If you’re new to the ethical/sustainable/slow fashion scene, you’ve undoubtedly heard these words being used and have probably wondered what the difference between all of these things are. You may have even noticed that sometimes, what one person or company considers ethical is quite different than another’s version of it’s definition. So let’s clear up any confusion right off the bat: there is no real, universal definition for “ethical fashion”, while there is a more or less stable understanding of what sustainable fashion and slow fashion means.
Sustainable Fashion: This refers to the effects of the production of clothing on the environment. This includes the use of pesticides in growing cotton, other natural, sustainable fabrics, the dyes used for various colours, water and waste treatment, energy reduction, using recycled materials, and sometimes even packaging. The list of opportunities to be a more sustainable fashion brand goes on and on.
Slow Fashion: This generally refers to the style, design and quality of the garment, as well as the intention behind how it was made (a.k.a. – not a fast fashion brand). It involves buying clothing made of durable fabrics and staying away from fluctuating trends so you can still wear the pieces you love years down the road.
But what’s ethical fashion? I have my own personal definition, which is this:
Ethical Fashion: This refers to how the clothing was made, encompassing everything from how the cotton was grown to how the garment workers who made the clothes are treated and paid, their safety (no sweatshops, child labour, worker abuse, or slavery involved).
Sometimes, sustainable fashion and animal treatment is also included under the “ethical fashion” umbrella, which is also a completely reasonable way to define it. Is caring for the environment rather than producing ridiculous amounts of waste ethical? Of course. Is treating animals with respect and dignity when using their products (i.e. wool, silk, etc.) and ethical issue? Definitely.
Still, I like to differentiate between these because I want to be as specific as possible when I talk or write about it. For example, if I was talking about fashion that focused on animal treatment, I would probably call it “vegan fashion”, unless you’re referring specifically to something along the lines of peace silk.
So here’s a quick little summary:
Ethical Fashion – concerns human rights.
Sustainable Fashion – concerns the environment.
Slow Fashion – concerns the clothing piece itself.