Ethical and sustainable have become buzzwords thrown around lightly by brands. But what do they really mean and what is the difference between them? Today I will be clearing some of this up and sharing with you some of my favourite Australian brands that place a focus on ethical practices and sustainability.
What is ethical fashion?
Ethical fashion is a general term encompassing everything from working conditions, the impact of the product on the environment and the effect of manufacturing on local communities. When sourcing ethical fashion you must look at everything from where and how the fabric is sourced, working conditions and manufacturing, animal welfare and its carbon footprint. However you must be aware that while some brands may market themselves as ethical, it may not be reflected in all areas and it may take some digging into the brands standards and practices, as not all brands may be fully transparent about their shortcomings.
Fair trade fashion is also included in this umbrella term and it focuses on making sure that people involved in the production process are not being taken advantage of, or exploited, ensuring that a living wage is being paid and that working conditions are of a high standard.
What is sustainable fashion?
Sustainable fashion focuses more on the impact on the environment, although some brands may lump in working conditions as well. Fundamental criteria include a focus on the conservation of natural resources and low impact on the environment, preferably using recycled materials or materials that can later be recycled, reducing their carbon footprint. This should include how and where the materials are sourced as well as production, shipping and packaging methods.
australian Ethical fashion brands
Australia has a great offering of ethically conscious brands. While no brand is 100% ethical or sustainable due to the current nature of the industry, it is great to support the brands making an effort to improve standard practices. Here I have put together five of my favourite brands producing beautiful garments while raising ethical standards. Most also offer international shipping or are stocked by major online retailers, making them accessible for anyone looking to make a change.
Hansen&Gretel places a strong focus on using natural fibres, utilising environmentally accredited fabrications such as Tencel, FSC Viscose, Linen, Organic cotton and Recycled Polyester linings within their ranges. They aim to create forever pieces with a slow fashion approach, manufacturing within the seven parameters that Green Strategy use to define sustainable fashion. Avoiding harmful dyeing methods and prints they reduce textile wastage. They aim to fully eliminate the use of plastic in 2020 by introducing canvas garment bags for stock to be delivered in. Online orders are packaged in 100% recycled and biodegradable materials. Read more about what the brand’s sustainable practices are here.
Bassike is known for its loungewear and minimalist aesthetic, however their is nothing minimal or understated about their sustainability program, which focuses its attention on ethical trade, animal welfare, climate change, energy efficiency, ethical material sourcing, waste-water reuse, recycling and chemical use. Ninety five percent of its pieces are made in Australia using organic textiles and excess fabric, which amounts to two percent overall is made into rags and donated to local mechanics. A brand truly leading the way in setting new standards in the industry.
Founded in 2014 by Lara & Matt Fells, St. Agni is a luxury lifestyle brand focusing on leather goods and minimalist fashion. The label lives by a “less is more” philosophy with a vision to create refined, quality pieces with a commitment to ethical and sustainable practices. Taking a slow fashion approach, the brand aims to create pieces that will stand the test of time, minimising and avoiding excess of any kind.
Founded by Australian sister duo Laura and Hannah May, NAGNATA aims to challenge the consumerist culture encouraged by fast fashion. The designers ensure all products are recycled and sustainable by approaching each collection with consideration manufacturing standards and quality fabrics, considering the most environmentally conscious options to support the production of high quality garments. NAGNATA garments are made with with longevity in mind. The brand does not work along the standard industry seasons, but rather designs with former collections in mind with the goal of building on existing items, making each new line cohesive with the previous.
Melinda Andaloro founded Saroka from frustration at the lack of size inclusivity within the fashion industry. The brand considers its environmental impact and ethical processes throughout its design and manufacturing process, with each garment hand-made in Melbourne using premium fabrics. Saroka uses 80% natural fibres, which are purchased as needed for minimised textile waste. Linen is one of its most used fabrics due to its 100% biodegradable nature. The brand is fully local, with all fabrics sourced from Australian suppliers and pattern and dressmakers based in Melbourne.