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How to wear your ethics
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
How to wear your ethics
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
How to wear your ethics
Pass it on
Pass it on
2 December 2015

How to wear your ethics

We have to live by our ethics when it comes to all things, including fashion.

Written by Violette Snow

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

Discussed in this Story

Photograph: Tane Meiring for B Goods Label.

I love the transformative value of clothing. It’s remarkable how one garment can make you feel like you can conquer the world. Many people, myself included, get so swept up in the glamour of style or the art of expressing yourself that it’s easy to lose sight of the stories, work, sweat and the many hands a single piece of clothing has passed through to rest softly upon your skin. We have to live by our ethics when it comes to all things, including fashion.

Combining style and the power of compassion transcends the idea that the garment industry is wrapped up in the superficial. Choosing the right piece of clothing is about creating a new connection, being a part of its journey through the world—one that ideally doesn’t end up in landfill.

You can’t lay your heart on the line for just any piece of high street, mass produced, sweatshop clothing. The value of building a wardrobe of love—one that lasts in the old-fashioned sense of a lifetime—is about more than nostalgia. It’s about sustainability.

Dressing for your ethics can be hard. But in reality buying cheap clothing is a bad habit, one that can easily be given the flick. Making a change is simpler than you think; you just need to know what to look out for.

Things to remember:

Buy locally-made. In the simplest sense, the less links in the production cycle, the better. I adore locally-made, small-scale brands because I love walking into a designer’s studio, or a local boutique and hearing their story. There’s something about really knowing what it took to create a single piece that sends shivers down my spine. It makes sense—made local means less carbon mileage and more traceability.

Choose your fabrics carefully. Keep an eye out for Lyocell (also known under the brand name Tencel). It’s a soft and luxurious eco-friendly fabric made from cellulose extracted from environmentally-managed eucalyptus crops. It’s not the easiest thing to find right now but more brands are adopting it—even H&M has a small range of Lyocell summer wear.

The best fabrics widely available to choose from are Lyocell, hemp, bamboo, recycled polyester and certified organic cotton or wool. Cotton is a crop that’s often pretty bad for the environment so make sure that at the very least you are looking for certified organic cotton and companies participating in the Better Cotton Initiative. Also, don’t forget that organically grown doesn’t necessarily mean the garment is completely organic: a lot of dyes and production techniques are terrible for the environment.

Consider the purpose of the garment and how frequently you will need to wash it—this is where some of the greatest energy consumption comes from, so ask yourself whether it really needs a full wash after every wear.

Get it fixed! I only discovered the wonder of a good tailor quite recently. Some of the best life advice I had always known (but conveniently forgotten) is repair everything you can. There’s no substitute for a quality tailor or cobbler working their magic on your favourite outfit.

Recycle. When your clothes have finished their journey with you, consider how you will dispose of it. If it’s beyond repair, look at textiles recycling programs such as H&M’s garment recycling service. Their service is one of the best I’ve seen because quality garments are given to charity, then unwearable fabrics are broken down and can be recycled into new garments, effectively closing the loop.

Where to look

There are so many different ways to build sustainability into your wardrobe. It can be as simple as choosing timeless quality, but wardrobe essentials are just as important. In Australia we have a number of labels perfecting sustainable basics. In Melbourne my go-to is FME Apparel, but Vege Threads and B Goods Label, both out of Adelaide, are equally amazing. How can you go past local, ethical and organic staples?

I think social enterprise is an important part of the ethical fashion landscape. I love HoMie, a streetwear store and label built from the Homeless of Melbourne charity to support the homeless and divert textile waste from local businesses. Or there’s Yevu, which is designed and made in Ghana by micro enterprises then connected with international audiences. Their fresh designs support and sustain their local industry, empower women and support community development.

Remember, less is more, and one timeless piece is worth three on trend. In fashion, I believe that means supporting local labels that are taking steps in the right direction. It’s up to us to create change in all areas of our life and make conscious choices. The power is ours.

Violette Snow

Violette Snow is a sustainable fashion advocate and the founder of HESSIAN, a magazine for conscious young people to explore style and sustainability and find a voice of their own.

Feature image by Tane Meiring

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