensuring they are looked after and valued for their contribution.
- These companies must also provide their (current) certificate of inspection from an independent expert who assesses them for quality, economic efficiency and safety whilst meeting recognized standards and statutory requirements.
- When it’s your business you are much more aware of where every dollar goes – wastage, offcuts, recycling, packaging and even freight are everyday considerations. I use
- Recycled paper for swing tags, product signage and marketing
- Compostable mailer bags to send out your goodies
- Recyclable polybags for item packaging
- Sea freight where possible for the delivery of my collections.
Although cotton is a high water useage material, I look for a company that has Oeko-Tex 100 accreditation. This ensures the fabrics and devices used to process them do not contain any harmful chemicals like heavy metals colorants, preservatives, and formaldehyde. It also keeps everything at a skin-friendly pH. The Oeko-Tex 100 Made In Green Certification guarantees that a product is non-toxic and meets the standards’ environmental and social requirements. Another important accreditation is GOTS certified organic cotton. At the very least my supplier must hold one of these accreditations.
Furthermore, I support small local charities like McKillop Family Services and Foster Carers by donating clothing when possible.
I also keep an eye out to see if I can partner with organizations who are like minded, small enterprises who like to keep things natural, ethical and honest; like my partnership with Second Chance Bangkok (read more about them here).
If we all do our little bit, it's amazing what changes we can influence.