I was beginning to put together a piece about brands that don’t exploit workers or damage the environment. It wasn’t a sting, I only contacted brands that had commented publically about ethical fashion.
In most cases, I just needed clarification on their comments, and maybe some insight into what it takes to maintain ethical standards.
Nobody got back to me.
Now, let’s get the obvious out of the way:
I am a small blogger, brands aren’t telling their press offices to fob Xposé off so they can have a sit-down chat with me. Everyone’s busy, fair enough.
Also, being a blogger, brands might worry that I wouldn’t handle such a controversial topic with the professionalism and gumption that a proper journalist might. This is also fair, my idea of journalism is putting ‘allegedly’ in front of stuff in the same way you’d cross your fingers and shout ‘TAX’ just before you were nabbed in a game of chasing.
Still, I was struck by the total silence. I thought I might get a basic press release or even a reiteration of previous comments, however vague. At this stage, I can’t push on with the piece about ethical Irish brands and boutiques.
However, the reluctance of brands to shout about their manufacturing and sourcing standards highlight another issue – the lack of transparency and standard labelling in fashion.
My gut says that some brands just want to avoid an awkward conversation. Maybe they’re doing their best to be ethical, but they worry that some areas of production could be cleaned up. What’s good enough for me might be morally abhorrent to you. There are no set criteria for what’s ethical.
Ok, so your workers have good conditions and a living wage, but is your fabric sustainably sourced? Is the cotton organic? Are you carbon neutral? Do some of these things matter more than others?
We’re well overdue a clear labelling system. While it must be frustrating for brands that work to achieve ethical status, but it’s worse for consumers. The current directive from the Ethical Trading Initiative is not to “accept any company’s ‘ethical’ claims at face value”, so how do we suss out our Penneys socks, POCO denim and M&S pants before we part with our cash?
Contact brands directly. I’d wager they’re far more likely to respond to paying customers than to a nosy blogger. (Even if said blogger is actually fairly sound).
Let brands know that you value ethical production standards, and support brands that are already in line with ethical ideals.
Check out smaller, wholly ethical brands and stores, rather than high street options. There’s a surprising amount of affordable options. I found a huge list of ethical fashion stores on The Guardian, and charity shops are always a good shout.
Go on a deep creep of ethical buying guides. Get geeky once and you’ll be armed with the facts every time you go shopping.