How to tell whether or not a brand is ethical

We all know it can be hard to find clothes that make us feel and look good, which makes it even harder to turn down the perfect dress purely because it hasn’t been ethically produced. But with more ugly truths behind the fashion industry uncovered each day, it’s becoming increasingly important for us to know where our clothes came from and how they were made.

As more of us look to shop ethically, portraying a brand as ethical or environmentally-friendly has become a good selling tactic for many companies. Unfortunately, this means you could be tricked into buying something that’s advertised to increase sales and has not actually been ethically produced.

Here are some easy and reliable ways to tell if a garment is ethically and sustainably made.

Is the brand transparent?

A good ethical brand will have nothing to hide. Look out for information available on their website about the producers and textiles used to make their products. If a brand is proud of how their clothing is made, they’re more than likely to share the process with you.

Is the product ‘trend-free’?

This is an easy place to look when shopping in-store. Garments that are made for a fashion phase are usually unsustainable and unlikely to last. Most fast fashion brands work by encouraging consumers to shop a trend and then go out and buy what’s next. If a company is mass-producing a certain style or colour, it’s a giveaway that the brand probably doesn’t exhibit ethical practices.

Look at the cost

If the price of an item is too good to be true, it probably is. Fast fashion companies like to make us believe that we can afford the same pair of shoes in three different colours. However, think about how much you’re spending and by the time you take out the retail mark up and shipping costs, the amount that’s left is all that would go to everyone down the production line. If the amount left isn’t reasonable for what you’d expect the product is worth to make, it’s best not to touch it.

Is the item made from good materials?

This can be a little bit trickier. Even if garments are made inside ethical factories, the fabric can still be affecting the farmers and families who are exposed to the toxins from producing them. For example, cotton requires a lot of pesticides and fertilizer to grow and according to the World Wildlife Foundation, it takes 20,000 litres of water needed to produce a single cotton t-shirt. Other materials such as synthetic fabrics also contribute to plastic pollution. Try to opt for natural materials such as linen, hemp and organic cotton.

Finally, don’t be tricked by “vegan-friendly” or “for a good cause” products.

A brand that is for a good cause or vegan-friendly may not actually be ethically made. While the money may be going to research or charities, the production of the item could still be unethical. Many products are marked vegan-friendly if they are leather or wool-free, and while you think you are doing good by buying it, there’s no guarantee somewhere along the line someone wasn’t treated fairly. Look for accreditations like ECA (Ethical Clothing Australia) and Fairtrade.